Flowers For Algernon

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First edition hardcover.

Flowers For Algernon is a science fiction novel by Daniel Keyes, published in March, 1966. It was originally written as a short story and published in April, 1959, but Keyes, after winning an award for the story, expanded it to a full novel. The book is about a mentally disabled man named Charlie Gordon who undergoes a medical treatment that, not only fixes his disability, but turns him into one of the smartest geniuses in the world. The story revolves around his difficulties coping with the complexities of life both when disabled and as a genius.

Having heard about this book for years, I finally decided to give it a chance when I obtained an audio book version of it.

Status

I do not own this book, but I have listened to an audio book recording.

Review

Good

  • It's tragic, yet believable, to hear the horrors of Charlie endures by his mother, quack physicians, co-workers, and strangers when he's still disabled, all the while thinking of many of them as his "friends."
  • I like how Keyes demonstrates that geniuses often face as much stigma as mentally disabled people, because both are on such a different level intellectually. The frustrations Charlie has with people going too fast when his IQ was 60 remains when his IQ becomes 180 and he has to be patient with everyone.
  • It's interesting to think that, while facts can be learned from a book, it's much harder to teach something as natural as interpersonal skills.
  • I prefer books that change my perspective about life, and this one certainly does. I felt ashamed about my own childhood teasing of mentally disabled people, and feel the need to change for the better.
  • I love that it's pointed out several times that Charlie didn't suddenly become a person when he became smart, but that he was always a person, even when he wasn't much help to society.
  • Since I value my brain above all other attributes, I found the slow, but unstoppable regression of intelligence to be a terrifying portion of the book.

Bad

  • The neuroscience certainly shows its age. We now know that dream-learning doesn't produce effective results, memory regression therapy is severely flawed, and the idea of tapping unused portions of the mind isn't real.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

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