Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


...P.P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard...

- from Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

Daniel Keyes, author of the tragically brilliant short story Flowers for Algernon, died last week at the age of eighty-six.

The story concerns Charly, an intellectually challenged man - in older, less politically correct days, he would have been called “retarded” - who is given an experimental treatment that raises his IQ to genius level. The story’s first tragedy is that his increased intelligence allows him to see that many of the people he regarded as his friends had, instead, been cruel and abusive. The second tragedy is far worse, however: The treatment is a failure because it is not permanent. With enhanced brainpower, Charly sees his future decline, his return to the world of slow-wittedness. It’s heartwrenching.

Keyes expanded his 1959 short story into a novel - not entirely successfully, in my opinion. But Flowers for Algernon has also seen several screen adaptations, notably the 1968 movie Charly, which featured Cliff Robertson in an Academy Award-winning role as the titular character. (I am a bit horrified that there has also been a musical based on the story as well.)

Who is Algernon? you may ask. He’s the mouse upon which the treatment is first tested, with positive results that are encouraging but ultimately all too fleeting: Algernon’s decline allows Charly to see what awaits him as well.

So now, if you get a chanse, please put some flowrs on Daniels grave. Ave atque vale, Mr. Keyes!

1 comment:

Erica said...

Amazingly, I had never read this story. I had heard of it, dating back to around when I was in junior high school, but simply failed to read it up until now. I'm about halfway through. It's as you described... "tragically brilliant."