My Favorite Book
I have a deep love for science fiction. Peeks and previews at what the world will look like tomorrow has always captured my imagination.
Marvels of science stemming from greats such as H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury and Issac Asimov have been a major contributor to my reading supply ever since I first picked up a book.
Topping them all however is a quiet, often overlooked novella by Daniel Keyes called Flowers for Algernon.
Thankfully it’s required reading in most schools or else I might not have ever encountered the work.
Keyes never really published anything else worth while so the fact that his one work is often downplayed by the public is not surprising.
However the impression it laid on me will definitely last a lifetime.
Below is a brief synopsis of the book but if you wish to not find out how the story ends stop here. Though I do recommend still reading the book even if it is spoiled because it’s phenomenal.
*Spoiler Alert*: The story is about a mentally retarded man who undergoes a scientific experiment that gradually turns him into a genius. Algernon is a lab mouse who is the first successful test specimen before the surgery is performed on a human. Along the story Charly, the protagonist, and Algernon hold a tight bond with each other as they are the lone creatures who have undergone the treatment. Eventually though Charly’s new-found intellectual capacity begins to regress despite his best efforts to make the experiment permanent. In the end Charly is reduced back to his former state, a tragic chapter in the annals of human scientific exploration.
What I love so much about the story is both how relatable it is to my life but also the profound emotional metamorphosis that Charly experiences in a first-hand journalistic style account to the reader.
There are times in my life when I reach a kind of intellectual or thought ‘peak’: when everything in the world just seems clear and I can think very deeply and abstractly before I finally go back into the humdrum of commonplace cognition. I often try to prolong these periods of thinking, when I can just connect the thoughts of why everything is the way it is and what I need to do to better myself into a lifestyle I will be comfortable with till I die.
This is Charly at his best. His capacity to love, to outsmart others, to think differently and surprise even himself. That is me at my finest hour.
Then the heavy burdens of sin and distraction bring me back to my daily life questions that haunt me on a regular basis.
This is Charly going back into retardation.
Storytelling in this work is just so simplistic yet says so much more than almost anything else I’ve ever read. That’s also another thing.
The book reads like a journal. We only see and can imagine the events, action, and dialogue Charly wants us to know. There are volumes in between the pages. This is up to the reader to pursue.
Keyes is basically giving us a thought and we spend hours and hours dissecting it until what we have imagined has far surpassed a mere one hundred page novella.
This is the beauty of Flowers for Algernon.
It doesn’t claim itself as a masterpiece yet what Keyes has to say is such an important address to the toils of being human.
This is why Flowers for Algernon is my favorite book.