A fellow blogger at Bookshelf Fantasies started a meme back in September 2012 called Flashback Friday. Her reason? Like many readers, she tended to focus on the new, new, new, and ignore the old, old, old. With her new meme, she decided to “hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention”. Below is one of her posts, which she graciously allowed me to feature here.
How crazy is it that a Google image search came up with all of these different graphics and book covers for Flowers for Algernon? That’s not even counting the various stage productions with their posters, playbills, and other paraphernalia. Clearly, this is a book that has staying power.
I first read this book many moons ago when I was a senior in high school, very keen on all of my AP classes and avidly interested in intellectual pursuits. (What a geek, I know…) Written as a series of diary entries, Flowers for Algernon tracks Charlie’s progress from low IQ to the upper limits of genius. What totally gobsmacked me in reading this book was that Charlie’s new-found intelligence enabled him to predict and track his own downward trajectory. Prior to the operation, Charlie leads a fairly contented life. After the operation, Charlie is elated by his mental powers but ultimately is plunged into despair as he realizes that he is destined to lose everything he has gained. Flowers for Algernon raises an interesting question: Would you rather be blissfully ignorant, or achieve intellectual super-abilities but only for a short time? If gaining a terrifically high IQ also brought you the certain knowledge that your intelligence would soon plummet to below average levels, would you still want the high?
It’s been quite a while since I’ve read Flowers for Algernon, but I still remember the impact it had on me. I found it thought-provoking, moving, and disturbing—and I think the fact that it’s still widely read and that the stage version is still frequently produced is a testament to the power of this book.
What’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow book lovers at Bookshelf Fantasies and share the wealth.