Thursday, April 23, 2009

Flowers For Algernon and Charly

I'm fascinated by craigslist, and find the most amazing things, it's a slice of the society we live in, cross sectioned by material goods categories, relationship want ads, services, and nostalgia. (And ukes, I got 3 of them off cl!).

But first let me slip off on a tangent. When I was in high school I read a book titled "Flowers For Algernon" by Daniel Keyes, it is truly a classic exploration of the concept of self and the effect of intellect on that self awareness. When I read it I didn't realize that it was adapted from the author's original short novella which won a Hugo Award. The novel won a Nebula award. The book was adapted into a movie with the wonderful Cliff Robertson in the title role as Charly, the character the novel tracks through his experience as a janitor with an I.Q. of 68 through his intellectual growth via an experimental brain procedure. Later it was a stage play with Michael Crawford, who went on to do Barnum and then Phantom of the Opera and later EFX in Las Vegas. Crawford broke his arm doing a stunt in Flowers For Algernon. (Crawford used to own one of my bronzes, I used to own one of his jackets. Long story.)

Here's a quote from the book from the Amazon review:

Following his doctor's instructions, engaging simpleton Charlie Gordon tells his own story in semi-literate "progris riports." He dimly wants to better himself, but with an IQ of 68 can't even beat the laboratory mouse Algernon at maze-solving:

I dint feel bad because I watched Algernon and I lernd how to finish the amaze even if it takes me along time.

I dint know mice were so smart.

From this excerpt at the beginning of the experiment, Charly's I.Q. grows to genius level and far beyond; to where he is, upon finding himself at the other end of the intelligence scale, again isolated from his fellows by the gap in ability to understand, except now the lack is that of the scientists. Then Algernon starts to lose his brilliance, which does not bode well for Charly.

So point being, Flowers For Algernon is a classic, and without completely revealing the ending of that story I wanted to share the joy I felt when whilst browsing through craigslist looking for furniture for my new patio, I found that Charly is alive and well in L.A. County. Here's the ad vebatim:

I cut up a big tree in my backyark ,use it to built a picknic table, to sit on them around a bomb fire,make a hole in the midle and use it as a pot for a flower, you can get as much as you want for free! i can help you load up your truck, call for more info. The tree is located in the city of (note: I edited the location for privacy).

Oh Charly, thank YOU for taking me back to that wonderful, heartbreaking and yet uplifting story about a simple man who wanted to be the best he could be. You seem to be a hard worker, generous of spirit, and kind. You are a gem. Thanks for making me smile. God bless you!