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Book 22

  1. Grossmith, George & Weedon — The Diary of a Nobody (166 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — Blood Meridian (334 pages)
  3. Moore, Alan & Dave Gibbons — Watchmen (399 pages)
  4. Moore, Christopher — Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (507 pages)
  5. Murger, Henri — The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (381 pages)
  6. Walk with Me: A Lenten Journey of Prayer for 2009 (98 pages)
  7. Douglas, Lloyd C. — The Robe (438 pages)
  8. Robinson, Marilynne — Gilead (281 pages)
  9. Jerome, Jerome K. — Three Men in a Boat (182 pages)
  10. Satrapi, Marjane — Persepolis (343 pages)
  11. Dodge, Jim — Fup (121 pages)
  12. Bauby, Jean-Dominique — The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly (114 pages)
  13. Fleming, Ian — Casino Royale (219 pages)
  14. Blake, Quentin — Clown (30 pages)
  15. Weigel, George — The Courage To Be Catholic (249 pages)
  16. Ishiguro, Kazuo — The Remains of the Day (255 pages)
  17. Orwell, George — Animal Farm (125 pages)
  18. Garner, James Finn — Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (81 pages)
  19. Robinson, Marilynne — Home (339 pages)
  20. Opera Magazine — Basses in Opera: Profiles of thirteen great basses (96 pages)
  21. Beaumarchais, Pierre-Augustin Caron de — The Figaro Trilogy (David Coward, transl.) (335 pages)
  22. Keyes, Daniel — Flowers for Algernon (217 pages)

Page count: 5310.

I wanted a quick diversion, and Flowers for Algernon was just that. I doubt anyone reading this is unfamiliar with the story. I remember reading the short story many years ago in school, but I had never read the novelisation.

Though I can't remember details, I have the impression that I enjoyed the short story better. I think it was probably tighter and flowed better. I suspect much of what was added is not germaine to the story, simply filler to bulk up the length or add a more adult dimension.

I did find some of the assumptions interesting, such as the idea that cynicism and libido correlate with intelligence. What I found most compelling was the increased self-awareness that accompanied Charlie's surge in intelligence and how that uncovered a host of psychological issues. Although not explicitly stated, I appreciate the suggestion that intelligence cannot simply be measured with IQ and that there are other forms of intelligence (social, emotional) that are not easy to quantify.

As usual, I didn't like the movie. The best part about it was seeing bits of Boston and Cambridge from the sixties. I don't so much mind that they changed Kinnian's role (and made her a cookie-cutter subservient sixties woman, complete with ultra-short dresses) or altered/omitted several plot elements. After all, the specific situations here don't matter as much as what they tell us about Charly. However, they oversimplified and dumbed down the story. The movie removed all trace of re-awakened repressed memories, the Freudian elements that dominate Charly's relationship with his mother and other women, the idea of schizophrenia and fragmented personality; in essence, they removed the fascinating stuff and left only a story about a dumb guy who temporarily gets fairly (but not too, because they want moviegoers to find him sympathetic) smart. Worst of all, the movie was just plain boring and boorish.

I couldn't help notice, though, that Cliff Robertson bears a striking resemblance to Will Farrell. I'd like to see someone else adapt Flowers for Algernon into a movie, done correctly, perhaps starring Farrell. It's not as if it's so complicated a story that all the interesting bits need to be left out, and themes that might have been taboo in Hollywood in the sixties are no longer untouchable. A new movie could prove to be funnier and more poignant. It is, after all, a brilliant story.

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