September 23, 2006 Saturday
How have you liked Flowers for Algernon? It must be a different book when reading it, than it being read to you. For me I think it is really two stories, that of Charlie gaining an intelligence and surpassing his peers and then the world at large, second of the brilliant Charlie struggling to remain in that world. It was also a chance, later on, I think, for the author to approach with a darker angle, such as the pregnant woman in the park. So for me, the ending- however necessary and agreeable to the flow of the book- seems tacked on and sudden. I guess just because the rest of the book had been so much, and had such an original premise, for the times. It is still one of my favorites.
Just now I was laying in my “bed” (excuse me) this morning, where I do my best thinking, thinking of you reading Flowers, and I also considering what I am now reading. Throughout My Bondage and My Freedom (not Frederick Douglass’ first autobiography but a later account) I have felt it is a vital book I must pays close attention to. I have never before read a slave narrative, nor encountered a first hand account of plantation life, the general attitude and customs so entailed in 19th century American black existence. I am so impressed by his spirit and perserverence, that with the ironic luck of a “kind” mistress to teach him the alphabet, he was set upon his largely self-governed path (as far as I’ve read so far).
It hit me then that Frederick Douglass was the real Charlie Gordon, raised in ignorance yet gained in knowledge until he was a quite remarkable orator, writer and advocate. The important of knowledge and an education was never better explained. It troubles me when I think of the common reports of many black kids raised without the environment and resources– mired from our larger American apathy, failed experiments, and short cuts.