C. G. McGinn

Writer

Ramblings about Books and Writing

Filtering by Tag: 1984

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon was a book I first read in sixth or seventh grade.

That was back in the 90's. I looked something like this:

No, more like this:

180px-Doug_Funnie.jpg

The book takes place in the in a pre-Rudy Giuliani New York City. Though it's aged well.

Flowers for Algernon is the story about Charlie Gordon, an intellectually disabled adult with an IQ below 70. He's chosen to be part of a surgical experiment that turns him into a genius. The book is written in the first person in a series of Progress Reports, beginning before the experiment. His pre-surgery reports are spelled phonetically and without punctuation. Sentences are short and simple. Post-surgery the reader literally sees Charlie learn how to spell, use punctuation both improperly--then correctly, and his thoughts and experiences become more and more complex.

This time around I listened to the audio version. I was curious to see, or rather, hear the difference. The reader did a great job, changing his voice from childlike to something more adult as Charlie's intelligence increased. However I did feel that a certain depth to the story was lost by not physically seeing his progression in spelling and sentence structure. I recommend that people read the book first, then listen to the audio version.

Flowers for Algernon, Brave New World, and 1984 are part of the holy trinity of classic science fiction that have had a lasting influence on me. I can remember very clearly where I was when I was reading these books. Flowers for Algernon--English class in 6th or 7th grade. 1984--Summertime, sometime before 9th Grade, on my screened-in porch. Brave New World--Freshmen English--I sat in the back of the classroom like all the 'cool kids'.

I've since re-read Brave New World and Flowers for Algernon and have discovered things that I'd either forgotten or missed the first time around, during those heady and awkward years that don't contrast as sharply as I'd care to admit to this thing called adulthood.

I'll probably read 1984 soon and finish up the trifecta. 

All-Time Best Books or All-Time (in my opinion)

Ok. Been away for a little while. I didn't leave town or anything. Just couldn't write. Anyone who works with me will tell you that the first two weeks of school are probably the most difficult. There are no winners, people! Whether you're a teacher, a janitor, or a lowly member of the IT Department, you're pretty much going to double-down on a Marine Corps Hell Week. This year was unusually rough compared to other years. 

On top of that, my last post left a rather unflattering image of a seething Comic Book Guy and perhaps alienated the geeks in the audience. To this I say, "Nerds, my people, lend me your ears! For I do not loath all of you! I merely ask that you relax when it comes to the things you're passionate about. Life's too short. "


Anyway, down to the meat of it.  

Had a great conversation about books with a coworker today. Her daughter is currently reading Misery by Stephen King and it sent me back to when I was a young impressionable 13 or 14 year old, when I brought The Stand, another awesome book by King, to youth group and got an ear-full from the youth pastor. I read a lot of King back then. The Stand is probably my favorite of his work, but The Dark Tower Series comes in a close second. If I were to group Stephen King books in order of CGMcGinn awesomeness, it would go like this:  

1. The Stand

2. The Gunslinger (Book 1 in the Dark Tower series, duh.)

3. The Wasteland (which is book 3 in the Drk. Twr. series) 

4. The Green Mile (I read it first in a serialized form and had to wait each month for a new section of it to come out. The suspense that came from waiting was insane). 

5. Wizard and Glass (Drk Twr. 4)

6. 11/22/63

7. The Shining

8. Cell

That's just books by King. You have to be in a Stephen King mood though, to read Stephen King. The Stand gave me crazy nightmares when I read it. I think if I read nothing but Steven King, I'd probably have the same feelings I have toward George RR Martin's "Game of Thrones" books.

And while we're on the subject, A Game of Thrones is definitely on my list of great reads. All the well written prose, the suspense and surprises, and character development found through the entire series can be captured in his first book. A Game of Thrones really could stand on it's own. Everyone should read the first book. They can probably skip the rest if it isn't their cup 'o tea. I can sum up the rest of the series by saying that, a lot of shit happens, a lot of people get the shit end of the stick, and a lot of people, good and bad die. 

Favorite "Sci-fi/Cyber-Punk series about a dystopian future where people live in cramped squalor, and hackers travel through cyberspace hacking a ruling class of corporations, gangsters, and artificial intelligence demigods".  Obviously it's William Gibson's Neromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. If you have not read these books then you are a sad and pathetic individual and should feel the shame I am sending through the interwebs directly to you, yes you...sitting there, waiting for a hotpocket to finish in the microwave. I see you. You disgust me! You also need to read Neromancer and all shall be forgiven.

Fav 'hard' sci-fi would be Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I have a feeling that Ender's Game is on a lot of peoples lists. It's sort of a big deal. 

Other books that are kind of a big deal and should be read are: 

1984

A Brave New World

Flowers for Algernon

Philip K Dick wrote a lot of stories and books that became big movies that you've probably seen. He wrote Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, and more recently, The Adjustment Bureau, (just to name a few). Another book that he wrote that also became a movie, though it did not receive the critical acclaim as Blade Runner and Minority Report, was A Scanner Darkly. Keanu Reeves stared in the movie version, (not the book), along with a drugged-out Robert Downey Jr. (who probably wasn't acting at the time). I enjoyed the movie and I absolutely LOVED the book. Dick was heavily influenced by the drug culture of the 1970s and A Scanner Darkly was a unique look at an interesting fusion between the culture and science fiction. 

This is running long, so I'll end with Kurt Vonnegut Jr's "Cat's Cradle" and "Slaughterhouse 5", as well as "Breakfast of Champions, " which was adapted into a horrible movie starring Moonlighting's, Bruce Willis.

I'm sure I missed a lot of other great reads that are also in the collection. Should a discussing happen to occur below, I'll probably share more.