Flowers for Algernon first published in March of 1966 tells the story of Charlie, much later on this inspired Tony Banks of Genesis for the theme of his first solo album A Curious Feeling.
Whilst recording the album Tony Banks learned of a musical that was also in progress telling the story of Charlie and starring Michael Crawford…. Tony thought that it would be a major success so he tried to alter the albums theme but most of the Flowers for Algernon theme remains.
Please note the book has been reprinted many times with different book covers:
Author: Daniel Keyes
The story is told through a series of journal entries written by the story’s protagonist, Charlie Gordon, a man with an IQ of 68 who works a menial job as a janitor in a factory. He is selected to undergo an experimental surgical technique to increase his intelligence. The technique had already been successfully tested on Algernon, a laboratory mouse. The surgery on Charlie is also a success, and his IQ triples.
Charlie falls in love with his former teacher, Miss Kinnian, but as his intelligence increases, he surpasses her intellectually, and they become unable to relate to each other. He also realizes that his co-workers at the factory, whom he thought were his friends, only liked him to be around so that they could make fun of him. His new intelligence scares his co-workers, and they start a petition to have him fired, but when Charlie finds out about the petition, he quits. As Charlie’s intelligence peaks, Algernon’s suddenly declines—he loses his increased intelligence and mental age, and dies shortly afterward, to be buried in a cheese box in Charlie’s backyard.
Charlie discovers that his intelligence increase is also only temporary. He starts to experiment to find out the cause of the flaw in the experiment, which he calls the “Algernon-Gordon Effect”. Just when he finishes his experiments, his intelligence begins to degenerate, to such an extent that he becomes even less intelligent than he was before the experiment.
Charlie is aware of, and pained by, what is happening to him as he loses his knowledge and his ability to read and write. He tries to get his old job as a janitor back, and tries to revert to normal, but he cannot stand the pity from his co-workers, landlady, and Ms. Kinnian. Charlie states he plans to “go away” from New York and move to a new place. His last wish is that someone put flowers on Algernon’s grave.
The book is an excellent read and rather emotive in places, once you have read the book the album A Curious Feeling takes on a more emotional and moving feel.