Saturday, February 02, 2013

74. Flowers for Algernon (8)

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Today’s text is by far too short for readers to follow the audios. Yet the account that Charlie gives of the transformations that are taking place in his mind, soul and spirit cannot be left out: they are a part of him, which means that knowing Charlie implies knowing all his past.

The audios will be the ones to help you catch up with the narrative, while the next two video episodes are ready for uploading, together with the second series of questions. These will enable you to answer the most substantial questions on Daniel Keyes’s work to be uploaded in post nÂș 75: don’t hesitate to answer!                                                    

 Flowers for Algernon (8)
Daniel Keyes

May 18—I am very disturbed. I saw Miss Kinnian last night for the first time in over a week. I tried to avoid all discussions of intellectual concepts and to keep the conversation on a simple, everyday level, but she just stared at me blankly and asked me what I meant about the mathematical variance equivalent in Dorbermann’s Fifth Concerto.
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When I tried to explain she stopped me and laughed. I guess I got angry, but I suspect I’m approaching her on the wrong level. No matter what I try to discuss with her, I am unable to communicate. I must re­view Vrostadt’s equations on Levels of Semantic Progression. I find that I don’t communicate with people much any more. Thank God for books and music and things I can think about. I am alone in my apart­ment at Mrs. Flynn’s boardinghouse most of the time and seldom speak to anyone.
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

73. Flowers for Algernon (7)

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April 30—I’ve quit my job with Donnegan’s Plastic Box Company. Mr. Donnegan insisted that it would be better for all concerned if I left.
What did I do to make them hate me so?
The first I knew of it was when Mr. Donnegan showed me the peti­tion. Eight hundred and forty names, everyone connected with the fac­tory, except Fanny Girden. Scanning the list quickly, I saw at once that hers was the only missing name. All the rest demanded that I be fired.
Joe Carp and Frank Reilly wouldn’t talk to me about it. No one else would either, except Fanny. She was one of the few people I’d known who set her mind to something and believed it no matter what the rest of the world proved, said, or did—and Fanny did not believe that I should have been fired. She had been against the petition on principle and despite the pressure and threats she’d held out.
“Which don’t mean to say,” she remarked, “that I don’t think there’s something mighty strange about you, Charlie. Them changes. I don’t know. You used to be a good, dependable, ordinary man—not too bright maybe, but honest. Who knows what you done to yourself to get so smart all of a sudden. Like everybody around here’s been saying, Charlie, it’s not right.”

Daniel Masterman: Rainbow over Cambodia
“But how can you say that, Fanny? What’s wrong with a man becom­ing intelligent and wanting to acquire knowledge and understanding of the world around him?”
She stared down at her work and I turned to leave. Without looking at me, she said: “It was evil when Eve listened to the snake and ate from the tree of knowledge. It was evil when she saw that she was naked. If not for that none of us would ever have to grow old and sick, and die.” 
Once again now I have the feeling of shame burning inside me. This intelligence has driven a wedge between me and all the people I once knew and loved. Before, they laughed at me and despised me for my ig­norance and dullness; now, they hate me for my knowledge and under­standing. What in God’s name do they want of me?
They’ve driven me out of the factory. Now I’m more alone than ever before.

May 15—Dr. Strauss is very angry at me for not having written any progress reports in two weeks. He’s justified because the lab is now pay­ing me a regular salary. I told him I was too busy thinking and reading. When I pointed out that writing was such a slow process that it made me impatient with my poor handwriting, he suggested that I learn to type. It’s much easier to write now because I can type nearly seventy-five words a minute. Dr. Strauss continually reminds me of the need to speak and write simply so that people will be able to understand me.
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I’ll try to review all the things that happened to me during the last two weeks. Algernon and I were presented to the American Psycho­logical Association sitting in convention with the World Psychological Association last Tuesday. We created quite a sensation. Dr. Nemur and Dr. Strauss were proud of us.
I suspect that Dr. Nemur, who is sixty—ten years older than Dr. Strauss—finds it necessary to see tangible results of his work. Un­doubtedly the result of pressure by Mrs. Nemur.

Contrary to my earlier impressions of him, I realize that Dr. Nemur is not at all a genius. He has a very good mind, but it struggles under the spectre of self-doubt. He wants people to take him for a genius. Therefore, it is important for him to feel that his work is accepted by the world. I believe that Dr. Nemur was afraid of further delay because he worried that someone else might make a discovery along these lines and take the credit from him.
Dr. Strauss on the other hand might be called a genius, although I feel that his areas of knowledge are too limited. He was educated in the tradition of narrow specialization; the broader aspects of background were neglected far more than necessary—even for a neurosurgeon.

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I was shocked to learn that the only ancient languages he could read were Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and that he knows almost nothing of mathematics beyond the elementary levels of the calculus of variations. When he admitted this to me, I found myself almost annoyed. It was as if he’d hidden this part of himself in order to deceive me, pretending— as do many people I’ve discovered—to be what he is not. No one I’ve ever known is what he appears to be on the surface.
Dr. Nemur appears to be uncomfortable around me. Sometimes when I try to talk to him, he just looks at me strangely and turns away. I was angry at first when Dr. Strauss told me I was giving Dr. Nemur an infe­riority complex. I thought he was mocking me and I’m oversensitive at being made fun of.
How was I to know that a highly respected psychoexperimentalist like Nemur was unacquainted with Hindustani and Chinese? It’s absurd when you consider the work that is being done in India and China today in the very field of this study.
I asked Dr. Strauss how Nemur could refute Rahajamati’s attack on his method and results if Nemur couldn’t even read them in the first place. That strange look on Dr. Strauss’ face can mean only one of two things. Either he doesn’t want to tell Nemur what they’re saying in India, or else—and this worries me—Dr. Strauss doesn’t know either. I must be careful to speak and write clearly and simply so that people won’t laugh.
Daniel Masterman: Present? - Perfect