Monday, February 28, 2005

Flowers for Algernon

Let’s leap forward four years. I decided to start writing a diary again, began it January 1, 1981. I was 15 and in 10th grade. A sophomore in high school.

“Ouch! How stupid. Here I have been planning for days what the first thing written in this diary will be and it ends up being ouch.

“Why did I write ‘Ouch’ as the first word in this diary? Because there is a blister on my right hand. I have a blister on my right hand because I went to a dermatologist yesterday to have my warts frozen to death and today all six of my warts have grown into blisters. How’s that for something gross to write on the first page of a diary on the first day of the year?”


“I want to be able to read these entries years from now and remember what I was thinking when I was writing.

“Mom checked the first volume of Isaac Asimov’s autobiography out of the library in Santa Rosa yesterday – it’s huge. I want to read it, but I’m not sure if I will. I think it’s a neat idea though – to write an autobiography that is. Even if nothing has happened in my life that seems that interesting I’m sure I could make it interesting. I’ve used ‘interesting’ five times now; I think I’d better stop.”


“I just reread this diary entry and realized it reminds me of the progress reports Charlie wrote in Flowers for Algernon. That was a depressing book.”

Updates as of February 28, 2005: Haven’t read either fat volume of Isaac Asimov’s autobiography. I did recently read It’s Been a Good Life which Asimov’s wife Janet edited together after his death. Rather fun, if occasionally repetitive. As to Flowers for Algernon, I was haunted for a long time by Charlie’s fate. Charlie, you see, was retarded. A scientific experiment gifted him with a prodigious intellect. But just as Charlie was discovering his new self his mind began to deteriorate. There’s a scene toward the end of the novel that suggests homosexuality. I recall a male resident of the state hospital holding another youth on his lap, unself-consciously diddling him. Now, I don’t have a copy of Flowers for Algernon to check the accuracy of this memory so that’ll have to wait (I can always update this update), but my budding sexual self was having a hard time with the confluence of retardation, homosexuality, and the unashamed (like a child? like an animal?) public sexual behavior of these grown men.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Let’s start with my earliest diary, a San Francisco State blue book, the lined booklet in which college courses will require an essay be written during midterm or final. The entry, dated 12/9/76, is the first diary entry (the first page of the booklet contains an abortive short story, “Charlie the talking squirel [sic]”); the entry begins, “Dear Diary, Well today I’m home with the cold again …” I was in sixth grade, my teacher Mike McBride.

“I’m reading some books – well all the books (most) – written by Zilpha Keatly Snyder [sic]. If I can find out her adress [sic] I’m planning on writing to her, she lives in Santa Rosa.

“… I’m still trying to finish one of my books but I can’t seem to get around to it and I have so many of them.

“Just recently Zilpha Snyder the author I told you about gave a lecture at Twin Hills [School]. And enlightened me on some things about writing.”

Entry dated 12/10/76: “I still don’t have Mrs. Snyder’s adress but I think we’ve found her phone number.

“I just finished And All Between the second book in a trilogy by Zilpha Keatly Snyder.

“I can’t wait for Xmas Vacation cause then maybe I’ll get in some real serious writing.”

Entry dated 12/17/76: “Right now I’m reading Watership Down.

“Bye now!”

Thus endeth my sixth grade diary. Six entries, 12/9 thru 12/17/76. Did I ever write to Zilpha Keatley Snyder? I don’t remember.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Purpose Me

I've decided to start a new blog purely for my booklog (call it a klog?). I don't think of these as book reviews. I began my booklog in order to remember what books I'd read. It struck me one day standing in a bookstore flipping through a book that I thought I'd read it, maybe. If I'd read it I didn't want to read it again. But how would I know I'd read it unless I started reading it and knew what was going to happen before it happened? So many books in the world I didn't want to go rereading ones I'd already got through. Gotta read different ones. Yes, I will allow myself to read a book I've read before. But I'd prefer knowing I'd read it rather than suspecting so, or realizing partway through. So, thought I, as an aid to memory I shall make note of what I've read.

At first I tried noting movies, magazines and record albums as well as books. But that proved ridiculously beyond my capabilities. If I was going to do it at all it was going to have to be a project with real limits. Books only. I'm not going to say there's never been an exception because there's always going to be an exception somewhere sometime for something, y'dig? Still, I hew pretty close to book.