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I was very saddened to hear about Daniel Keyes' passing yesterday.  He was 86 years old.

One of the most satisfying things I did as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (1998-2001), was to choose and honor Daniel Keyes as our "Author Emeritus" at our Nebula Awards ceremony in New York City in 2000.   The night after the ceremony, my wife, two kids, and I had a wonderful, quiet dinner with Keyes and his wife.

All four us in my family had read Keyes' masterwork, "Flowers for Algernon" - I in the 1950s, my wife in the 1960s, and our kids in the 1990s, when the story had become required reading in many a school. All of us loved the story.

Sometimes all it takes is one.   Many writers work over a lifetime, producing an encyclopedia full of novels and short stories, but all of them put together don't have the impact of another author's single shorter work.  Keyes wrote more than "Flowers for Algernon," but, if he hadn't, that haunting, sage story would have established his place not only in the history of science fiction, but in writing itself, putting him right up there in the pantheon with O'Henry and de Maupassant.

To get to talk and dine with such an author, after reading his masterwork as a kid and being moved out of my mind was also a pleasure unique in this world.  Daniel, thank you for the story and your generous conversation.   Your story will be read for millennia to come.

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Comment Preferences

  •  When I think of Keyes, and Walter L. Miller Jr. (7+ / 0-)

    I recall these lines of Yeats' "The Fisherman":

    Suddenly I began,
    ...
    Imagining a man,
    ...
    A man who does not exist,
    A man who is but a dream;
    And cried, ‘Before I am old
    I shall have written him one
    Poem maybe as cold
    And passionate as the dawn.'
    I always took this to mean it would only take one such work to justify a lifetime of trying to write.

    Flowers for Algernon, like A Canticle for Leibowitz, more than qualifies. RIP Daniel Keyes, & thank you.

    The bumpersticker I want: THE LEFT IS RIGHT! THE RIGHT IS WRONG! THE FAR RIGHT IS FAR WRONG!

    by Uncle Cosmo on Tue Jun 17, 2014 at 06:43:42 PM PDT

  •  That story is very high on my all-time (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gemina13, jgilhousen, annetteboardman

    shortlist, despite the fact that I'll almost certainly never be able to read it again. It's just too harrowing.

  •  Read it in 10th grade (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jgilhousen, blueoasis

    IIRC… never left my head. Thanks for posting this -- I just read about his passing on the NYT web site in fact.

    When I compare the lies, hypocrisy, warmongering, bankstering of the politicians covered on this site (both Dem and Repub), Keyes and other authors stand out as far far far better human beings.

    And separately, kudos to you for your presidency!

    She said that she was working for the ABC News
    It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use

    by Paolo on Tue Jun 17, 2014 at 07:00:26 PM PDT

  •  Flowers for Algernon affected me deeply. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, SCFrog, gmats, annetteboardman

    Profound theme and exquisite writing.  I read it as a teenager in the Sixties on the recommendation of my English teacher who, unbeknownst to me, was doing his level best to free me from some of the strictures of my puritanical upbringing.

    I am grateful to Mr. Keyes for his part in my awakening to the world, and to you for informing us of his passing.

  •  Keyes was a professor for a very long (0+ / 0-)

    time at my undergrad college-Ohio University.  Small eternally hippie town.  You had to interview to take his classes.  I never did.  I wasn't an English major, but I had friends who took his classes.  He also wrote "The Minds of Billy Milligan," a non-fiction book he wrote based on interviews with the Milligan--the first person to not be convicted for the rape of three Ohio State women by claiming insanity due to multiple personalities.  There were real questions about the "sanity" of Billy Milligan--whether he was "insane" or merely a incredibly bright sociopath, but Keyes also wrote a play based on his book that was nearly as haunting and Algernon.

    Amazing place, Ohio University.  Terry Anderson, the AP journalist held by Hezbollah for six or seven years, settled there for a least a while after he was released.  

    "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." -- Patti Smith

    by followyourbliss on Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 01:27:57 AM PDT

  •  Flowers for Algernon (0+ / 0-)

    is one of those works of literature that is so accessible to young readers and yet deep and multi-layered enough to be enthralling to the most literate of adults.  

    Few books can accomplish that kind of generational bridge.  Updike's Rabbit books are masterpieces but young readers should not even pick them up off the shelf. Catcher in the Rye will be considered a must-read classic for generations to come, but if you haven't read it by the time you are 21 85% of the resonance will be lost on you.  Same thing goes for THe Bell Jar, particularly for young girls.

    Watership Down may be another example of books that can stand its ground to audiences of any age.  To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men probably deserve spots on that list as well.

    But few pull it off at the level that Flowers for Algernon can simultaneously grab a 15 year old's attention from page one and still bring a 55 year old to tears by the end.

    It has truly earned its deserved place in the pantheon of American Writing.

    Bravo Mr. Keyes, bravo.

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 04:23:32 AM PDT

  •  Put some flowers on Algernon's grave in the bak... (0+ / 0-)

    ... yard. What a heartbreaking ending to one of the most poignant books I've ever read. And kudos to Keyes for refusing to heed the advice of some publishers who insisted that Flowers for Algernon be given a happy ending. He knew that giving the last pages of the story an upbeat note would rob his tale of its beauty, and he stood by his creation even though doing so would make it more difficult to get published.

    Out of all the many books I've ever read, maybe only Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun has affected me so deeply.

    In the past year, I finally read The Minds of Billy Milligan, too. It's wonderfully told as well, but I still think FFA will always stand as the author's crowning achievement.

    RIP Mr. Keyes. You opened my eyes to a lot of things and Charlie Gordon is truly one of the great characters in modern literature. Even his line in the movie "Charly," about our "beautifully purposeless process of society suicide" almost seems to predict the rampant mindlessness of so much of our media today.

  •  here's a video (0+ / 0-)

    of Daniel Keyes' acceptance speech for Author Emeritus at 2000 Nebula Awards ceremony in New York City

    https://www.youtube.com/...

    "the remedy to be applied is more speech" -- Louis Brandeis

    by PaulLev on Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 11:13:19 AM PDT

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