Thursday, June 19, 2014

Flowers for Algernon/The Cellar of my Mind

Daniel Keyes, author of “Flowers for Algernon,” died June 15.

Read what was said in an article in the Washington Post, announcing his death:

[Flowers for Algernon] was praised, including by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.
“Here was a story which struck me so forcefully that I was actually lost in admiration . . . for the delicacy of his feeling, for the skill with which he handled the remarkable tour de force involved in his telling the story,” [Asimov said.] “How did he do it?”

Mr. Keyes said the story came from episodes in his own life, all preserved in what he described as the cellar of his mind.

That makes me pause to ask: What’s in the cellar of my mind?

Episodes preserved.

This makes me recall something Sting said in a TED talk delivered not too long ago, in which he described his breaking of a writers’ block which had stymied him for years: He wrote down a list of names of people he remembered from childhood, and those names inspired memories. Memories, I suppose, from the cellar of his mind.

So what am I filing away in my own cellar?

DOLEFUL CREATURES, I like to think, comes from a desire, not necessarily episodes, though I could probably trace episodes to books I read. That desire was to write a book like the ones I enjoyed: Robert C. O’Brien’s “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH,” Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows,” and so many others of the anthropomorphic animal genre.

But there are episodes: Little snatches of thought, scenes, memories. The crow out at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex who saw me coming on a walk and quacked like a duck at me, maybe to entertain himself. The marmots walking there. And trips to the mountains – Meadow Lake, Portland Mountain, and that coppery-green, icy water at the foot of the tumbled scree. And visits to Nose Hair Man at Mesa Falls. Places I feel are magical, combined with the magical animals who share this world with us if we care to look.

There appears to be a lot in that cellar. I must keep digging. And filling it with episodes. 

Episodes like this:

But recorded better.

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