For the month of August, our topic is Modern Literature. I’ve done a little research on Goodreads, and found that it’s not the topic, or the popularity of the author that makes it “modern”. There is no one specific trait they all share other than pages with written print.
Most of the titles I discovered were popular books of their day. I looked through the Goodreads list and found that I have read many of them. One common attribute I found in the books I had read were well defined characters who were unforgettable. Many of those titles also held thought-provoking circumstances, and topics that were only discussed behind closed doors. Social justice, and politics is another theme you may find running through these stories.
Two of my favorite books are listed among Goodreads’ list of modern literature. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and Flowers for Algernon. If you have never read either of these books, I highly recommend them. I read both books in my teens, so I had to find them on Amazon to jog my memory a bit.
My two favorite characters in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” are twelve-year-old Mick, and Mr. Singer. Mick reminded me of myself as an adolescent. We both felt like outsiders in our own family, and like Mick, I was expected to look after my younger siblings. Mr. Singer is a deaf mute who rents a room from the boarding house owned by Mick’s family. Mr. Singer becomes everyone’s confidant of sorts in this story. Despite his inability to hear, people feel comfortable enough with him that they tell him all their woes. He also struggles with attempting to help his friend, Spiros, who is becoming more mentally unstable as the story progresses. It’s a bittersweet coming of age story that is definitely worth reading.
“Flowers for Algernon” is a thought-provoking story about a mentally challenged man named Charlie, who longs to be smart. Through a course of events, Charlie is selected to undergo an experimental brain surgery to strengthen his ability to learn. Charlie’s IQ sky rockets to a genius level. The story is told from Charlie’s perspective, and we get to follow along as Charlie’s mind expands with knowledge like a dry sponge being dropped in a pool of water. Unfortunately, this condition does not last. The surgical procedure was just a temporary fix, and the experiment fails. After seeing the individual Charlie could have become had he been born with a normal IQ, it’s very sad to see him revert back to his old, but lovable self.
Last year, I had challenged my son to read some of the books that I grew up reading. “Flowers for Algernon” was one of them. He read it, gave the book back, and then told me what he thought of the ending. We spent some quality time together discussing the book, and how we felt about the experiment. Good stuff!
By the way, both of these books were made into movies. Unlike some books that are made into movies and resemble nothing of the written story, these were done very well.
If you haven’t read any modern literature, check out Goodreads for some suggested titles. If you have, please leave a comment, and share your favorite titles and recommendations.