Flowers for Algernon= New Slang?


Fev 29 2008, 22h35

These past three days, I read a wonderful, but very sad book, called 'Flowers for Algernon' by Daniel Keyes. Everytime I think of it, I get this sinking sadness in my stomach, it affected me so much. But that's beyond the point.

When I was just a few pages into it, my brother, Josh [also known as Ghandi-Boy ], told me he thinks the song New Slang by The Shins is about 'Flowers for Algernon'. At first, I didn't think so, but as the book progressed, I looked up the lyrics and found a connection to almost everything. I just finished the book about an hour ago [my eyes are red and puffy from crying], and my eyes were completely opened [besides the tears, har har]- there's no way in my mind the song isn't about the book. I went to to check if anyone else had realized this, but no! I googled "New slang Flowers for Algernon" And once again, NO! I couldn't believe no one but Josh had realized this. So I thought to post this. Maybe others who have read the book and like the song, will agree.
The songs Northern Sky by Nick Drake and What Are You Afraid Of by West Indian Girl could also be about 'Flowers for Algernon'.

I would describe the connections- but I do NOT want to spoil this book for anyone.
So I'd like to say- if you're a fan of 'New Slang'- FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON IS A MUST-READ!

Even though I didn't find anyone on who shared our opinions, I did find many people who's interpretations of the song, described the book- perfectly- without even realizing. I'll paste these here- they're not too much of a spoiler. But if you haven't read 'Flowers'- I don't recommend reading on from this point.

From bluegrimlin2:
Yea you guys are right, garden state was awesome. Anyway, I think one of the big things in this song is that ignorance is bliss. Kinda going off what Laura said, people are happier when they dont know the bad things in this world. The most obvious example is "I was happier then with no mind set." I think that the song is a little bit sad, about some one who wishes to live the carefree life that he sees in other people, but he doubts he will ever acheive it because he knows too much about the way the world works.

From suclid003:
Yeah, this whole song's pretty much about regret and feeling lonely and longing for the past. It's also about looking forward to the future and the fear of dying alone. Things change along with people's perceptions-thus the "notice the stripes." When a person is shut off long enough from feeling anything, it starts to take its toll on one's outlook.

The "dawn breaks" line reminds me of how the older you get the earlier you tend to go to bed and the earlier you wake up. But to me, this dawn is not about rebirth. It's about doing the same thing and carrying on alone living the same loneliness over and over again. He describes it as a "bull through the hall" because it is clumsy, just like he is clumsy and falling apart with his age. The tone of this song kind of reminds me of Nick Drake's "Northern Sky" and the similar sentiments of isolation and fear of having no one to brighten your days.

From LFHolland01:
The song is about a guy who all of sudden realizes the loss of innocence that has occured in his life and especially in his relationship. When your a kid you just love life and have all these high expectations, then one day you wake up and realize that you have settled into a less than lofty routine, as has everyone around you. He wishes he was back in a time where he was supposedly happy, the feeling you get when you first meet someone that you can see yourself spending the rest of your life with. However, now that he's older (gold theeth) he realizes that he never was really that happy, he just hadn't figured it out yet.

From apcross:
O yes, and about that song meaning, which is the sole purpose of this website. Many people have added the point of this song being about the wish for obliviousness and that is absolutely correct. This somewhat goes against the grain of current society where self-image is apparently the priority in the lives of many people. The lines about the fries, the king/queen of the eyesores, and "no mind-set" all reflect this idea. This woman he was with had liberated him from society and made him into this person without a care of the view of others of him. This song, however, takes place when he has lost this woman and consequently had reverted back to his former self. I know I will be blasted for mentioning this, so forgive me. This song conforms perfectly with the movie Garden State. The character Largeman is freed by being with Natalie Portman's character. The overall theme in Garden State, besides romance, is originality and noncomformity (as well as Largeman's search for feeling and ultimate enlightenment). Okay, enough with that movie. As for the "right" part you were asking about, well I sort of have my own interpretation. Again talking about that obliviousness part, obviously from this woman's point of view, everything was dandy, looking from a candied view. Right means the way it is supposed to be. A bit like dirt in your fries, the he curses her by hoping she dies in an ugly fashion, a contrast to the sugar-coated lives they once led. This concept is extremely hard to put into words for me, so this may sound a bit vague, but it is the best I can do. Lo siento (sorry in Spanish). Jeh song hab ni dah (sorry in Korean).

From gordopolis82:
i am so glad that this song was included in the garden state soundtrack. it is, indeed, perfectly suited to the film.

the song isn't really about unrequited love. it's about an aging person who isn't satisfied with where he finds himself. mostly, he reflects on his time with a person as a time he believes he was happy. in distorted retrospect, he is sure he would have a great life if things had worked out.

("Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.")

mostly, it's about coming of age. "slang" can refer to the language of a particular group. so here, "new slang" is the language of the middle-aged disillusioned and neurotic ('when you notice the stripes, the dirt in your fries").

at least, that's my take on it.

From: hahahaha
i looove this song. its kinda hard to understand so u reely have to read into it but thats wut i love about it.
"new slang when you notice the stripes, the dirt in your fries.
hope it's right when you die, old and bony."
i love this part. i think its about noticing the bad parts in life. but hopefully ull stay ignorant of the bad till right before u die and it wont affect u anymore.

That one's my favorite, because it looks like Charlie wrote it.


  • bostoncrab

    Yeah, you nailed it. It is definitely inter-textual, as in it certainly is so very reminiscent of Flowers. Yet, it is not merely coming of age or the loss of innocence that either the novel or the songs(Shins, Drake) speak of, but loss of love, or the fear of it's loss, and the paranoia in it's aftermath. Or sanity, or normalcy;of how tenuous they are in our world; the novel is about so much more than that, though. But the songs indirectly do paraphrase the whole idea of having loved and lost, it's peaks and valleys, and having to choose whether one would even wish to move on or not; and overall the fear of having to experience loss, particularly imminent loss. It's strictly my opinion, but the novel was very dystopian and misanthropic in many ways, but the songs are, despite their subject, life-affirmative and positive.

    Jul 3 2008, 11h02
  • bostoncrab

    Song meaning - Other references to Flowers - Eliott Smith - Jap Rock -

    Jul 3 2008, 11h51
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