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Keyes, Daniel 1927–

Keyes, Daniel 1927–

PERSONAL: Born August 9, 1927, in Brooklyn, NY; son of William and Betty (Alicke) Keyes; married Aurea Vazquez (a fashion stylist, photographer, and artist), October 14, 1952; children: Hillary Ann, Leslie Joan. Education: Studied premed for one year at New York University; Brooklyn College (now Brooklyn College of the City University of New York), A.B. (psychology), 1950, A.M., 1961; attended a postgraduate course taught by psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein at the City College of New York.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Marcy Posner, William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Stadium Publishing Co., New York City, associate fiction editor, 1950–52; Fenko & Keyes Photography, Inc., New York City, co-owner, 1953; high school teacher of English, Brooklyn, NY, 1954–55, 1957–62; Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, instructor in English, 1962–66; Ohio University, Athens, lecturer, 1966–72, professor of English and Creative Writing, 1972–, director of creative writing center, 1973–74, 1977–78. Supervising producer of television movie The Mad Housers, 1990. Military service: U.S. Maritime Service, senior assistant purser, June, 1945–December, 1946.

MEMBER: PEN, Societe des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques, Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Dramatists Guild (full voting member), Mystery Writers of America, MacDowell Colony Fellows.

AWARDS, HONORS: Hugo Award, World Science Fiction Convention, 1959, for "Flowers for Algernon" (short story); Nebula Award, Science Fiction Writers of America, 1966, for Flowers for Algernon (novel); fellow, Yaddo artist colony, 1967; fellow, MacDowell artist colony, 1967; special award, Mystery Writers of America, 1981, for The Minds of Billy Milligan; Kurd Lasswitz Award for best book by a foreign author, 1986, for Die Leben des Billy Milligan, the German translation of The Minds of Billy Milligan; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 1986, for Unveiling Claudia: A True Story of a Serial Murder; individual artists fellowship, Ohio Arts Council, 1986–87; Baker Fund Award, Ohio University, 1986; Award of Honor, Distinguished Alumnus Brooklyn College, 1988.

WRITINGS:

FICTION

Flowers for Algernon (novel), Harcourt (New York City), 1966, Modern Classics Edition, 1995, Creative Paperbacks (Mankato, MN), 2000.

The Touch (novel), Harcourt, 1968, published in England as The Contaminated Man, Mayflower (London), 1973.

The Fifth Sally (novel), Houghton (Boston), 1980.

Daniel Keyes Collected Stories, Hayakawa (Tokyo), 1993.

Daniel Keyes Reader, Hayakawa, 1994.

NONFICTION

The Minds of Billy Milligan (Book-of-the-Month Club selection), Random House, 1981, revised edition, with afterword, Bantam (New York City), 1982.

Unveiling Claudia: A True Story of a Serial Murder, Bantam, 1986.

The Milligan Wars (sequel to The Minds of Billy Milligan; also known as The Milligan Wars: A True-Story Sequel), Hayakawa, 1993, Bantam, 1996.

Algernon, Charlie and I: A Writer's Journey, Challcrest Press Books (Boca Raton, FL), 2000.

Author of short stories, including "Flowers for Algernon." Also contributor to numerous anthologies, including Ten Top Stories, edited by David A. Sohn, Bantam, 1964. Contributor of fiction to periodicals. Associate editor, Marvel Science Fiction, 1951.

"The Daniel Keyes Collection," a repository of papers and manuscripts, is housed at the Alden Library, Ohio University, Athens, OH.

ADAPTATIONS: Television play "The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon,"based on the short story "Flowers for Algernon," CBS Playhouse, February 22, 1961; feature film Charly, based on the novel Flowers for Algernon, starring Cliff Robertson, winner of an Academy Award for this role, Cinerama, 1968; two-act play Flowers for Algernon, adapted by David Rogers, Dramatic Publishing, 1969; dramatic musical Charlie and Algernon, first produced at Citadel Theater, Alberta, Canada, December 21, 1978, produced at Queens Theater, London, England, June 14, 1979, first produced in the United States at Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC, March 8, 1980, produced on Broadway at Helen Hayes Theater, September 4, 1980; other adaptations of Flowers for Algernon include: French stage play, first produced at Theater Espace Massalia, Marseille, France, October 11, 1982; Irish radio monodrama, first broadcast by Radio Telefis Eireann, Dublin, Ireland, October 25, 1983; Australian stage-play, produced by Jigsaw Theater Company, March, 1984; Polish stage play, adapted by Jerzy Gudejka, first produced at W. Horzyca Memorial Theater of Torun, Torun, Poland, March 3, 1985; Japanese stage play, first produced at Kinokuniya Theater, Tokyo, Japan, January 20, 1987; and a radio play, Czechoslovak Radio Prague, 1988.

SIDELIGHTS: The author of several works focusing on psychological themes, Daniel Keyes told CA that he is "fascinated by the complexities of the human mind." Keyes is perhaps best known for his novel Flowers for Algernon, the story of Charlie, a mentally retarded man who is transformed into a genius by psychosurgery, only to eventually regress. Flowers for Algernon, which originally appeared as a short story in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, is viewed by a Times Literary Supplement contributor as "a good example of that kind of science fiction which uses a persuasive hypothesis to explore emotional and moral issues…." The reviewer continues that Keyes's ideas and speculations on the relationship between maturity and intelligence make Flowers for Algernon "a far more intelligent book than the vast majority of 'straight' novels…. Charlie's hopeless knowledge that he is destined to end in a home for the feeble-minded, a moron who knows that he is a moron, is painful, and Mr. Keyes has the technical equipment to prevent us from shrugging off the pain."

Two of Keyes's works, The Fifth Sally and The Minds of Billy Milligan, deal with the subject of multiple personalities and are dramatic recreations of factual cases. The title character of The Fifth Sally is Sally Porter, a woman who harbors four personalities that embody her emotional states: Nola, an intellectual artist; Derry, a free-spirited tomboy; Bella, a promiscuous woman; and Jinx, a murderous personality. The novel examines the efforts of Sally and her doctor to fuse the four beings into one complete person. "This is an intriguing story," wrote Mel Gilden in the Los Angeles Times, "but the reader is able to remain an observer rather than becoming emotionally involved…. Despite the intellectual distance maintained between Sally and reader, the book will reward almost anyone who reads it."

The Minds of Billy Milligan is based on the case of Billy Milligan, who was arrested on rape charges in Ohio in 1977 and who later became the first person in U.S. history to be acquitted of a major felony by reason of a multiple personality disorder. At the time of his arrest, Billy Milligan was found to possess no fewer than twenty-four personalities—three of them female—with ages ranging from three to twenty-four years old. Among Milligan's dominant personalities were Arthur, an Englishman in charge of all the others; Ragen, a violent Yugoslav who acted as physical protector; and Adalana, a nineteen-year-old lesbian who confessed to instituting the three rapes with which Milligan was charged. According to Keyes, these personalities, along with all the rest, would share "the spot"—control of Milligan's consciousness—whenever their distinctive qualities were needed.

The circumstances under which Keyes was contracted to write Milligan's story proved unusual: It was only after several of Milligan's selves read Flowers for Algernon that they agreed among themselves to work with the author. In The Minds of Billy Milligan, Keyes writes of a personality known as "The Teacher." The Teacher kept the memory of all the other beings in Milligan and provided much of the book's background information. Through the different personas, the author describes the life of a young man who had suffered years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of his stepfather, and how Milligan had sought solace and protection from the various people existing in him. After Milligan was arrested and sent to a correctional institution for observation, debate surfaced as to how to best classify his mental state. According to Robert Coles in the New York Times Book Review, "Keyes makes quite evident in The Minds of Billy Milligan, [that] historical tensions within the [medical]profession have yet to be resolved, and have, in fact, been given new expression in this instance…." While the prosecuting attorneys insisted that Milligan be jailed, doctors and psychologists in Ohio debated the location and terms of such a patient's incarceration. "When he was found 'insane,'" Coles continues, "the arguments did not by any means abate. Was he a 'sociopath'—a liar, an impostor? … Was he a severely disturbed and dangerous 'psychotic' who required careful watching, lots of medication, maybe a course or two of electric shock treatment?"

Coles ultimately commended Keyes for telling "this complicated story well. It reads like a play: Billy's 'personalities' come onstage, leave to be replaced by others and then reappear." Peter Gorner found this distracting; in a Chicago Tribune review of the book, he stated that the author "interviews everybody, reconstructs, flashes back, and confuses the story in a chatty, conversational style. The alter egos seem to dance before our eyes like a stroboscope." However, in the opinion of David Johnston in the Los Angeles Times, "telling the stories of twenty-four different personalities would be a difficult task for any writer. To tell of two dozen personalities in one human body is an extremely complex task. Keyes, on balance, carries it off quite well. While it shortchanges the reader by limiting explanation of motives almost exclusively to Milligan's personalities, [The Minds of Billy Milligan] is nonetheless a fascinating work." Finally, Washington Post Book World, reviewer Joseph McLellan pointed out that "complexity is … the keynote of the Billy phenomenon and equally of its treatment by Daniel Keyes. The challenge of first unearthing this story … and then telling it intelligibly was a daunting one. He has carried it off brilliantly, bringing to the assignment not only a fine clarity but a special warmth, and empathy for the victim of circumstances and mental failings that made Flowers for Algernon one of the most memorable novels of the 1960s."

As in his two previous works, Keyes unravels the bizarre incidents in a mentally ill person's life in Unveiling Claudia: A True Story of a Serial Murder. Claudia Elaine Yasko, having known both the victims and the murderers in three Ohio killings in the late 1970s, fantasized herself as the murderer. She confessed to the homicides in 1978 but the charges were dropped once the real killers were accidentally discovered. Keyes's book records the incidents and attempts to explain why Yasko knew so much about the killings. Gregor A. Preston wrote in the Library Journal: "while not as intriguing as Billy Milligan, this is a masterfully told, absorbing story."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Scholes, Robert, Structural Fabulation, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1975.

PERIODICALS

Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1981.

Library Journal, July, 1986.

Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1980.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 3, 1982.

New York Times Book Review, November 15, 1981; August 24, 1986.

Saturday Review, March 26, 1966.

Times Literary Supplement, July 21, 1966.

Voice Literary Supplement, October, 1981.

Washington Post Book World, November 29, 1981.

ONLINE

Daniel Keyes Homepage, http://in.flite.net/∼dkeyes/index.html/ (November 29, 1999).

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