Creator / Ken Kesey

"Take what you can use and let the rest go by."

Kenneth Elton Kesey (19352001) was an American writer best known for penning the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (which was adapted into the award-winning film of the same name), as well as the less famous but equally lauded Pacific Northwestern epic, Sometimes a Great Notion (which was itself adapted into a film directed by and starring Paul Newman).

If that's all you know about Ken Kesey, though... you're in for a long, strange trip.

To some, Ken Kesey's crowning achievement is not the composition of two classic 20th century novels, but instead his leadership of the Merry Pranksters and his role in the spread of late-1960s psychedelianote . Ideal places to find information on the adventures of Kesey and the Pranksters are The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, and to a lesser extent Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson and the poem "First Party at Ken Kesey's with Hell's Angels" by Allen Ginsberg.

He was recently caricatured in Across the Universe as "Doctor Robert".

Tropes associated with him include:

  • The All-Concealing "I": Somtimes a Great Notion has a strange example. The entire novel is written in the first-person, but the narrator can vary, and there are no explicit indications that the narrator has shifted. There are, however, subtle clues, such as the new narrator mentioning the previous narrator in third person.
  • Everybody Must Get Stoned: In case you hadn't figured it out yet, he was quite the advocate of psychedelics.
  • Hippie Bus: Kesey and the Merry Pranksters toured in a bus (actually several buses over the years), named 'Furthur', and helped to publicize the idea of hippies in converted schoolbuses.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: One of the central figures of the hippie subculture, in fact.
  • The Other Rainforest: Sometimes a Great Notion is a "burly," "brawling" novel about a family of loggers in Kesey's home state of Oregon. Regarded as the "Moby-Dick of the Pacific Northwest," it is Something Completely Different from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
  • Titled After the Song/Literary Allusion Title: Sometimes a Great Notion takes its title from the song "Goodnight, Irene", popularised by Lead Belly. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest takes its title from a nursery rhyme, which is quoted in the epigram of the novel.