Kenneth Elton Kesey (September 17, 1935 November 10, 2001) was an American writer from Oregon, best known for authoring the classic novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (which was adapted into the award-winning film of the same name directed by Milo Forman), 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 psychedelia.note 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 caricatured in Across the Universe (2007) as "Doctor Robert".
Works by Ken Kesey with their own pages:
Other works by Ken Kesey contain examples of:
- 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.
- Epigraph: Sometimes a Great Notion quotes the part of the folk song "Goodnight, Irene" that gives it its title:Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in town
Sometimes I have a great notion
To jump in the river and drown
- Flipping the Bird: In Sometimes a Great Notion, the protagonist displays his late father's amputated arm from a pole atop his house, with all the fingers save the middle one tied down, as a gesture of defiance against the union loggers with whom he's feuding.
- Laundromat Liaisons: In Sometimes a Great Notion, a forbidden tryst in a laundromat is one of the only extraordinary acts of the normally mild-mannered and henpecked Real Estate Hotwire.
- Titled After the Song: Sometimes a Great Notion takes its title from the song "Goodnight, Irene", popularised by Lead Belly.