Ken Kesey - More Books

by Claire Michelle Smith

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), is the story of a mental ward and its inhabitants. Classic characters include the tyrannical Big Nurse and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the life-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the struggle through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-indian who understands McMurphy's attempt to do battle with the power of 'The Combine'. The psychiatric ward becomes a metaphor for oppressive American society. It was acclaimed as "a glittering parable of good and evil...a work of genuine literary merit" and made into a film starring Jack Nicholson.It was through identification with the character of McMurphy which first drew Neal Cassady to Kesey.

"Are you on the bus or off the bus?" That was the crucial question asked by Ken Kesey in The Further Inquiry (1990), his courtroom style version of the 'The Merry Pranksters' 1964 voyage across America which flung the psychadelic weirdness of the Merry Pranksters upon the American public. Kesey borrowed quite a bit of Jack Kerouac's On the Road for this book.

Demon Box /1986), begins where Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test left off; a diary of the come-down years. In Demon Box Ken casts himself - as Devlin Deboree (Devil in Debris) - into an analysis of his experiences over the last 20 years.

Sometimes a Great Notion (1964) is a powerful tale of an Oregon logging clan. A strike is raging in a small lumber town along the Oregon coast. Backing it are the 'Stampers': Henry, the overpowering patriarch; Hank, the son who has spent his life trying to live up to his father's expectations; and Viv his brother. Then there is Leland, Henry's bookish younger son, who returns to his family on a mission of vengeance - and finds himself fulfilling it in ways he never imagined. Kesey considers this book to be his personal best.

Sailor Song (1992), is set in the near future, the story takes us to Kuinak in Alaska, a rundown fishing community of coulourful chacters. Into their midst sails a ship of a major Hollywood film company. The central question is, "Does love make any sense at the end of the world?" It's about things that endure and come around again and again.

The Sea Lion (1991), is a tale of the Pacific Northwest Indians. Insulted by the chief of the Sea Cliff people, the misshapen orphan, Eemook, becomes an outcast whose cleverness and carving talents are recognized only by the chief's beautiful daughter. The boy has a unique chance to prove himself when a stranger with magical powers appears. He is able to defy the stranger and thwart his evil plan.

Kesey, a study of Ken the writer, including communications between Ken and himself, photos, Ken's drawings and original manuscripts.

Due to Kesey's cult symbolism and the unique nature of many of the Kesey books, many of them have become valued collector's items.