Entry for September 17, 2006

A photo of Ken Kesey shortly before his 2001 death  by Eugene Oregon-based Pulitzer-prize winning photographer Brian Lankar.  In the background you can see the Merry Prankster bus, “Further,”  which his son, Zane, is working to restore

Today is Kesey’s birthday.  Most famous for his grim 1962 satire about mental institutions,  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey also wrote one of my favorite American novels, Sometimes a Great Notion, published in 1964. 

 The Seattle Post-Intelligencer picked it as one of the 12 best books about the Northwest, coming in first, way  ahead of the more famous Norman MacLean novel A River Runs Through It and David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars.

I just read there in a November 16, 2001 article “Ken Kesey’s true legacy is ‘Sometimes a Great Notion'” by that paper’s books reporter John Marshall that Kesey agreed. 

I think Sometimes a Great Notion is the best thing I’ll ever write.  Writing it was much different from Cuckoo’s Nest, which often seemed like filling in the blanks.

Notion, to my mind, is a great piece of work. People sometimes ask me why I don’t write something like that again and I reply that I simply can’t. I can’t keep all that in my head at once anymore. Why, on Notion, I used to work 30 hours at a stretch — you’ve got to have youth to do that.

 

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