Ken Kesey

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Born: Sept 17, 1935
Place of Birth: La Junta, Colorado

  Texts from Levi Asher - Literary Kicks
Excerpted by permission of copyright holder

As a cultural and literary figure, Ken Kesey stands exactly at the midpoint between the Beats of the 50's and the Hippies of the 60's. Kesey borrowed from Jack Kerouac quite consciously -- in fact, he went on the road with Neal Cassady, and if that's not borrowing from Kerouac I don't know what is. But there were several differences to Kesey's 60's version of the Great Trip Across America:

  • They drove a psychedelic bus named Furthur instead of a big old Hudson or a borrowed Cadillac
  • They preferred LSD to liquor
  • They treated women as equals instead of sex objects (most of the time)
  • They danced to The Warlocks (soon to become the Grateful Dead) instead of grooving on jazz and shouting 'GO!'

Kesey did not write about this scene, but journalist Tom Wolfe did in 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test'. Kesey did write two important novels, the powerful 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,' in which a modern psychiatric ward becomes a metaphor for oppressive American society, and 'Sometimes A Great Notion.' Interestingly, these books are not the least bit trippy, though their intentions are without a doubt cosmic.

He later published 'The Further Inquiry,' a screenplay with many photos from the bus trip and a mostly incomprehensible plot in which Kesey, Cassady and others must testify at some sort of supernatural trial. Kesey also recently published 'Sailor Song,' a wacky allegory involving environmental crises, a Kesey-like middle-aged writer, and a rock band called the Dreadful Great.

Ken Kesey books, memorabilia and other interesting doo-dads are available from his own Key-Z Productions.

Todd Brendan Fahey has some interesting things to say about Kesey and the government's role in Kesey's acid test scene in his book Wisdom's Maw.

There's another Kesey home page here, and here's an interesting reminiscence of the Further Days by Lee Anderson, who was there, and his son Perry, who wasn't.

Literary Kicks
by Levi Asher