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Ken Kesey Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)Description / Buy at Amazon
Sometimes A Great Notion (1964)Description / Buy at Amazon
Kesey's Garage Sale (1973)Description / Buy at Amazon
Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
Caverns (With: O.U. Levon) (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Further Inquiry (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Sea Lion (1991)Description / Buy at Amazon
Sailor Song (1992)Description / Buy at Amazon
Last Go Round (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Short Story Collections

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Merry Pranksters (1965)Description / Buy at Amazon
Conversations with Ken Kesey (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In(1999)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Portable Sixties Reader(2003)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America(2010)Description / Buy at Amazon

Author Kenneth Elton Kesey was born September 17, 1935 in La Junta, Colorado to Geneva and Frederick A. Kesey, who were dairy farmers. He was best known for penning the novels “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion”, the latter of which, many critics believed to be his magnum opus. The family moved in 1946 to Springfield, Oregon. During his younger years, he spent time swimming, hunting, and fishing. He met Norma “Faye” Haxby while in seventh grade, and would elope with her during college. He attended the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. The couple were married until his death, and had three children together.

He died at the age of 66 in Eugene, Oregon on November 10, 2001 after many health issues that he began having started to weaken his body.

As a young man, he was an avid film watcher and reader, and took Edgar Rice Burroughs, Zane Grey (he would later name a son Zane), John Wayne. He would also dabble in ventriloquism, hypnotism, and magic.

During his college and high school years, he was a champion wrestler in the 174 pound division. Until a shoulder injury ended his career wrestling, he was close to making the Olympic wrestling team.

He took a course in college that was taught by Wallace Stegner (an author), and the first work he produced was a novel that went unproduced, called “ZOO”. It was about the beatniks located in the North Beach community of San Francisco

During the sixties, he was a counterculture hero, and was called the Pied Piper. This is due to the fact that he altered the course of the beat generation and pushed it to the hippie movement. He considered himself a link between these two movements.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was made into a movie in the year 1975 that starred Jack Nicholson, and won five Academy Awards (best picture, director- Milos Forman, actor-Nicholson, actress- Louise Fletcher, and adapted screenplay- Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben). It is only the second film to ever win these five Oscars. Overall, he was not pleased with much of the film. He did not like Jack Nicholson’s casting as McMurphy and did not like that Chief Broom is not the narrator of the film, like he is in the novel.

“Sometimes a Great Notion” was adapted as well into a film, with Paul Newman directing and starring. The film was released in the year 1970. Richard Jaeckel was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the film.

The idea for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” came from working at Menlo Park Veterans’ Hospital, where he worked with Gordon Lish on the night shift. He would spend time and talk with some of the patients, who were often on hallucinogenic drugs. Kesey did not think they were actually insane, but that they were actually pushed out by society because they did not behave and act in the conventional ways. He started the novel in the year 1960, after finishing a graduate fellowship for creative writing at Stanford. It was immediately successful upon publication in the year 1962.

It was at this time he was supplementing income by taking part in some government studies that involved different hallucinogenic drugs (such as LSD and mescaline).

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the first stand alone novel which was released in the year 1962. A man who is a long time inmate and half Indian narrates the story about people that have been defeated by the world that are in a mental hospital. This man has made a complete retreat from them all, as he will not speak and has been able to make the staff think that he is dumb and deaf. Through this self imposed fog that protects him, he observes all their minute actions.

The way he sees things around him have a kind of truth that transcends the definitions of insanity or sanity. For him, things are ran by the so called “Combine”. The “Big Nurse” is evil’s chief instrument. She uses her power to make the men frozen in their mindless obedience after she has destroyed their will.

Into this world walks McMurphy, who is a gambler and a brawler; he is full of a huge lust for life and has a lot of spirit. He is frightened how well the Big Nurse has assumed dominance over the docile men. McMurphy makes the call to fight back against the Big Nurse on her very own terms. The battle starts, and at first, it is just a way to win bets against the other guys. Then, he starts seeing the horrible dangers to it, and gets more committed to those that count on him for their personal struggle to survive. His choice to keep the fight going is heroic, an act of compassion and sacrifice.

“Sometimes a Great Notion” is the second stand alone novel which was released in the year 1977. There is a bitter strike making its way through the small lumber town, located along Oregon’s coast.

The Stampers buck the strike out of their own cussedness. They are made up of Henry (who is the overpowering and vital patriarch), Hank (the son that has been trying to live up to Henry), and Viv (who once fell for Hank’s machismo, but feels it is getting old). There is also Leland, who is the younger son of Henry’s and he is quite bookish; he came back to his family, on a mission of vengeance. Leland finds that he is making good on it in ways he did not think possible.

“Sailor Song” is the third stand alone novel which was released in the year 1992. The town of Kuinak, Alaska and those that live there (who are the Descendants of the First Aboriginal Peoples as well as the colorful refugees of the Lower Forty-Eight). They get seduced, as well as besieged by a crew from Hollywood that have showed up to film an adaptation of “The Sea Lion”, which is a classic book for children. The turf war that follows spirals downward into a struggle for the town’s soul.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Ken Kesey

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