[sixties-l] Farewell to a Merry Prankster (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Tue Nov 13 2001 - 01:53:44 EST

  • Next message: Marty Jezer: "Re: [sixties-l] Todd Gitlin on the war (fwd)"

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2001 15:07:44 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Farewell to a Merry Prankster

    Farewell to a Merry Prankster


    Novelist Ken Kesey, a '60s Icon, Dies at 66

    Nov. 10, 2001 -- Ken Kesey emerged from a generation of rebels to become
    one of the leaders of the pack. His critically praised novels ridiculed the
    stifling nature of authority, and helped make him a celebrated symbol of
    ^A'60s counter-culture.
    The novel One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, which he based on his own work
    experience at a VA hospital, announced Kesey's arrival as a writer in 1962.
    When he wrote it, he had barely finished graduate work at Stanford
    University, where he was encouraged by the novelist Wallace Stegner.
    Kesey next produced a long and equally well-received novel, Sometimes a
    Great Notion, that told the saga of a self-reliant family of Oregon loggers.
    Then Kesey set novels aside to climb aboard a 25-year-old school bus and
    lead a group calling themselves the Merry Pranksters on a memorable
    cross-country trek.
    Kesey had volunteered to test the effects of LSD during his time at the VA
    hospital, and the Pranksters' adventures, on the bus called Furthur, were
    amplified by similar experimentation.
    Writer Tom Wolfe offered a chronicle of the trip in his book The Electric
    Kool-Aid Acid Test. One of the many along for the ride was Neal Cassady,
    Jack Kerouac's boon companion for his own exploits On the Road. A band
    called the Warlocks, ater transformed into The Grateful Dead, was also a
    steady presence. The trip and Wolfe's account contributed greatly to
    Kesey's fame, but may have dampened his career as a novelist.
    "Famous isn't good for a writer," Kesey later said. "You don't observe well
    when you're being observed."
    So, after publishing two acclaimed novels in the space of two years in the
    early 1960s, Kesey didn't turn out a third novel for nearly three decades.
    In 1975, Cuckoo's Nest became an Oscar-winning film, starring Jack
    Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy, an irrepressible figure who feigns mental
    illness until hospital authorities force him to undergo a lobotomy. Kesey
    hated the film, and sued unsuccessfully to stop it, because he felt it
    diminished the role of McMurphy's fellow inmate, the stoic Native American
    called "Chief."
    Kesey turned to farming later in life, but he never stopped writing,
    telling NPR in 1986:
    "I've got other novels in me."
    And he did. Sailor Song, published in 1992, was based on his experiences in
    Alaska. Two years earlier, he had returned to his alma mater, the
    University of Oregon, to teach a course in novel writing.
    In addition to numerous short stories and essays, he also wrote a
    children's book, Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear,
    that pleased him greatly. It was based on a tale of the Ozarks told to him
    by his grandmother, and in 1991 it made the Library of Congress list of
    recommended books for children.
    He never apologized for his use of drugs.
    "I think acid is a blessed drug," he said in 1986, adding: "There have been
    more people killed in planes searching for marijuana [than] smoking it."
    Kesey was diagnosed with diabetes in 1992 and had recently undergone
    surgery to remove a tumor from
    his liver. His death Saturday was attributed to complications of both
    diseases. He was 66.
    Other Resources
    View two sites dedicated to the exploits of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Nov 13 2001 - 02:05:37 EST