Ken Kesey (1935-2001)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Born in 1935 in La Junta, Colorado; grew up in Colorado and Oregon.
- Married his high school sweetheart; Faye Haxby, in 1956; four children.
- Attended University of Oregon (B.A., 1957) and Stanford University. Active athlete
in both high school and college, attended Oregon on a wrestling scholarship and Stanford
on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship..
- While enrolled in Stanford's creative writing program, lived in Perry Lane, a section of
Stanford patterned after the haven of the Beat movement in San Francisco's North Beach.
- Worked as a night attendant on the psychiatric ward at the Veteran's Hospital in Menlo
Park, California and based One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on his experiences
there. Also volunteered for a series of government-sponsored experiments being conducted
at the hospital with what were called psychomimetic drugs.
- Formed the Merry Pranksters, a counterculture group who traveled America in a wildly
painted bus staging "Happenings" and experimenting with various drugs.
(See Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Kesey's own The Further
- Founded and edited the magazine Spit in the Ocean (1975--).
- Farms in Pleasant Hills, Oregon.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)
Sometimes a Geat Notion (1964)
The Last Whole Earth Catalogue (with Paul Krassner) (1971)
Kesey's Garage Sale (1973)
Demon Box (1986)
Little Trickler the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear (juvenile) (1988)
The Further Inquiry (1990)
The Sea Lion (juvenile) (1991)
Sailor Song (1992)
Last Go Round (1994)
Caverns (1989), a mystery novel, published under the joint pseudonym O. U.
Levon [University of Oregon novel], a collaborative work with his OU creative writing
Critical Sources and Reviews
- Biographical and critical information in multiple volumes of the following Gale
publications: Contemporary Literary Criticism, including CLC 1, 1973; 3, 1975; 6,
1976; 11, 1979; 46, 1987; 64, 1991; and Dictionary of Literary Biography,
Vol. 2: American Novelists since World War II, Gale, 1978 and Vol. 16: The
Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America. Gale Literary Database (Contemporary
Authors) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com.
- Other printed resources include:
(Specific studies of Cuckoo's Nest and Kesey's
Billingsley, Ronald B., The Artistry of Ken Kesey, 1971
Critical edition of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, ed. John C. Pratt, 1973
Leeds, Barry H., Ken Kesey, 1981
Porter, M. Gilbert, The Art of Grit: Ken Kesey's Fiction, 1982
(Kesey's place in American literature and culture)
Allen, Mary, The Necessary Blankness: Women in Major American Ficiton of the Sixties,
Cook, Bruce, The Beat Geneeration, 1971
Harris, Charles B. Contemporary American Novelists of the Absurd
Perry, Paul. On the Bus: The Complete Guide to the Legendary Trip of Ken Kesey and the
Merry Pranksters and the Birth of the Counterculture, 1990
Wallace, Ronald, The Last Laugh: Form and Affirmation in the Contemporary American
Wolfe, Tom, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, 1968
- Some reviews of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest:
- New Yorker, April 21, 1962
- New York Herald Tribune, February 25, 1962
- New York Times Book Review, February 4, 1962
- Useful online review available in the New York
Times Books Archive:
- Review of A Further Inquiry and Perry's On the Bus; December 9, 1990
Retired Discussion Series