Ken Kesey Biography
(1935–2001), One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Sometimes a Great Notion
American novelist, born in La Junta, Colorado, educated at the University of Oregon and Stanford University, where one of his teachers was Malcolm Cowley. In the late 1950s he was introduced to the drug LSD through acting as a paid volunteer for government drug experiments in a California hospital, where he later worked as a ward attendant. These experiences provided the background for his first published novel One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), an instant critical and popular success, which became one of the cult books of the 1960s; the film version of 1975 starring Jack Nicholson won five Academy Awards. Another novel, Sometimes a Great Notion (1964), is the story of feuding brothers in an Oregon lumber town. Kesey's Garage Sale (1973), with an introduction by Arthur Miller, is a collection of essays, drawings, letters, interviews, and prose fiction by and about Kesey. His celebrated lifestyle as the West Coast trend-setter for drug-induced radical experience, a pursuit of the numinous through the senses, is recorded in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968). Sections of Kesey's projected novel provisionally entitled Seven Prayers by Grandma Whittier appeared in his book Kesey of 1977. In his personal lifestyle, and in his most successful novel, Kesey embodies the social rebel, a role honoured in American national mythology.