Sometimes a Great Notion
Following the astonishing success of his first novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey wrote what Charles Bowden calls "one of the few essential books written by an American in the last half century." This wild-spirited tale tells of a bitter strike that rages through a smal...more
Sometimes A Great Notion (which, btw, gets its title from the Ledbelly song "Goodnight Irene") is the story of the Stamper family, renegade loggers in Oregon in maybe the fifties. It's an incredible family—Henry, the patriarch, the crazed, stubborn old goat who started the logging business; his son Hank (stoic, serious, earnest, proud, charming) and Hank's cousin Joe Ben (brimming with enthusiasm and joy and good...more
The storyline didn’t grab me right away but Kesey’s writing did. He had talent and this book is creatively ambitious. Every character has a turn at first person voice and the speaker can switch several times, sometimes even w...more
a) grown up within sight of the Coastal Range, and
b) enormous, swinging testes,
then this book would be sold in a 3-pack with "Mrs Dalloway" and "The Waves" today. It's such literatoor, but it's so masculine and so blue-collar also. God I love it. The beautiful, funny slang; the creepy, right-on descriptions of the menacing landscape... It's got man vs. land and man vs. man. Who could ask for anything more?
I really, really wanted to like this book. An underread novel by an acknowledged American master of letters with a core of fans who consider it one of the best novels of the last century. What could be better? Well, to put it in as few words as possible, Kesey's writing style.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest works, and works so well, because it's tight. It's terse. It says what needs to be said. Kesey knows what he wants to say and says...more
The crux of this novel, to me, was the complicated relationships that we have with one another and the deep rooted hurt that lives quietly within us. Our parents, our siblings, our spo...more
One late spring afternoon, we were driving from Springfield towards Pleasant Hill, and came up on a big...more
I love reading books that straddle that line between profundity and enjoyment. In "Notion", Kesey tackles some difficult themes--union busting, technology infringing upon humans involvement with the means of production, sex and family politics/roles, revenge, alcoholism, social stigmas--yet the book never feels didactic or preachy. He avoids this because of the tone with which he wrote the book: it's fun to...more
In case you missed my biasedness, I like Ken Kesey’s first novel. A lot. So, I went into Sometimes a Great Notion expecting nothing short of greatness. And after finishing his second novel, I would say that it didn’t quite meet my lofty prospects. But that isn’t to say that I didn...more
This is a wet novel. Set in the rainy season in Oregon you get pruned fingers flipping through the pages. It's lovely. The writing is lovely. I was constantly thinking of turning down corners to mark passages only to turn the page and find something more beautifully written.
This can come off as a man's story at first, it's about loggers and brothers, sons and fathers, but I'm not a man and I was completely caught up from the middle to the end. (You have to be patient in the b...more
It's about a logging family that is continuing to work despite a strike by the logging company that employs most of the town. They need help to finish this contract job, so brothers Joe Ben and Hank Stamper send a...more
The setting is the mid-1900s, when loyalty still meant something. The logging industry, as dangerous as ever, also fa...more
A recurrent theme in the book is the geese flying overhead. Kesey uses it as a harbinger of upcoming events in the book. I moved to Oregon in early fall and...more
Part of the problem may have been Kesey himself. It's a strong storyline, the irascible Stamper family that will abide by the rules of no other man. They're a richly drawn cast, full of flaws, secrets, and mistrust, but their unbreakable self determinism defines them. It's a strong start, but he confounds it by overwriting the minutia, underwriting the big events, and chasing a questionable narrative machination to the...more
Another great thing about the writing was that he switches voice mid-paragraph and sometimes mid-sentence. It's as if the characters are bursting to say their piece, and can't wait t...more
So sometimes I wonder who wrote Cuckoo's Nest. I doubt that it was the s...more
And more to the point, can I put up with this for 700 pages?
Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I...more
Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, CO, and brought up in Eugene, OR. Kesey spent his early years hun...more