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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
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New School Classics- 1900-1999 > One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - NO Spoilers

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message 1: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
It was suggested that a no spoiler thread might be helpful. Remember to avoid spoilers when posting to this thread.


message 2: by Maggie (last edited Aug 03, 2014 02:57AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maggie | 125 comments Thanks for setting up this thread at my request, Bob! Now I feel obliged to post something! ;)

I read the introduction at the front of my copy, and it's really helpful knowing about Ken Kesey's life before reading the book. He wrote the book in the psychedelic sixties, when America was opposing all things totalitarian and communist. Kesey had been involved in some CIA-run drug trials of LSD, which was thought to be a way to gain access to the true human soul. After that he worked in the same mental hospital where he had done the trials, and the characters in the book are heavily influenced by people he met in the hospital. The book is supposed to be a representation of the struggle between freedom and conformity that was symbolic of that era.

Unfortunately I can't type out the whole introduction of my copy, but there is some information at Wikipedia and Sparknotes.


message 3: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
Maggie this is information I didn't know and helps with my own thoughts on the book. It helps it make better sense, especially freedom vs. conformity aspect.

Thanks


Maggie | 125 comments Yes, it seems the book was very much a product of the Cold War era.

The introduction of my book has some information about some 60's views of psychiatric care as well, which I'll copy here.

Psychiatrists were knights of reason and order saving damsels from the proliferating dragons of the mind. But by 1960, the dragons had become the psychiatrists and the institutions of psychiatric care themselves. Budapest-trained psychoanalyst Thomas Szasz, in The Myth of Mental Illness (1960), turned on his own training and called the idea of psychiatric illness "scientifically worthless and socially harmful". In The Divided Self: A Study of Sanity and Madness (1960), R. D. Laing argued that the schizophrenic patient was often playing at being mad, making a fool of himself and the doctor as a way of keeping dangerous people at bay. Michel Foucault's Folie et deraison: histoire de la folie a l'age classique (1961), later published as Madness and Civilization, provided an account of the birth of the asylum and suggested that the modern concept of madness was a cultural invention of control; the mad who had once been an accepted part of society and life's folly became seen as threats, separated into asylums, and silenced. Sociologist Erving Goffman's Asylums described mental hospitals, particularly Washington's St. Elizabeth's, as built on a power dynamic in which patients were abased as a way not of curing mental illness but of asserting the power and authority of the psychiatric and mental health professionals. Goffman concluded that "mental patients find themselves in a special bind. To get out of the hospital, or to ease their life within it, they must show acceptance of the place accorded them, and the place accorded them is to support the occupational role of those who appear to force this bargain... Mental patients can find themselves crushed by the weight of a service ideal that eases life for the rest of us."

These books looked at psychiatry and mental illness as instruments of social purification masquerading as science with little diagnostic or therapeutic value. Therapy meant learning to internalize the moral codes of a particular society, not treatment of an illness. Despite the prestige and influence of these books in intellectual circles, none of them had the widespread impact of a novel that was begun in 1960 by a twenty-four-year-old writing student who was working the graveyard shift at a mental hospital and participating in government-sponsored drug experiments. Ken Kesey was not out to write a treatise on psychiatric practice (the merits of electroshock therapy are still debated) or to right any particular political wrongs. His temperament was too anarchic and mischievous to recommend a sociological or political agenda. As he worked on the mental ward in the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital near Stanford University, he became sympathetic to the patients and began to question the boundaries that had been created between the sane and insane. He began to consider whether madness really meant the common practice conforming to a mindless system or the attempt to escape from such a system altogether. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Scanlon, a psychiatric patient, utters what could be a gloss either on Goffman's thesis or modern definition of tragedy: "Hell of a life. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Puts a man in one confounded bind, I'd say." Either conform and be released or maintain your integrity and be kept in the ward.

Kesey envisioned the-then widespread practice of "Therapeutic Community" as a way of forcing the internal soul to fit someone else's idea of the ideal external environment. According to the practice, patients confessed their secrets to each other in an effort to make the ward "as much like... democratic, free neighborhoods as possible – a little world Inside that is a made-to-scale prototype of the big world Outside that you will one day be taking your place in again." Therapeutic Community became a trick of coercion that pretended to help people by and for the democratic common good but served only the tyranny of the mediocre majority and the management of the institutions that supported the practice for its own purposes. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey turned the mental ward into a symbol of the tricks of control afoot in postwar American society.



Melanti | 2384 comments It's vaguely like Clockwork Orange in some ways isn't it? Refusing to conform to society's expectations and all that? That was a Cold War era novel too.


message 6: by Maarit (last edited Aug 09, 2014 04:33AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Maarit | 285 comments I was going to read this book this month, but unfortunately it's so poorly avaiable in the libraries (both the university one and the city library) that I must pass it this time. It's a bit sad, because One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest has been in my to-read book for ages now and I've been waiting to read it a lot (that's why I actually voted it for).


Pink | 6556 comments Maya wrote: "Just wondering, has anybody seen the movie with Jack Nicholson?"

Yes I've seen the film and thought it was fantastic!

Luckily my library has a copy, I just have to pick it up before the weekend :)


Janet (jangoodell) Pink wrote: "Maya wrote: "Just wondering, has anybody seen the movie with Jack Nicholson?"

Yes I've seen the film and thought it was fantastic!

Luckily my library has a copy, I just have to pick it up before..."

It is good; I have seen it often. The movie swept the Oscars. However, it puts McMurphy at the center with Chief on the side. It would be harder and more interior to make a movie with so much of Chief as the narrator. The book is not spoiled by the movie.


Alice (admoneo) Melanti wrote: "It's vaguely like Clockwork Orange in some ways isn't it? Refusing to conform to society's expectations and all that? That was a Cold War era novel too."

I thought the same when I was reading A Clockwork Orange a few weeks ago. It's interesting to compare McMurphy to Alex and what happened to each.


message 10: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Mar 01, 2016 10:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9434 comments Mod
Finally have the time to start this one. Wow, the first paragraph sucked me right in. Such good writing. I'd picked up a couple of other "best seller" type books, but just couldn't get into them. Meh writing & I was turned off. This book is a different story. Nice to read a book where the author assumes that the reader has some intelligence.


Maggie | 125 comments I won't be able to finish this book this month, due to a combination of work and my stopping every few paragraphs to reflect on and savour what I've just read. This book is fantastic! Kesey's writing is absolutely solid and the issues he covers are complex and thought-provoking.


message 12: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
This is the NO Spoiler thread for our Revisit the Shelf Group Read, March 2016. This is our third reading of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Previous Group Reads:
- Book of the Month, November 2010
- Revisit the Shelf Group Read, August 2014


message 13: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments Wow, third time around for this one, it's certainly popular! I haven't read it in the past and I'm not sure that I'll pick it up this time around. I've seen the film version, which was great, but it's left me not feeling the need to read it now.

I hope you all enjoy it and post your thoughts, especially if you've already seen the film!


Amanda (tnbooklover) | 19 comments I have never read this or seen the film. I am very excited it won again. I will be reading it toward the end of the month and can't wait.


message 15: by Nargus (last edited Mar 02, 2016 05:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nargus | 567 comments Kathy wrote: "Finally have the time to start this one. Wow, the first paragraph sucked me right in. Such good writing. I'd picked up a couple of other "best seller" type books, but just couldn't get into them. M..."

I know this comment was from a couple of years ago, but it has such a great impression on me now. I love how you got "sucked" into it (marker of a great book) plus the writing is great and its got a different story to tell. Ingredients that make me want to go to the bookshop and immediately acquire a copy of this book. So thank you Kathy, again :)

I had heard of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest before, and it was recommended to me during my psych term, since it apparently made the use of ECT notorious. When I saw it as a book club read, I thought, yep, that's a book I want to read sometime. Glad to have stumbled across this thread, seems that sometime is now :)


message 16: by Ruth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruth | 67 comments I read the book and have seen the movie. I hope to be able to get to this later this month,


message 17: by Nargus (last edited Mar 04, 2016 08:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nargus | 567 comments Okay, so I ordered my copy of OFOTCN last night (haha, weird acronym much). Hope it's not long before I read it and can dive into the discussion. It'll be my first group read along (if I get to it before opening Middlemarch). So exciting!


Chris | 235 comments Really enjoying this. I'm about 1/3rd of the way through listing to the audio.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments Chris, I listened to the audio last year.

I was really happy with the production.


Chris | 235 comments Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder wrote: "Chris, I listened to the audio last year.

I was really happy with the production."


It's very well done. John Reilly is a great narrator.

I've come into this one completely blind; not having seen the movie or knowing anything of the story. I don't know that I've done that before but I may try it more often.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments Chris, I was virtually blind when I started this book too bec I didn't know anything about the story/plot or about the author.

I Had never seen the movie either--just knew Jack Nicholson had something to do with the film.


message 22: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 5038 comments Mod
I saw the movie years ago and I it made an impression. I do find that I cannot help seeing Nicholson when I am reading about McMurphy and Louise Fletcher's face for Ratched. That's not a bad thing. I'm finding the book is different in many ways, especially that it is told by Chief, who is clearly delusional and forces us to make calls about the characters based on what might obviously be flawed information.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments Sara, when I read this last year(?), all I saw were Nicholson and Fletcher from the movie--and I've never seen the movie.

I think McMurphy and Rachid characters were very well-cast indeed.


message 24: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 5038 comments Mod
I would be interested in seeing the movie again after I have finished reading the book. It has been many a year since I saw it and I would like to see how they compare.


Paula W | 552 comments I am starting this book now, but I must say that I have problems reading books with unreliable narrators. Thirteen pages in and I am already starting to get some antsy feelings. I see that a lot of my friends rated it 4 or 5 stars, so I'm going to soldier on!


message 26: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 5038 comments Mod
Wow, just finished this. Need to collect my thoughts.


Christine | 1217 comments I have the audio edition of this book waiting for me. I've never seen the movie, but being a nurse I have of course heard of Nurse Ratched! I'm really hoping to get to it before the end of the month.


message 28: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9434 comments Mod
I highly recommend this book. Kesey is an excellent writer. I've seen the movie and read the book. So much to ponder either way. Now I see that I need to do the audio book too!


Christine | 1217 comments Okay, you convinced me, Kathy. I'm starting it now so I can read the spoiler thread! ;-)


Nargus | 567 comments My copy arrived on the weekend and after covering it, I started to read it today ... interesting read, different, and making me think already ...

Me too, hoping to move on to the spoiler thread soon! :)


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