Ken Kesey

Kesey, Ken Elton

Ken Elton Kesey, 1935–2001, American novelist and counterculture figure, b. La Junta, Colo.; grad. Univ. of Oregon (1957), Stanford Univ. (1960). While a student he volunteered for a hospital study of mind-altering drugs, substances that were to shape much of his life and work. He also briefly worked as a psychiatric ward attendant, an experience pivotal to the creation of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962; film, 1975), his most famous novel, which details the struggle between rebellious individuality, represented by inmate R. P. McMurphy, and the forces of repression, personified by Nurse Ratched. Kesey's other books include the novels Sometimes a Great Notion, (1964; film, 1971), Sailor Song (1992), and Last Go Round (1994); and essays, stories, and children's books. He was also known as the leader of the Merry Pranksters, a group of travelers, stoked by LSD, who traversed the United States in a psychedelically decorated bus in 1964. Their exploits were described in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) and Kesey's The Further Inquiry (1990).

See studies by B. H. Leeds (1981), S. L. Tanner (1983), and P. Perry et al., ed. (2d ed. 1996); A. Gibney and A. Ellwood, dir., Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place (documentary, 2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Insanity as Redemption in Contemporary American Fiction: Inmates Running the Asylum
Barbara Tepa Lupack.
University Press of Florida, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Hail to the Chief: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism
David DeLeon.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Ken Kesey" begins on p. 396
Literature and Film as Modern Mythology
William K. Ferrell.
Praeger, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "A Search for Laughter: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
Classic Cult Fiction: A Companion to Popular Cult Literature
Thomas Reed Whissen.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" begins on p. 164
In the Singer's Temple: Prose Fictions of Barthelme, Gaines, Brautigan, Piercy, Kesey, and Kosinski
Jack Hicks.
University of North Carolina Press, 1981
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "Fiction from the Counterculture: Marge Piercy, Richard Brautigan, Ken Kesey"
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