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Ken Kesey


I only read two books by Kesey but they both had a major impact on me. The first, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was assigned to me in a book illustration class at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. The class read the book and then did an illustration to represent it. Mine was one sheet made up of multiple panels kind of like a comic book where I depicted various scenes in the book. It’s still around here somewhere. I really loved the book and Kesey’s style of writing and followed it up with Sometimes a Great Notion which was also great but my favorite remained Cuckoo’s Nest. At the end of the year, the professor took the whole class to see the movie starring Jack Nicholson that had just been released. At first I did not picture Nicholson as Randall P. McMurphy, a big, tall red-headed guy. That all changed by the time the movie was over, Nicholson was perfect as McMurphy.


It is said Kesey was a bridge between The Beats and Kerouac and the hippie generation. He volunteered for CIA financed experiments using acid and other psychotropic drugs. He continued these experiments on his own and created The Merry Pranksters where his friends experimented with LSD and recorded their experiences. His cross-country trip with The Merry Pranksters was the basis of Wolfe’s book, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.


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