Kesey, Here I Come
Tonight I finished Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and am preparing to crack open the 628 page paperback version of Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. This will be the longest book I have ever read (excluding Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason), and certainly the most involved fiction I’ve indulged in for almost eight years. It is a good sign, then–as the seriousness of life looms daily around my mental stratosphere–that I have the confidence to let myself breathe enough to step back into fiction.
And who better than Kesey to take me home, home, home to the fat evergreen trees of my Oregonian youth and the unending grey skies that yes, felt like a warm (though wet) blanket? Who better than Kesey to acknowledge the mind’s capacity for terrifying self-reflection and simultaneous boldness? Who better than Kesey…It is raining in NC tonight and this is none but an omen to carry me back, in book and in thought, on page and on keyboard, in heart and in mind.
Sometimes a Great Notion was first published by Viking Penguin in 1964, two years after One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which won national acclaim and has since been required reading for most American high school students. I remember being in Portland when Kesey died. I remember that there was a traffic jam on I-5 South as all the hippies, all the literary bugs, all the writers, all the Dead fans, all the acid trippers, and anyone who ever lived in a bus or dreamed of doing so headed south to Eugene for the funeral (or at least to experience the outskirts of the funeral).
I remember wishing I had had the chance to ask him: How do you feel about One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest being required reading for most public high school students? Eugene, Oregon was and always has been a reactive town. It may look like a city if you visit it for one day, but spend seventy-two hours there and you’ll call it a town, too. And since Kesey was so enmeshed in Eugene, where the anarchists and coffee and pot and UofO School of Journalism ruled, I wanted to know to what extent this rubbed off on him, or he on it, and if he could write a paper like the ones thousands of high school students across the country were required to write about his own book.
Even typing it feels good, yet bittersweet. Like the moment you realize you have mistakenly bitten into the unsweetened baker’s chocolate squares, while multi-tasking and trying to make Pat-In-Pan Chocolate Lover’s Brownies. Or like the time in middle school when someone said “N-O” to your bashful request for a slow dance, but secretly a sliver of you was relieved not to have to endure the four minutes and thirty seconds of palm-sweating, anxiety stricken, stiff-armed, pre-teen slow dancing on unromantic linoleum floor.
Best get back to reading…Mountains of reminiscing awaits.
I’ve had a few small successes lately that involved equally small (but nice) compensation. Ironically, these are not samples of my best writing or even the writing that I am most passionate about. But they are small stepping-stones along the path to granite boulders of writing accomplishments. Click below, if desired:
Western North Carolina Woman Click on “The Nature of the Blog” by Katey Schultz
The Dabbling Mum (Even though I am neither a parent or a Christian)
I may post these links sporadically this month, to take advantage of the live links while I can.