Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tarnished Galahad: The Prose and Pranks of Ken Kesey by Mathew Rick (Shady Backflash)

Tarnished Galahad: The Prose and Pranks of Ken Kesey

by Matthew Rick

Once upon a time a young man of American
background thought he had discovered the Great
Secret, the Skeleton Key to the Cosmos, the Absolute
Answer to the Age Old Question asked by every
Wizard, and Alchemist and Mystic that ever peered
curiously into the Perplexing Heavens, by every
Doctor and Scientist and Explorer that ever wondered
about the Winding Ways of this world, by every
Philosopher and Holyman and Politician that ever
listened for the Mysterious Song beneath the beat of
the Human Heart.... the answer to "What Makes It All Go?"

Contemporary author, psychedelic pioneer or "beatnik in lumberjack country", Ken Kesey is an American writer and cultural figure who defies definition. He sprung onto the literary landscape in 1962 with an instant classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, followed it two years later with the towering masterpiece Sometimes A Great Notion, and then abandoned novel writing for 28 years to host a series of zany pranks and intrepid trips, interspersed with shorter written works at irregular intervals. The process of evaluating his life and work is, therefore, at least as erratic and whimsical as the man himself.

Born in La Junta, Colorado on September 17, 1935, the youngest of two boys, Ken Elton Kesey moved with his family to Springfield, Oregon in 1946 where he spent many years on a family farm. Reading the Bible and listening to stories on his grandmother's knee, he developed a deep appreciation for homespun yarns and Christian ethics. In high school, and later in undergraduate school, Kesey was a champion wrestler and set state records that he holds to this day. After high school he ran off and eloped with Faye Haxby, his high school sweetheart, and they had three children together, Jed, Zane, and Shannon. Even in the most renegade chapters of Kesey's career, his life is laden with honesty and integrity. The boy voted "most likely to succeed" in his high school class, Ken Kesey became an unlikely candidate for one of the most controversial figures in the psychedelic underground.

An excellent student, Ken Kesey graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Speech and Communications and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to enroll in the Creative Writing program at Stanford. His writing class that year, with Malcolm Cowley, became legendary and he produced drafts for two novels, one of which became One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Perry Lane

The atmosphere in the San Francisco Bay at that time captured Kesey's imagination instantly. While attending Stanford, he and his family lived in a low rent section of Palo Alto called Perry Lane. By night Kesey and fellow Stanford writing student Ken Babbs roamed the streets of San Francisco's North Beach hitting coffee houses, jazz concerts, and poetry readings, absorbing the atmosphere created by the Beat poets and what Kesey termed "the Neon Renaissance."

In time these late night musings, and the powerful influence of Jack Kerouac's On the Road and William Burroughs' Naked Lunch, became the central subject of one of his earliest novels, an unpublished manuscript titled Zoo.

No less influential was the neighborhood where Perry Lane stood.

Perry Lane was basically old housing left over from World

War I. When the United States got into the war, the

Stanford farm was taken over as an Army camp to train

soldiers. They put up this shotgun housing. They just lay

these little framed cabins in a row and a squad of soldiers

would live there. Those shacks, the ones that survived,

became the Perry Lane community.

A bohemian village grew up there. From 1920 until they

were torn down, the houses were occupied by artists,

writers, and people trying to live cheaply. Over the years,

they had been modernized, fixed and built-up. By the late

sixties, you had Stanford literary types living there,

drinking wine and having intellectual discussions. It was

into the middle of this community that psychedelic drugs

were introduced.2.

At the suggestion of Vic Lovell, a friend on Perry Lane who was studying psychology, Kesey volunteered to participate in a series of "psychotomimetic" drug experiments at the local VA hospital. Participants in the VA hospital experiments met one evening a week, and were paid $20 a session.

Under the influence of the drugs, Kesey felt as if he'd developed extra-sensory perceptions, such as an ability to see into other people's thoughts. Believing that he could get more from the drugs in an environment that was not so sterile, Kesey smuggled handfuls of the drugs home to share and ingest amidst the artists and free spirits on Perry Lane.

According to Lovell:

We pioneered what have since become the hallmarks of

hippy culture: LSD and other psychedelics too numerous to

mention, body painting, light shows and mixed media

presentations, total aestheticism, be-ins, exotic costumes,

strobe lights, sexual mayhem, freakouts and the deification

of psychoticism, eastern mysticism, and the rebirth of


One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Interested in getting direct access to the psychedelic drugs, Kesey took a job as a psychiatric aide at the same VA hospital. Ingesting various substances and working all night at the mental institution became the inspiration for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. According to Kesey, the narrator's voice, which many consider the masterstroke of the novel's success, came one day when he'd done a particularly strong dose of peyote and the first three pages poured from him, establishing a narrative tone that was used effectively throughout the novel. The three pages remained virtually untouched after numerous revisions.

Chief "Broom" Bromden is the novel's narrator -- a large paranoid Indian who feigns deafness because people ignored him early in life. In time he decides that it is much more "cagey" to hide in shadows and avoid conflicts. Chief Broom is given the title both because his father was chief in a tribe of Colombian Indians and because on the ward he is given the duty of sweeping.

Since the tale is told from his point of view, its descriptions of the ward and its inmates have been distorted. Early in the novel Bromden lets this be known, but insists, "It's the truth, even if it didn't happen." This distorted narrative technique allows Kesey the freedom to exalt the novel's protagonist and to grossly exaggerate the negative characteristics of the novel's authority figures, the central antagonists.

Because he feigned deafness since entering the ward years earlier, Chief Broom is able to see and hear all. What gives the novel its hallucinogenic quality, however, is Bromden's perception of the ward as a mechanistic monster entirely under the control of the head nurse, Nurse Ratched.

The ward, (or the Combine, as it is also called) is portrayed entirely by cold, mechanical descriptions. This is evident early on in passages such as the following description of Nurse Ratched:

She's really lets herself go and her painted smile twists,

stretches to an open snarl, and she blows up bigger and

bigger, big as a tractor, so big I can smell the machinery

inside the way you smell a motor pulling too big a load.4.

These metaphors continue throughout the book, and it becomes very clear that the Big Nurse does not merely represent a cog in the machine that is the Combine, but is herself the machine. She represents everything that sterile, mechanized society had to fear in the early 1950's, and in many ways, she embodied, early on, the very society that Kesey's psychedelic escapades sought to liberate people from.

Into this sterile Combine comes the rowdy promiscuous gambler, Randle Patrick McMurphy. He is everything a bawdy Irish drunk can be, and his presence immediately sets the ward on edge. Thus the stage is set -- R.P. McMurphy witnesses the Big Nurse's smooth mechanical control and immediately sets himself to the task of rattling her cage -- taking bets on the outcome.

To say that the challenge has overt sexual connotations is an understatement -- the very challenge that McMurphy sets himself to is to prove his own virility against the castrating influence of the woman that he describes as nothing less than a ball cutter. This description of Nurse Ratched leads to the development of the novel's central theme -- that of life in favor of mechanization.

Even while the plotline runs along this simple, linear challenge, mounting to a conventional climax, Kesey's use of Chief Broom as the narrator provides for an altogether unconventional perspective. Bromden's intense, colorful, "hallucinatory" episodes take the reader into the heart of Kesey's imagination and allow the reader to experience the horror of The Combine as the ultimate oppressive machine. Bromden lies awake at night watching what, undoubtedly, were flashes of some of Kesey's own psychedelically induced insights, and sees the horrors of the Combine as only a neurotic possessed of second sight can see them -- people gutted only to find electronic wiring rather than blood and intestines, mindless humming and whirring that drones on endlessly, a knob on the wall which the Big Nurse manipulates to slow and speed up time on the ward, these are but a few of the many examples the Chief gives, witnessing the manner in which the people in the ward have ceased to be human and have allowed themselves to corrode into emotionless automatons.

McMurphy is not merely up against the Big Nurse and her ward, but against all the controlling aspects of society, which molds its conformists into dull mechanical robots for the Combine.

The ward is a factory for the Combine. It's for fixing up

mistakes made in the neighborhoods and in the schools and

in the churches, the hospital is. When a completed product

goes back out into society, all fixed up good as new, better

than new sometimes, it brings joy to the Big Nurse's heart;

something that came in all twisted and different is now a

functioning, adjusted component, a credit to the whole

outfit and a marvel to behold.5.

The novel is broken up into four distinct parts, each containing ten chapters. The four parts give the structure of the novel a feel very much like a sporting event, or a chess game, with the final quarter being the novel's Endgame. The entire focus of the structure is set from the beginning around the inevitable confrontation between Nurse Ratched and R.P. McMurphy, and the question of how this conflict would be resolved.

More important, however, is McMurphy's role in helping the men on the ward achieve, and accept their own liberation. In this respect, one of McMurphy's primary functions in the novel is to serve as redeemer for the rest of the patients. In Kesey's words "[McMurphy] was inspired by the tragic longing of real men on the ward" (at the VA Hospital where Kesey worked as a night attendant during much of the writing of this novel.)6.

Midway through the novel, McMurphy begins to realize that he will only be released when Nurse Ratched feels he is fit to return to society. This realization has many of the other patients suddenly believing that McMurphy will tow the line for an early release. For a whole section it looks as if McMurphy will do just that, but it then becomes obvious that kissing ass did not sit well beneath his boastful pride. The hell-raising McMurphy introduced in the early scenes returns in full swing, breaking plate glass windows, taking patients on weekend-long fishing trips, and smuggling booze and prostitutes into the ward after hours. This is when the novel's real showdown begins.

In the end, McMurphy proves to be a tragic hero, and one who must make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Redemption. In this case, the Redemption is the return of humor and strength he brings to the men on the ward, notably Chief Broom. McMurphy is the Dying God who must be slain to allow new life to spring forth.

One interpretation of Cuckoo's Nest views McMurphy as "A Dionysian Lord of Misrule" who "presides over a comic fertility ritual and restores instinctual life to the patients."7. Another sees the novel as a romance centering on the waste-land theme, in which McMurphy is "a successful Grail Knight who frees the Fisher King and the human spirit for a single symbolic and transcendent moment of affirmation."8.

The breadth and variety of interpretations of Cuckoo's Nest are almost as intriguing as the novel itself. It received instant critical acclaim, becoming standard reading in many fields of psychiatry. In addition, it was adapted into a successful Broadway play and an Oscar award winning Hollywood movie. Despite this popularity, Kesey often felt that readers had missed the point -- that the novel was not merely a battle of McMurphy versus the Big Nurse, but rather it presents the challenge that each of us faces in the mechanistic world of the Combine. The Combine is Kesey's Babylon, a crushing overpowering Authority which squelches humanity and individuality in favor of conformity and estrangement from one's emotions.

Cuckoo's Nest was also heavily criticized for its views towards sex and race. Kesey was portrayed by many as a misogynist and a racist, a reputation that he has still not fully lived down. The manner in which Kesey focuses on sex roles and racial stereotypes resurfaces time and again in critiques of his works. Nowhere is his blatant treatment of the tension between the sexes so vivid as in Cuckoo's Nest, however.

Such criticisms as the following were not uncommon:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a very beautiful and

inventive book violated by a fifth-rate idea which made

Woman, in alliance with modern technology, the destroyer

of masculinity and sensuous enjoyment.9.

Sometimes A Great Notion

After finishing Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey immediately began writing his second novel, Sometimes A Great Notion. In order to research the novel, he sublet his place on Perry Lane and moved north to Oregon. He took residence in a local logging community and wrote about a stubborn Oregon logging family, the Stampers.

The novel was a tremendous effort, and one which ultimately created Kesey's most intricate and experimental writing. The scope of the novel, particularly in regards to its work with characterization and point of view, is enormous. Critically, the novel met with mixed regards, and it never quite reached the level of commercial success of Cuckoo's Nest. Nevertheless, it was a major milestone in Kesey's career.

"Come look", the opening paragraph of Great Notion invites. The river, the mighty Wakonda river, is the central feature of the setting, and a great deal of the novel. But "look closer" -- zoom in on the arm dangling from a front porch stubbornly jutting out from the riverbank. It is a human arm with all the fingers but the middle one tied down. The arm is a message. Hank Stamper is the messenger. His message is NEVER GIVE A INCH! He is the novel's central hero.

The novel's storyline begins at the end and then backtracks through the memories of Viv, Hank's wife, looking through a scrapbook. The tale is an epic in the sense that it traces a family's history back a few generations, but it is primarily concerned with a single generation and within that generation the relationship of two half brothers -- Hank and Leland.

NEVER GIVE A INCH! This defiant maxim becomes the backbone of the Stamper tradition and it becomes the cause of the novel's many interwoven conflicts. NEVER GIVE A INCH! The words were written by Henry Stamper at the birth of his first son, Hank. NEVER GIVE A INCH! The words were written in a schoolboy scrawl over the most putrid yellow paint he could find -- paint that he'd splashed on a plaque given to him by his father Jonas A. Stamper, deserter and Kansas religious man, upon the birth of Hank. The plaque initially bore a portrait of Jesus Christ above the words "Blessed are the Meek for they shall inherit the earth." Henry would have no part of such nonsense. His father had deserted him and he'd be damned before he'd raise his boy to revere meekness. He decided NEVER GIVE A INCH! was a more appropriate code to live by and hung the plaque above the newborn's bed. This maxim came to be the core of Hank's personal philosophy. The rest of the novel is then structured around the need to "make Hank give up."10.

In sharp contrast to the figure of Hank Stamper is his half brother Leland Stanford Stamper. Leland is as insecure and neurotic as Hank is bold and self-assured. While Hank's mother died very early in his life, leaving the boy to be reared by Henry and the equally stern teacher of the Wakonda Auga river, Leland is portrayed as a momma's boy and an intellectual. What exacerbates the rivalry between the boys is that Myra, Leland's mother, seduces young Hank on his sixteenth birthday and the two become lovers, an event that does not go unnoticed by Leland, who watches everything through a hole in his bedroom wall.

"Just you wait 'til I get old enough," Leland whimpers, sounding every bit the part of the 97-pound weakling who's just had sand kicked in his face. A primary focus of the novel is Leland's attempts to measure up to Big Brother Hank, who chides, "you should be a big enough guy now, bub."

Taken together they represent rugged West Coast individualism (Hank) and East Coast intellectualism (Leland). In addition, they represent the conflicting loyalties Kesey felt towards his robust wrestling friends and the artsy intellectual crowd he encountered on Perry Lane.

The concept of self-reliance emerges time and again, polarized as it is between dependent Leland and independent Hank. Interwoven with Kesey's message about the need for self-reliance and individual freedom is the message that such freedom can become a cage. Because Hank is strong and dependable, he becomes a target for the other characters to prove themselves. .

Leland decides that his most potent act of revenge would be to seduce Hank's wife, Viv, by far the most sophisticated female character in all of Kesey's novels.

In addition to the rivalry between the brothers, exemplified by their relationships to work and Hank's wife Viv, there is a secondary storyline, which is that of the Stamper logging mill against the union. This conflict centers around the Stamper mill's decision to cross a union picket line, effectively ostracizing the entire Stamper family from the town. This conflict is no less important in terms of Kesey's determination to "try to make Hank give up" and gives the novel its rustic Oregonian feel.

Hank's central conflict is to remain strong despite the mounting pressures lumped on him by Leland and the local logging community. Much like R.P. McMurphy, he must carry the weight of the other character's weaknesses.

What separates the two novels is the manner in which this strength is portrayed and the characters fulfill their destinies. Particularly useful in understanding the manner in which Great Notion was constructed are Kesey's manuscript notes.

The question of self reliance emerges time and again.

In Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey examined what the hero owes to

others; In Notion he examines what the hero owes to

himself -- and, paradoxically, how being true to the self

ultimately serves the community.11.

"Making Hank give up" is part of the novel's questions about suicide. This is evident from the start. The novel gets its title from the song "Good Night Irene."

Sometimes I live in the country,

Sometimes I live in the town

Sometimes I get a great notion

To jump in the river and drown.

As was previously mentioned, the novel opens with the conflict's resolution. Viv, tired of being a pawn in the power struggle between the brothers, decides to make her exit. Hank alienates the town in his refusal to give in to the demands of the local union, and Leland, strengthened by the events which slowly unfold in the story, emerges with confidence, if not outright heroism. All of these events are hinted early on, but it is immediately apparent that Kesey is only willing to yield the Big Picture a little at a time. He does this by threading numerous storylines and points of view together so that they form a colorful mosaic that makes up the story's entirety.

As one reviewer pointed out:

In the beginning, the reader is likely to be confused. For

instance Kesey abruptly turns from third person to first

person and back again with no explanation. He uses italics,

parenthesis and capitals to introduce elements from one

story into another, and the reader doesn't know who's who

or what's what. But, with a little patience, he finds

himself and understands what Kesey's trying to do.12.

Kesey told Gordon Lish that in Great Notion he was "fooling around with reality and what reality can be."13.

This was no doubt heavily inspired by the influence that psychedelics were having on his own framework of "what reality can be," a question that Kesey returns to time and again throughout his life.

The book was well received by the critics, but required too much attention for the average light reader and, as a result, did not sell as well as Cuckoo's Nest. Even readers who looked for a challenge were scared away by the book's size and complexity. This was also evident in the film version of the novel, which, like Cuckoo's Nest, had a number of stars but did not become a box office success.

Following the publication of Great Notion, Kesey reflected:

After two successful novels and ten times two successful fantasies, I find myself wondering 'What to prove next? I've shown the buggers that I can write, then shown them I can repeat and better the first showing, now what do I prove?'

The answer seems to be 'prove nothing.'

A clever challenge, chaps, and one, I confess, that stirs the fight in me. Now anyone can crank out a nice compact commercial and vend it as literature, but how many are there capable of advancing absolute proof of nothing?'

'Not many, no, not so very many.'

'Then, by jingo,' slapping his thighs vigorously, 'Let's do it!'14.

In the eyes of the East Coast literary establishment, Kesey did a fair job of "advancing absolute proof of nothing" for over 20 years. His next novel would not appear until 1992, a full 28 years after Great Notion, though he published a number of shorter works, and his bibliography includes a consistent trickle of short stories, plays, and experimental writings.

The Merry Pranksters Search for the Cool Place

The next chapter of Kesey's career is carefully documented in Tom Wolfe's best seller, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The period marked for Kesey a departure from writing novels into a period of living theater, in which he was actively engaging in comic book heroism and prankster theatrics as a means of jarring reality out of the restrictions of middle-class American society. Kesey's motives were never particularly political, so much as they were artistic.

After the completion of Great Notion, Kesey returned to California, where he purchased a 1939 International Harvester school bus, which he and his friends painted,

with everybody pitching in in a frenzy of primary

colors, yellows, oranges, blues, reds. It was sloppy as

hell except for the parts Ray Seburn did, which were

manic mandalas. Well, it was sloppy, but one thing you

could say for it -- it was freaking lurid.15.

The front destination sign read "Furthur" with two u's, while the back read "Caution: Weird Load." The bus was equipped with one of the finest stereo systems of the day, capable of, among other things, broadcasting outside the bus from speakers on top of the bus. The bus also contained sleeping accommodations, a platform on the roof to host theatrics, photography equipment, and a refrigerator kept full with acid-laced orange juice.

Behind the wheel of the bus, Kesey placed Neal Cassady, the model for Dean Moriarty from Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Cassady had arrived on Perry Lane while Kesey was still in Oregon gathering information for Great Notion. The character of Dean Moriarty had made a tremendous impression on Kesey early in his North Beach years, evidenced by his early novel Zoo, so to have the flesh and blood Cassady standing before him talking a mile a minute was, for Kesey, nothing less than astounding.

"I saw that Cassady did everything a novel does, except that he did it better because he was living it and not writing about it,"16. Kesey would later claim.

Like Dean Moriarty, Neal Cassady was a high strung Denver kid, aged more than a decade since the events in Keroauc's novel took place, who was constantly living on what Wolfe called Edge City, eager to "Go! Go! Go!" non-stop in a chaotic frenzy of amphetamine heightened emotions and experiences. He took the transformation from alcohol and jazz to acid and rock 'n' roll in stride, as though it were a natural step in his evolution.

The bus trip began on June 14, 1964.

Kesey loaded all of his friends from Perry Lane, many with newly acquired Prankster nicknames, onto the bus and took off on a cross country road trip to New York for the publication party of Great Notion and the New York World's Fair. In the process they filmed "The Merry Pranksters Search for The Cool Place," Kesey's concept for the world's first acid induced "cinema novel."

"None of us are going to deny what other people are doing. What we are we are going to wail with on this trip."20.

In addition to buying the bus, Kesey began Intrepid Trips, Inc., a motion picture company built on the capital from his two novels. Kesey had been extremely interested in film as an interactive medium for years. This is little surprise, considering his undergraduate work was centered around drama and communications. In Great Notion, the reader often gets the feeling that Kesey has geared the writing towards a cinematic audience, attempting to take the camera literally into the psyches of the various characters. When Kesey set out to make the cross-country bus movie, one motive seems to have been a desire to take film outside of its ordinary confines the way he did with language in Great Notion. The official duty of Intrepid Trips was dubious since the only movie it ever produced ("The Movie") was never released commercially (and has only recently been made available on video tape) and only shown publicly at the Acid Tests.

What Intrepid Trips did do was something quite different.

The trip took the Pranksters from the Golden Gates of San Francisco down south through Arizona, Texas and Louisiana before swinging north, where they dropped in on Timothy Leary's New York religious organization, the League for Spiritual Discovery.

By the end of 1965, according to Faye's bookkeeping, Intrepid Trips, Inc. had spent $103,000 on various Prankster enterprises. Living expenses for the whole group ran about $20,000 for the year, a low figure considering there were seldom fewer than ten people around to be taken care of and usually two or three vehicles. Food and lodging were all taken care of by Kesey.17.

The Pranksters returned to La Honda in August of 1964 and set about editing the forty-five hours of home movies.

Once relocated to La Honda the Prankster enclave expanded rapidly. Among the many that journeyed to La Honda was Carolyn Adams, dubbed Mountain Girl. She became a core Prankster almost immediately and later gave birth to Sunshine Kesey, her first and Ken's fourth child.

The parties also did not escape the notice of local police. Knowing their home was under surveillance, the Pranksters made a huge sign, intended for Federal Agent William Wong, which they hung on the top of their house. It read: "WE'RE CLEAN, WILLIE!"

The police, unconvinced, obtained a warrant, and:

On April 23rd, 1965 at 10:50 pm the sheriff, seventeen deputies, Federal Agent Wong, eight police dogs, cars, wagons, guns, posses, ropes, walkie-talkies, bullhorns -- Cosmo! the whole freaking raid scene -- and right up to the end the Pranksters played it as they saw it: namely as a high farce, an opera bouffe. The cops claimed they caught Kesey trying to flush a batch of marijuana down the toilet. Kesey claimed he was only in there painting flowers on the toilet bowl.18.

The absurdity of the scene, played out as it was in the local media, only increased Kesey's growing legion of admirers. Rather than slink down out of the public eye, Kesey responded to continued police surveillance by posting a huge banner across the entrance to his property: THE MERRY PRANKSTERS WELCOME THE HELL'S ANGELS!

The act was so outrageous that it left local law enforcement flabbergasted. Those attending the parties found the events no less impressionable. As journalist Hunter S. Thompson (who introduced Kesey to the Hell's Angels) would later recount:

San Francisco in 1965 was the best place in the world to be. Anything was possible. The crazies were seizing the reins, craziness hummed in the air, and the heavyweight king of the crazies was a rustic boy from La Honda named Ken Kesey. He had the craziest gang in the West. LSD-25 was legal in those days, and Kesey's people were seriously whooping it up. It was a whole new world. 'Do it now' was the motto, and anything not naked was wrong. The best minds of our generation somehow converged on La Honda, and Kesey had room for them all. His hillside ranch in the canyon became the world capital of madness. There were no rules, fear was unknown, and sleep was out of the question.19.

The parties at La Honda grew and evolved until Kesey had the idea to create a geodesic dome and began work on a series of multi-media sight and sound shows that came to be known as The Acid Tests.

The Acid Tests were a culmination of all Kesey had learned from psychedelics and alternative forms of self-expression. Among the many sensory manipulations in the tests were flashing lights and moving screens playing more than one movie simultaneously (including "The Movie") while the sounds of San Francisco's growing circle of acid rock bands played on all night.

The combined effects of Kesey's Prankster activities, the emerging sounds of San Francisco's psychedelic Renaissance and the catalyst of vast quantities of acid made for the legendary status of the Acid Tests.

As Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead explains:

There were no sets. Sometimes we'd get up and play for ten minutes and all freak out and split. We'd just do it however it would happen. It wasn't a gig, it was the Acid Test where anything was OK. Thousands of people all helplessly stoned all finding themselves in a room full of people, none of whom any of them were afraid of. It was magic. Far out beautiful magic.20.

The tests in turn created an atmosphere of no-holds-barred eccentricity that soon blossomed into San Francisco's flower powered Haight-Ashbury district.

For Kesey the psychedelic heyday came to an abrupt halt in 1966 with his second arrest for possession of marijuana. (The first arrest had been April, 1965, during the raid at La Honda.) Soon after he was placed on probation for the first charge he was caught on a rooftop with Mountain Girl on a second possession charge.

Kesey had been upping the ante, a little at a time, directly confronting the authorities with his audacity. The government was more determined than ever to put an end to the theatrics of the promising young Stanford student they had inadvertently introduced to psychedelics.

As Kesey would later joke:

What was it that had brought a man so high of promise to so low a state in so short a time? Well, the answer can be found in one short word, my friends, in just one all-well-used syllable: DOPE!21.

At the trial for the second bust the judge called Kesey "Tarnished Galahad," a title Kesey found amusing. Later, while on the lam in Mexico he commemorated the occasion by composing a song :

Down to five pesos from five thousand dollars

Down to the dregs from a lip-smacking foam

Down to a dopefiend from a prizewinning scholar

Down to the bush from a civilized home.

What people once called a promising talent

What used to be known as an upstanding lad

Now hounded and hunted by the laws of two countries

And judged to be only a Tarnished Galahad.

Tarnished Galahad -- did your sword get rusted?

Tarnished Galahad -- there's no better name!

Keep running and hiding 'til the next time you're busted

And locked away to suffer your guilt, and shame.22.

Knowing he would not be given a merciful sentence, Kesey feigned suicide and fled to Mexico where he remained for close to nine months. In the fall of 1966 Kesey crossed back into the United States on horseback with a guitar slung across his back, telling customs agents he was Singing Jimmy Anglund, Las Vegas country and western singer. He showed a Bank of America identification card to prove it. He immediately began to make a number of flamboyant public appearances, including a radio broadcast from a Bay area station.

"It's time to go beyond acid," he claimed, and announced at an October 2, 1965 San Francisco State University Acid Test that he would be hosting an Acid Test Graduation. "The question is no longer CAN you pass the Acid Test, but DID you pass the Acid Test?"23.

I think it's time to move on to the next step in the psychedelic revolution. I don't know what this is going to be in any way that I could just spell out, but I know we've reached a certain point but we're not moving anymore, we're not creating anymore, and that's why we've got to move on to the next step...24.

Kesey was getting careless. He hoped was to make one final appearance at the Halloween Acid Test Graduation and then, when the police descended on him, as he had no doubt they would, his superhero comrades would let down a rope which he would scale to the helicopter waiting on the rooftop and make one last heroic getaway.

He was caught before this could occur.

The capture added an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion to Kesey's plans for an Acid Test Graduation. Kesey had been presenting his theory for going "beyond acid" for weeks -- ever since his return from Mexico -- telling people "you find out what you came to find when you're on acid and we've got to start doing it without acid."25. To those who hadn't heard this theory, though, it suddenly looked as though he was copping out, telling the growing legion of acidheads in the Haight-Ashbury that acid wasn't the way, and that he had cashed in his chips for a more lenient sentence.

The Acid Test Graduation took place on Halloween as planned. Diplomas were handed out, and the event became another of the infamous Prankster "happenings."

Three weeks later, on November 30, Kesey went on trial for his second count of possession of marijuana. The trial ended in a hung jury, as did his retrial the following April, and Kesey put in the plea nolo contendre to the lesser charge of "knowingly being in a place where marijuana was kept" and was given a ninety day sentence. In May he lost his appeal of the original marijuana bust and was sentenced to six months on a county work farm, a $1,500 fine and three years' probation, a sentence ironically similar to McMurphy's in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Kesey served his two sentences concurrently.

When he returned from prison, Kesey moved to Pleasant Hill, Oregon where he purchased a farm and lives with Faye to this day. This is also where the tale presented in The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test ends. Kesey claims the book is "96% true"26. . and it is the image of him that has endured in the public eye.

Kesey's Garage Sale

In 1973, Kesey's Garage Sale was released. As the title implies, the book is a strange assortment of Kesey's thoughts collected from a variety of sources. Kesey calls it his comic book.

The book promises "5 Hot Items, Guest Leftovers and a Surprise Bonus." Taken together, the contents offer invaluable insight into the character of Ken Kesey as one of the era's most colorful and creative visionaries.

In his fiction, Kesey took up the "character" created in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, renamed him Devlin Deboree (Devil in Debris) and began to write semi-autobiographical tales that serve as Kesey's own reflections on that period in his life.

The first place that Devlin Deboree appears is in "Over the Border," a 136 page screenplay complete with cartoon doodles in the margins. The subject of the play is Kesey's journey as a fugitive in Mexico. The significance of the work lies in its self-reflection. Much, if not all, of Garage Sale is an attempt by Kesey to come to terms with the results and ramifications of the psychedelic revolution that he played so central a role in. "Over the Border" is, then, a coming of age story for that particular social movement. Kesey grapples at length with the value of "revolutions", even to the extent that Houlihan (the charicature of Neal Cassady) refers to him as a "psychedelic fascist". It is clear that Kesey sees the power inherent in potent mind altering substances and wants nothing to do with Manson-like power tripping.

Kesey's bold, self-reliant characters continue to examine social responsibility, and at the heart of the tale is Kesey's heavy dependence on moralizing. This is perhaps a bit too transparent in the play, but when taken in the context of the rest of Garage Sale, it provides remarkable insight into Kesey's personal transformations.

Also of interest are Kesey's "Tools From My Chest," Hot Item #3. Originally printed in Stewart Brand's "Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog," Kesey's Tools are short reflections on a number of people, places and things that he had considered valuable in his life.

Topping the list is the Bible. It is only the beginning of a list that includes the I Ching, Dawgs, Dope, Booze, Burroughs, Joan Baez, Eldridge Cleaver, William Faulkner, Timothy Leary, Pogo and many many others. Some of the Tools are tributes, others friendly anecdotes.

"Spit in the Ocean"

Much of Kesey's work during the next 20 years was just as erratic as Garage Sale, often appearing at very irregular intervals through a publication of the "Intrepid Trips Information Service" called "Spit in the Ocean." In "SITO" Kesey utilized the format of unpredictable literary comic books to pilot his "Seven Prayers by Grandma Whittier," a concept Kesey calls "form in transit." From these six volumes, Kesey managed to create a number of short works that reappeared in altered forms in "Rolling Stone" magazine, a later book called Demon Box, and a script that was altered to become The Further Inquiry. From the first issue on, it is clear that "SITO" is yet another of Kesey's experiments in alternate forms of expression -- including rotating the editor of the publication every issue.

In 1981, Kesey's son Jed died in a van accident returning from a high school wrestling match. The death of the child devastated Kesey. He buried his son in his back yard and built a monument to memorialize the boy on Mount Pigsah. Kesey still makes frequent reference to the death of his child, as is evident in the following excerpt from an interview:

I was driving around one time after Jed died. He'd been dead about two weeks and I was driving to a wrestling match and I was driving and weeping and I was talking to him and I said, 'Oh Jed, we really loved you' and I thought that doesn't sound right. 'Loved.' You can't use it in the past tense. It's in the present. If love isn't stronger than death then fuck it. I can't bear it.27.

Demon Box

In 1988 Kesey collected a series of his short stories and magazine articles into the volume Demon Box. It is dedicated "To Jed across the river riding point." The book sold moderately well, but critics considered it to be a hodge-podge of little literary merit (similar, in many respects to criticisms of Garage Sale and SITO.) A significant portion of the book is devoted to stories about Kesey's life on the farm raising of his children. In addition, there are three pieces which act as Kesey's reflections upon the dreams of the counterculture.

The children's story "Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear" is by far the best storytelling in the book. It tells the classic underdog tale of a wiley little squirrel (Tricker) who defends his homeland and outwits Big Double from the high ridges who comes down from the hills "DOUBLE BIG, DOUBLE BAD, and DOUBLE DOUBLE HONGRY a-ROARRR!"

Kesey begins the yarn in the voice of Grandma Whittier, asking, "Don't tell me you're the only youngsters never heard tell of the time the bear came to Topple's Bottom?" The story is obviously intended to be read aloud to children (a feat that Kesey pulls off brilliantly in the video "Still Kesey.") His tale is simple but convincing in true comic book "good guy / bad guy" style. Kesey calls it "the best piece [he] ever wrote. It works on its own and it really is cohesive as one piece."28. The story was later released as a single illustrated volume.

Particularly enjoyable, and also useful in terms of evaluating Kesey's attitude towards the counter-culture, was the story "The Day After Superman Died." Again Kesey draws on superhero imagery to convey the magical quality bestowed upon the Pranksters by psychedelics, this time in reference to Neal Cassady. The story begins with a frustrated Devlin Deboree sitting at a writing table in his barn staring at a blank page after staying up for two days getting wired and trying to respond to an old writer friend (Larry McMurtry from Kesey's Stanford class) who chided, "So what's the Good Old Revolution been doing lately?"

Deboree is at a loss for an honest response. The year is 1969. The Manson murders have just made front page news, the Haight has turned to needle drugs and violence, and all Deboree can think to respond is "Dobbs and Blanche had another kid... Rampage and I finally got cut loose from our three year probation..."29. (p.58) Then he moans aloud and declares, "Pox on both houses. On Oregon field burners poisoning the air for weed-free profit and on California flower children gone to seed and thorn!"30.

As if in response to his curse, up trudge two road-weary hitchhikers, fresh back from Woodstock and eager to meet the famous Devlin Deboree. One is a scruffy old tattooed road dog with a dark thick beard. The other is a bright eyed golden boy eager to speak about the "stone primo groove" Deboree missed in upstate New York. In the course of interacting with the two, Deboree comes to realize he has little sympathy for them, and sends them away.

No sooner are they on their way up the road (or so he believes) then in pulls Sandy Pawku, an old acquaintance from the Prankster days. (The names used are the same as in "Over the Border" and so the Pranksters are referred to as the Animal Friends.) She's made a special trip to the farm to deliver news of Houlihan's death. Reflections on this death become the premise for the writing of the story, and the attempt to answer the question just what has the Good Old Revolution been doing lately?

Houlihan is Kesey's pseudonym for Neal Cassady, and so the news of his death plays a central role in Kesey's evaluation of the Sixties and the role(s) the Pranksters played in them. The story's success lies largely in its avoidance of sweeping statements about the cultural importance of the Prankster experiment and deals matter-of-factly with the more gloomy aspects of the counter culture. As Kesey once said, "Woodstock was beautiful and historic and even perhaps Biblical, but Altamont was much more honest. Success is a great spawning ground of confidence, bald truth is found more often up against the wall."31.

Along similar lines is the story "Now We Know How Many Holes it Takes to Fill the Albert Hall," reflections written after John Lennon's assassination in 1980. Kesey insists that the story is not written as "a nickel valentine to a dead superstar" but rather contains some telling statements about where he sees the psychedelic vision going. Lennon's song "Give Peace A Chance" is cited as exemplary of this vision. "Maybe it was time to talk a little of that old sky pie once more," he concedes, "Else how are we going to be able to look that little bespectacled Liverpudlian in the eye again when the Revolutionary Roll is Up Yonder called?"32.

The Further Inquiry and Caverns

Demon Box was followed in 1990 by two selections with decidedly different styles and motives. One, The Further Inquiry, is a mock trial in which Neal Cassady is being tried post-mortem for the statutory rape of Katrina "Stark Naked" Daniels. As noted earlier, it was originally published in the Cassady issue of "Spit in the Ocean" as "Further: The World's Greatest Home Movie," with an Introduction by Ken Babbs. The page long intro by Babbs is absent in the book length version, which is unfortunate because it does much in few words to clarify the contents of the script without giving away any of the surprises.

The other, Caverns, was a compilation novel written with a University of Oregon graduate Creative Writing class and published as the work of O.U. Levon (U of O Novel). Neither of the works made enormous splashes in the literary scene, but both show Kesey's continuing commitment to experimentation with styles and forms of expression.

Sailor Song

Two years later came the long awaited third Kesey novel, Sailor Song. Set in a small Alaskan town on the Northwestern edge of the United States in the near future, the novel is Kesey's "science fiction" book, dealing with environmental destruction, the End of the World and the fate of the Deaps (Descendants of Early Aboriginal People). The novel's heros are Ike Salaas, and Alice the Angry Aleut. Plopped smack in the middle of the novel is "The Sea Lion," Kesey's children's story, and it is around this story that the novel is structured.

Ike Salaas, legendary Bakatcha Bandit from the environmental wars of the Nineties is holed up in Kuinak, Alaska trying desperately to ignore his growing love for Alice when her albino son shows up, fresh out of jail and sharply dressed, with proposals to use the town as the site for a major motion picture endeavor. He wants to film "The Sea Lion," a popular children's tale modeled after the style of Pacific Northwest Indian tales. There is the promise of a great deal of money wrapped up in the deal, and the additional interest of turning the town into a theme park after the movie becomes a success.

Ike is suspicious from the start, particularly with Alice's son, Nicolas Levertov, whom he knew from his years in the "slam." He wants as little to do with this development project as he wanted with the corporations that were ultimately responsible for the death of his hydrocephalic child years earlier. Perhaps less, because the corporations at least spurred him to a series of eco-terrorist monkeywrenching actions. Ike just wants to hang his hat and watch the inevitable coming of the End Times.

What is clear from the novel's onset is that Ike will be allowed no such luxury and that the manner in which he deals with this conflict is the heart of the tale. Interspersed with the central storyline are a handful of classic Kesey quips, including the Dreadful Great rock band and the Loyal Order of Underdogs (an acronym for LOUD, denoting their noisy temperaments and monthly Full Moon Howl.)

While a great many passages demonstrate that Kesey still has a flair for "turning a phrase", this is not enough to save the novel's overall weak storyline. The story frequently loses the reader and the ending is particularly confusing and unresolved. Numerous critics of the book felt likewise and it came under harsh judgment from the East Coast literary establishment. A few did not stop short of insulting the novel.

"Writing that is so ill at ease on the page that it seems on the verge of converting itself into a bad television mini-series and then being canceled for lack of interest before we can put it down."33. the Washington Post chided.

After more than thirty years of waiting, it is little surprise that Kesey's new novel came under such close scrutiny. Many were eager to form an opinion of the ever-present question, "Has Kesey burnt himself out?"

Despite the pressure to "prove himself", Kesey is not centrally interested in besting his earlier efforts. The third novel seems in many respects to be a half-hearted attempt to respond to the taunts of a legion of fans saying, "When you gonna write another book, Ken?"

When "doing nothing" had ceased to stir the fight in him, Kesey rose to the bait and created another novel.


In 1993, following a Grateful Dead concert in Eugene, Oregon, Kesey held the premiere of "Twister: A Ritual Reality in Four Quarters." Kesey's "ritual reality" is a play structured loosely around the Wizard of Oz, with each of the characters facing turn of the century crises in the world today. The three crises are The Hungry Wind, The Lonely Virus, and The Restless Earth. They deal, respectively, with tornadoes, plagues and earthquakes, all of which Kesey cites as being on the rise.

This is just shit. It's happening. No blame. Happening and on the rise it would appear. What can we do to delay it? Probably zilch. To stop it? Likely less. But to survive it? Now that sounds more promising. There is evidence of bad shit having been survived before. Ancient Advice Left in cave by Wise French Caveman: "When Bigbad Shit come, no run scream hide. Try pain picture of it on wall. Drum to it. Sing to it. Dance to it. This give you handle on it." So "Twister" is my try.34.

The play was panned from the start, being overlong, too loose and largely uninteresting. One critic called it "a musical catastrophe."

Kesey's career shows that he has returned time and again to his first interest in communications and drama, but his abilities as a prose writer far outweigh his efforts as a playwright.

Last Go Round

Most recently, (1994) Kens Kesey and Babbs collaborated on their first published book. The result is Last Go Round, a "real western" about the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up. The three central characters are George Fletcher, an orphaned Negro man, Sundown Jackson, a Nez Perce Indian rider, and Jonathan E. Lee Spain, a shining example of Anglo Cowboy Western Americana. The central occasion bringing them together is the dramatic rodeo, the Pendleton Round Up. Both Jackson and Fletcher have reputations preceding themselves. Spain was a complete unknown.

What gives the novel its unique character is the fact that it is history. Not textbook history, but genuine American folklore centered entirely around a historical event. Kesey is careful to point out in his Introduction that he is not dealing with facts as they agree in a dusty old history book, because no two tellings of the tale agree. Rather he is dealing with what is believed to be the truth, and that may be an entirely different thing.

He gives the reader "the benefit of a little trick I have discovered to tell the difference between true history and false; the True is generally uncertain, wishy washy, vague, while the False is often downright positive."35. In addition to being further evidence of Kesey's need to fool around with what reality can be, it may also be a fair estimation of how Kesey felt gathering facts for writing the novel.

Kesey first heard the tale from his father at age 14 when a trip out West was delayed because they were caught in Round Up traffic. Last Go Round is a brilliant example of Kesey's storytelling skills. Because it is less ambitious than Sailor Song, Kesey's narrative tone is able to take over, and the reader is pulled along. The novel has the flavor of Mark Twain telling a Louis L'Amour tale. It is Kesey's finest longer work since Sometimes A Great Notion.


As a major twentieth century American writer, Kesey will always be remembered for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes A Great Notion. For many writers that would be more than enough. For Kesey, the central exercise is always to push onward.

Always comes the moment when it's time to take the Prankster circus further on toward Edge City. And always at this point some good souls are startled. Kesey can remember them all, people who thought he was great so long as his fantasy coincided with theirs. But every time he pushed on further -- and he always pushed on further -- they became confused and resentful.36.

To those who know and love Kesey, he is the warm hearted grandfather with the twinkle in his eye, the unapologetic hell-raiser still willing to endorse the decriminalization of marijuana and psychedelics, or the Oregon farmer, up in his years, and perhaps a bit eccentric at times, but generally as rural looking as a wheat field. Kesey has a reputation for style, class and charisma, with more than a liberal dash of humor. While his public image will always be largely centered around Tom Wolfe's work, it is clear that Kesey has continued to be an inspiration to those who know him long after his years of psychedelic parties and confrontational antics have ended.

Kesey is an American warrior on the eve of the Apocalypse and a mythic American hero sprung from the pages of his books and into history with comic-book heroism. He is a thumbed nose in the face of authority and an underdog who has challenged adversity to emerge victorious.

His advice to young writers?

One of these days you're going to have a visitation. You're going to be walking down the street and across the street you're going to see God standing over there on the corner motioning to you saying, 'Come here, come to me.' And you will know it's God, there will be no doubt in your mind -- he has slitty little eyes like Buddha, and he's got a long nice beard and blood on his hands. He's got a big Charlton Heston jaw like Moses, he's stacked like Venus, and he has a great jeweled scimitar like Mohammed. And God will tell you to come to him and sing his praises. And he will promise that if you do, all the muses that ever visited Shakespeare will fly in your ear and out of your mouth like golden pennies. It's the job of the writer in America to say, 'Fuck you God, fuck you and the Old Testament you rode in on, fuck you.' The job of the writer is to kiss no ass, no matter how big and holy and white and tempting and powerful. Anytime anybody says come to me and says, 'Write my advertisement, be my ad manager,' tell him, 'Fuck you.' The job is always to be exposing God as the crook, as the sleaze ball.37.


Books by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. New York: Viking Press, 1962.

Sometimes A Great Notion. New York: Viking Press, 1964.

Kesey's Garage Sale. New York: Viking Press, 1973.

Kesey. Edited by Michael Strelow. Eugene, Oregon: Northwest Review Books, 1977.

Demon Box. New York: Viking Press, 1988.

The Further Inquiry. New York: Viking Press, 1990.

Caverns. (with O.U. Levon) New York: Viking Press, 1990.

Sailor Song. New York: Viking Press, 1992.

Last Go Round. (with Ken Babbs) New York: Viking Press, 1994.

"Spit in the Ocean" Vols. 1-6. Pleasant Hill: Intrepid Trips Information Service, 1974-1981.

"Twister!" (unpublished manuscript) courtesy of Emily Hunter.

Zoo (unpublished manuscript) courtesy of The Kesey Collection, University of Oregon Library.

Secondary Sources


Garcia, Jerry, Reich, Charles, and Wenner, Jann. Garcia: A Signpost to New Space. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Books, 1972.

Gravy, Wavy The Hog Farm and Friends. Foreward by Ken Kesey. New York: Link Books, 1974.

Lee, Martin A. and Shlain, Bruce. Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion. New York: Grove Press, 1985.

Leeds, Barry H. Ken Kesey. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1981.

Perry, Charles. The Haight Ashbury: A History. New York: Rolling Stone Press, 1984.

Perry, Paul. On the Bus. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1990.

Plummer, William. The Holy Goof. New York: Paragon House, 1990.

Stevens, Jay. Storming Heaven LSD and the American Dream. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., 1987.

Tanner, Stephen L. Ken Kesey. Boston: G.K. Hall & Company, 1983.

Thompson, Hunter S. Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. New York: Ballantine Books, 1967.

Wolfe, Tom. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1968


Ken Kesey's Last Prank Paul Krassner

"Ritual Reality" Mary Jane Fenex and Matthew Rick The Cryer April 8, 1993, Ed.II, Vol. 7

The Whole Earth Review "Rubbing A Stone Smooth" Jeff Forester No.61, December 6, 1988 p. 46-50

Lish, Gordon. "What You Lookin' In Here For, Daisy Mae?" Genesis West. Vol. 2 No.1 Fall, 1963 pp.20-29

"Ken Kesey: The Art of Fiction" The Paris Review #130 Spring, 1994 pp.58-94 New York

Julian Moynahan, The New York Review of Books, September 10, 1964 p. 14.

Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gail Research Company, 1962.) p.530

Granville Hicks "Beatnik in Lumberjack Country"

David Streitfield, The Washington Post, September 9, 1992 p.C7

Paul Krassner Ken Kesey's Last Prank High Times March 1991 No.187

Audio and Video tapes

"The Merry Pranksters" Key-Z Productions (Pleasant Hill: 1990)

"The Acid Test" Key-Z Productions (Pleasant Hill: 1990)

Acid Test audio tape San Francisco State, October 2, 1966, unpublished

Works Cited

1. Ken Kesey, Kesey's Garage Sale (New York: Viking Press, 1973), p.33.

2. Paul Perry and Ken Babbs, On the Bus (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1990), p.25)

3. Stephen Tanner, Ken Kesey (Boston: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1983) p.13.

4. Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (New York: Viking Press, 1962), p.11.

5. Cuckoo's Nest, p.40.

6. Garage Sale, p.7.

7. Tanner, p.47.

8. Ibid., p.47.

9. Julian Moynahan, The New York Review of Books, September 10, 1964, p.14.

10. Ken Kesey, Ken Kesey (ed. by Michael Strelow) (Eugene: Northwest Review Books, 1977) p.24

Ken Kesey, Sometimes A Great Notion (New York: Viking Press, 1964) p.12.

11. Contemporary Author (Detroit: Gail Research Company, 1962) p.530.

12. Granville Hicks, "Beatnik in Lumberjack Country," Saturday Review, July 25, 1964, p.21.

13. Gordon Lish, "What the Hell You Looking in Here For, Daisy Mae?" Genesis West, Vol.2 No.5, Fall 1963, p.23.

14. Kesey, ed. By Strelow, p.94-95.

15. Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1968) p.61.

16. William Plummer, The Holy Goof, (New York: Paragon House, 1990) p.135.

17. Wolfe, p.122-123.

18. Ibid., p.134-135.

19. Perry and Babbs, p.xv.

20. Garage Sale, p.42.

21. Wolfe, p.4.

22. San Francisco State University Acid Test audio tape, 10/2/1966. Later printed in the opening pages of Demon Box.

23. Ibid.

24. Wolfe, p.339.

25. Ibid., p.324

Mike DeFillipo, The Riverfront Times, November 17-23, 1993. p.9.

26. Kesey, ed. by Strelow, p.v.

27. Author interview, Boulder, Colorado, 1/23/1993.

28. Ibid.

29. Ken Kesey, Demon Box, (Viking Press, 1988.) p.58.

30. Ibid., p.58.

31. Garage Sale, p.220.

32. Demon Box, p.321.

33. David Streitfield, The Washington Post, September 9, 1992, p.C7.

34. Personal letter to Allen Ginsberg, August, 1993.

35. Kesey, Last Go Round, (New York: Viking Press, 1994.) p.41.

36. Wolfe, 30.

37. Robert Faggen, The Paris Review, No.130, Spring, 1994, p.93-94.


  1. Anonymous10:05 AM

    Where is this essay from? It popped up on my Google Alter for "Gordon Lish".

    Let me know at:



  2. >Where is this essay from?

    it was my MFA Thesis for the Naropa Institute in '94.

    I switched servers so my link to the page was down for a while, but now it's back up and functional: http://blotterati.com/tarnished-galahad-the-prose-and-pranks-of-ken-kesey

    Thanks for the interest!