Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey: My Thoughts

Yesterday I finished reading Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. All 628 pages. The last blog entry here at The Daily Beat established the Kerouac-Kesey connection, so it's legitimate to talk about Kesey's book. I know. It's my blog and I can talk about whatever I like here, though I do tend to bend to my mission of always having a connection to Kerouac. Because everything connects to Kerouac. But I digress.

If you haven't read Notion, you're missing out on an excellent reading experience. It has beauty, depth, and insight. It features strong character development (at least for the men - a quibble typically aimed at Kerouac et al.). I must warn the reader that it is not an easy read. Especially at first. Kesey abruptly jumps around in time and he uses first person narrative for several of the characters. Sometimes it's difficult to keep track of who is talking (or thinking). However, that gets easier if you persevere long enough. It actually ends up seeming "necessary" and not just an author's trick. Along the way, Kesey describes Oregon's rainy beauty and the logging industry in gorgeous detail, providing a perfect context for the complicated family/community drama to play out. Love, sex, betrayal, jealousy, revenge -- it's all here.

Notion is a very different novel from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, so don't expect a similar reading experience. I highly recommend you give it a shot. It's certainly one of the great American novels from the 20th Century.

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