Born: 17 September 1935
Died: 10 November 2001 (complications from cancer surgery)
Birthplace: La Junta, Colorado
Best known as:
Author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Ken Kesey's first book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), is one of the best-known American novels of the 1960s. The tale was made into an Oscar-winning 1975 movie starring Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy, the wily convict who feigns insanity and escapes from prison into a mental hospital. Kesey's next novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, was published in 1964; the same year he drove cross-country in an old schoolbus with a group of like-minded literary hippies, including Jack Kerouac's On the Road companion Neal Cassady. They named the bus Further, called themselves the Merry Pranksters, took LSD, and became counterculture legends. (Their story was told by Tom Wolfe in his 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.) In later years Kesey lived on a farm in Oregon where he wrote, raised cattle and served as an elder statesman of psychedelia. He died after surgery for liver cancer in 2001.
Kesey was a wrestler at the University of Oregon... His son Jed also became a University of Oregon wrestler, but was killed in a team van crash in 1984... Kesey published a children's book, Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear, in 1990... Sometimes a Great Notion was made into 1971 movie starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda... The name of Kesey's bus is sometimes spelled "Furthur"; apparently both spellings were used by the Pranksters.
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