A literary icon sometimes seen as a bridge between the Beat Generation and the hippies, Ken Kesey scored an unexpected hit with his first novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His successful follow-up, Sometimes a Great Notion, was also transformed into a major motion picture, directed by and starring Paul Newman.
Oregon’s Stamper family does what it can to survive a bitter strike dividing their tiny logging community. And as tensions rise, delicate family bonds begin to fray and unravel.
©1963, 1964 Ken Kesey (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC
Say something about yourself!
If you liked The Count of Monte Christo, Atlas Shrugged, East of Eden, or On the Road you will love this book because it finishes the thought that these books started, but with more humanity, humor and complexity.
I had read in several literary forums that SAGN was lesser known but actually a better book than his more famous One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I have not yet read Cuckoo's Nest (loved the film) but I have to say that SAGN lived up to and exceeded my expectations and I would have to place it amongst the greatest of the modern classics I've ever read. Starting out, the plain stark bare-bones writing style reminded me of Cormac McCarthy, another of my all-time favorites. Kesey has an incredible gift to put his reader inside the minds of all the characters, both protagonists and antagonists and other, so much so that I found myself sympathizing and empathizing with even the alleged bad guys. Combine that with all the symbolism, brilliant characterization and quest for universal truths and you have an incredibly enjoyable read! This is a challenging book because Kesey keeps switching the perspective from 1st person from character to character to 3rd person omniscient. Also, the narrator's voice was very appropriate for the novel. SAGN is easily one of the more rewarding reads I've had the pleasure to experience on audible. I'm off to more literary adventures with Kesey and I'd advise all other avid readers of challenging modern classics to do the same.
Strong Northwest tale
Hank. He was the hero but also an antihero. Kesey brought out his inner thoughts and
downplayed the obvious, i.e. the outer action. He was capable of great love, for his
father, Viv, and Joe Ben but had some trouble expressing this love.
The Road. No Country for Old Men. All of them have been well done but
the narrator had more voices in this novel and did all of them extremely well.
Joe Ben. He was the guy we'd all like to have as a friend. Irrepressible joy and
boundless energy. He wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose. A man who lived his
deep faith but was worldly in every respect.
As happened when I read this book 45 years ago in print, I did not want this audiobook
I will keep listening to this forever.
Kesey is intensely artful and prolific with words that weave the threads and themes of weather, wilderness, wily human behavior, bewildered communication and willful characters to create an unforgettable fabric that constantly enraptures me. Unlike other reviewers who tired of the unclear distinction between voices, I found the unmarked shifting of speakers fascinating as if I were within that family myself, both part of it and also above it watching the whole thing like an organism comprised of swarming cells.
The opening narration setting the scene of the river and the house is unforgettable.
Viv, because I wonder how a woman could just settle into this and flow with it like she did.
It's hard to say. I have listened to over 100 audio books, perhaps more. My first experience with them was when I was a little girl back in the 60's and they were on LP records. So of course nothing can compete with the stories like The Little Match Girl and The Tin Soldier read by a master, male voice I could play on my little record player in the privacy of my bedroom at the age of five, and weep without being teased by my older brothers and sisters. The LP had sound effects too!Sometimes A Great Notion is a wonderful, earthy story of a Oregonian logging family that is dysfunctional. The father is judgmental and runs his family like his business...under a saw, as in cutting words, being blunt. Union strikers try and intimidate the family into stopping their non--union, independently owned logging business for the season and that isn't going to happen. The seasonal help is intimated and refuses to work for the family, so the prodigal, hippie, little brother comes home to help. You would think his father was grateful to have anyone help, nope, he has to get his judgements in like barbed fish hooks, and both men, really father and both sons are hard headed. The women smooth things over.I had always loved the film adaption of this book with Henry Fonda and Paul Newman. There is a scene of the brotherinlaw getting trapped under a log in the water. Paul Newman tries over and over again to start a large chain saw. Both men thinking they have all the time in the world--help will eventually come. The water starts to rise and the log rolls a bit on the brotherinlaw, laying him back into the water, up to his chin, then his nose, then he is under water. Paul keeps giving him mouth to mouth and you know that Paul's character will do this all night. His brotherinlaw is such a loving and joy filled father and husband--always with a joke to try and keep peace between father (Fonda) and his two sons. He starts to laugh under water and Paul is yelling at him to stop, but it makes him laugh more...and he drowns. The tone of the film turned dark from there. I hadn't read the book and this author also wrote One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (I did read and have it in a leather bound copy I love it that much), so when I saw Sometimes A Great Notion was on Audible, I had to hear it. I couldn't wait to read it.
All the descriptions of the coast, forest and river in such rich detail. I was born and raised in Oregon. A stone's throw from Lincoln City. My family made weekend day trips to every inch of the coast and camping along the Santiam River every summer. My father, brothers and husband grew up hunting and fishing too many places I can list here. Kesey knows the areas well.
I highly recommend the film by the same name
If you've read One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and loved it, you will likely love this book too.
So glad I discovered this "sleeper" of an epic story...had never read it but found the character and area descriptions very thorough...especially liked the ending...quite different for a novel from the 60's. This author is a masterful story teller and should be much better known in his field than he is...it is indeed a classic. Started to watch the movie based on this but it was bland compared to the book and I didn't finish it...the book says it all.
Hank Stamper is a classic tragic protagonist much like Achilles. He can't get out of the way of his own personality; a personality fraught with courage and recklessness, love and selfishness, loyalty and despair. In truth it is hard to say you have known someone just like him, but it is easy to say you have known someone he reminds you of.
I can't separate the performance from the substance; at least not in this regard. Hank is the dynamic engine of the story despite his younger brother's, Leland's, appeal in an anti-hero way. Hank or Leland could be Oscar winners if acted in accordance with the characters as developed by Kesey.
The great American Novel brought to life.
This book is about as far from my comfort zone in reading as I have strayed. I don't even know what brought me to it unless perhaps it was that I wanted to see an example of the "beat generation" of American authors. To say that it was a worthwhile experience is an understatement. Often we are exposed to a work of art that impresses us at the time which, like the introduction to a person at a party,is immediately thereafter forgotten. This book stays with you.
This is hands down my favorite novel of all time. I've read it four times and now I've listened to it 3 times as well. While I generally prefer reading books rather than listening to them, this is about the best audio version of a book I've encountered. The narrator Tom Stechshulte has the perfect gravel-voiced inflections to match the Oregon setting. His voices for characters are well done and not cartoonish. In fact, the way he switches voices throughout the novel can make it easier to follow the narration, as Kesey chooses to switch 1st person perspectives a paragraph or a sentence at a time. I've given this audiobook to people who couldn't get into reading the book, but who devoured and loved the story in this medium. Buy the book. Buy the audiobook. Experience one of the greatest pieces of art or literature ever to be created.
The novel is a brilliantly written story of life, conflict, and relationships among loggers in the North West. Occasionally Kesey's lyricism goes overboard. But his evocation of the landscape and the elements is wonderful, as is his dialogue. The narrative style, which involves frequent switches between first person narrations without any explicit indication of who is now talking is confusing at first, but eventually I got used to it. A few times, though, I had to rewind a minute or two in order to start a section over again. The male characters are vivid and interesting; the female characters are a bit insipid by comparison. I found the last chapter a bit contrived and unconvincing. In some ways it reminded me of of Peter Matthiessen's Shadow Country (which was written later): gritty, working class, life close to the elements, multiple perspectives, lyrical prose, and it even has the device of opening with the strange scene that turns out to be the end of the story.
What a winning combination. Pure joy to listen to. My new favorite Audible book, and my new favorite reader. A breathtaking and wild ride.
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