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.
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 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.
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.
This used to be one of my favorites many years ago, and I purchased the audiobook on a whim. I wasn't sure what to expect. Firstly, I was unsure that the book would have survived the test of time. Second, the multiple first person narrative might be impossible to render off he printed page.
I was shocked on both counts. The story, almost an historical novel fifty odd years on, was as gripping as it was then. The narrator had just enough subtly in intonation that I rarely lost track for more than a moment, in fact less so than I remember from reading the book.
I cannot recommend this enough. It is truly a classic, and the pace of an audio presentation is perfectly suited to the atmosphere of the novel.
I read this when I was in college, shortly after it came out. I thought it was a terrific, insightful story. Now, with a little life under my belt, I find the story shallow and weak. Oh well.
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.
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.
Hank Jr., the character walks the line from a tough self sufficient woodsman to a thoughtful guy who wants to live in a better world but has his feet planted in this one, and he makes such subtle changes through the story.
Stechschulte did such a great job on the voices - characters, and that was very important in this novel as the first person speaker changes all the time. I don't think anyone could ever do it any better, and all I can say is thanks for giving it so much artistic caring.
No, it's too long, and deserves to be savored.
This is as fine a novel and performance as I've ever heard, and I think this book belongs on every top 100 list of fiction. In addition it is a great ending, perfect, unresolved but resolved, balanced, and sets the rest of the story, that has been moving, into a fixed place, with the very last zen hammer stroke. It made me think about how few books really end well, and though the story ends the characters don't. And the attentive reader is left to make a trip down the river with them.
The audio edition was great. Was it better than the print version? I can't go that far. The audio edition did have great inflection though. The narrator, Tom Stechschulte, does an excellent job of differentiating between the characters. Sometimes I had trouble following the time sequence and the switch in orientation in the audio edition that I did not have in the book, but it was still an excellent production.
It is difficult to compare this book to other books. It is quite unique in many ways. The author writes in first person from the viewpoint of several different characters and then switches to the third person and back again. I have never seen another book do it quite like this. It makes it a little hard to follow at times, but it also made it a very interesting style. I liked it, but I don't think many authors could pull it off.Ken Kesey's other book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, was not at all like this. The current book is much more realistic in that it is dealing with a family, the logging Stamper Family of Oregon, and their problems--problems that exist in most families. The biggest problem being, like most families, a failure to communicate.
There are many, many scenes that I really enjoyed, but there are two scenes that really stick out. One is when Joe Ben Stamper has a log fall on him and he is pinned in the river with the water rising. Hank Stamper gives his cousin breaths of air while he is underwater, but the two can't help but laughing which has deleterious effects.
The other scene that I particularly liked is the very end where Viv, Hank's wife and Lee's love interest is in the bus leaving town while Hank and his brother Lee, having reconciled to save the family business, are running the logs down the river. Meanwhile the frustrated union organizers are lined up on the riverbank where they see logs going downriver and are shocked to see the unique symbol of defiance and disdain for them displayed on the roof of the tugboat.
This was a book that is nearly impossible to listen to in one sitting, but you want to anyway. I found myself getting up in the middle of the night to listen just a while longer. It is a shame that Ken Kesey was not more prolific.
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