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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.
If you could sum up Sometimes a Great Notion in three words, what would they be?
Strong Northwest tale
Who was your favorite character and why?
Hank. He was the hero but also an antihero. Kesey brought out his inner thoughts and<br/>downplayed the obvious, i.e. the outer action. He was capable of great love, for his<br/>father, Viv, and Joe Ben but had some trouble expressing this love.
Have you listened to any of Tom Stechschulte???s other performances before? How does this one compare?
The Road. No Country for Old Men. All of them have been well done but <br/>the narrator had more voices in this novel and did all of them extremely well.
Who was the most memorable character of Sometimes a Great Notion and why?
Joe Ben. He was the guy we'd all like to have as a friend. Irrepressible joy and<br/>boundless energy. He wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose. A man who lived his<br/>deep faith but was worldly in every respect.<br/>
Any additional comments?
As happened when I read this book 45 years ago in print, I did not want this audiobook<br/>to end.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful
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.
12 of 14 people found this review helpful
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.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Where does Sometimes a Great Notion rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
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.
Which scene was your favorite?
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.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
I highly recommend the film by the same name
Any additional comments?
If you've read One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and loved it, you will likely love this book too.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful
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.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Sometimes a Great Notion to be better than the print version?
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.
What other book might you compare Sometimes a Great Notion to and why?
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.
Which scene was your favorite?
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.<br/><br/>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.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
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.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
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.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Sometimes a Great Notion again? Why?
I will keep listening to this forever.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Sometimes a Great Notion?
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.
Which scene was your favorite?
The opening narration setting the scene of the river and the house is unforgettable.
If you could take any character from Sometimes a Great Notion out to dinner, who would it be and why?
Viv, because I wonder how a woman could just settle into this and flow with it like she did.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
I read this book long ago, but remembered it as confusing. Not so with the Audible version. This narrator is a genius with voices and inflections. Because of that I was able to follow the quick dialogue and changes of voice. It is like Faulkner in that past and present switch and weave. With the writing clarified by the reading, I was able to see how these characters and their deep conflicts were so masterfully portrayed by Kesey. Just superb!
This was a book chosen for our book club. I considered it to be a book I would not read on my own because of the length, dense writing style and subject matter. Because of the length I decided to listen to it as I knew I wouldn't have time to finish if I were reading it. I'm so glad I did. The performance was wonderful, the writing is brilliant, and I found the story to be very engaging once I got into it. I still think about some of the characters weeks later. I do think that having the story read out loud made a huge difference. The preponderance of dialogue in various dialects as well as the shifting points of view would make for a challenging read. The audible version made it a pleasure to listen to. I was sad when it ended.