“Cuckoo’s Nest.” Sure, everyone’s heard of it. But is it worth reading? Before Jack Nicholson won his first Oscar, before there was a bus full of merry pranksters, there was a writing student with a swing-shift job in a mental ward. It’s the Ken Kesey of that era who stares from the jacket flap of the 50th anniversary edition of his debut novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”: His curly hair is cropped short, he wears a cotton work shirt and his gaze is steady. To someone of my generation — X-ish — he’s almost unrecognizable. The Kesey I knew, peripherally, was a spaced-out hippie spouting psychedelic lingo long past its expiration date. He was a former ’60s icon hauled into mainstream culture from time to time, more often than not playing the buffoon. Kesey’s novel was a rapid bestseller, but his fame came from what he did after: name a bus Further, paint it outrageous colors, fill it with counterculture friends he called the Merry Pranksters and take it on the road.
more from Carolyn Kellogg at the LA Times here.