Ken Kesey: A Short History, Part I

k1.jpg(Photo: Novelist Ken Kesey)

Counterculture hero Ken Kesey went all out researching his first and highly acclaimed novel, “One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest.”

Published in 1962, “Cukoo’s Nest” earned favorable reviews for its bitingly satiric look at a mental hospital where the inmates as well as their keepers wrestled with reality.

Collecting material for the book commenced after Kesey completed a year long creative writing course on a Woodrow Wilson scholarship at Stanford University in the 1950s. A friend told the aspiring novelist that the Veterans Hospital in Menlo Park needed “paid” volunteers for experiments they were conducting on the effects of LSD and other hallucinogens. Kesey signed up, and when the program ended, he took a job as a night attendant in the hospital’s mental ward.

When Kesey quit that job, he walked away with all the ingredients for an extraordinary novel. He had observed a mental ward up close, got to know the patients and even ingested mind-altering drugs.

…To be continued…