"Powerful, poetic realism...makes the tired old subject of life in a mental hospital into an absorbing Orwellian microcosm of all humanity."—Life.
An international bestseller and the basis for a hugely successful film, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was one of the defining works of the 1960s. This Viking Critical Library edition is accompanied by essays, discussion topics, a chronology, and a bibliography.
A mordant, wickedly subversive parable set in a mental ward, the novel chronicles the head-on collision between its hell-raising, life-affirming hero Randle Patrick McMurphy and the totalitarian rule of Big Nurse. McMurphy swaggers into the mental ward like a blast of fresh air and turns the place upside down, starting a gambling operation, smuggling in wine and women, and egging on the other patients to join him in open rebellion. But McMurphy's revolution against Big Nurse and everything she stands for quickly turns from sport to a fierce power struggle with shattering results.
With One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey created a work without precedent in American literature, a novel at once comic and tragic that probes the nature of madness and sanity, authority and vitality. Greeted by unanimous acclaim when it was first published, the book has become and enduring favorite of readers.
About the Author
Ken Kesey was born in 1935 and grew up in Oregon. He graduated from the University of Oregon and later studied at Stanford with Wallace Stegner, Malcolm Cowley, Richard Scowcroft, and Frank O' Connor. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, his first novel, was published in 1962. His second novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, followed in 1964. His other books include Kesey's Garage Sale, Demon Box, Caverns (with O. U. Levon), The Further Inquiry, Sailor Song, and Last Go Round (with Ken Babbs). His two children's books are Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear and The Sea Lion. Ken Kesey died on November 10, 2001.
Read an Excerpt
Psychedelic sixties. God knows whatever that means it certainly meant far more than drugs, though drugs still work as a pretty good handle to the phenomena.
Eight o'clock every Tuesday morning I showed up at the vet's hospital in Menlo Park, ready to roll. The doctor deposited me in a little room on his ward, dealt me a couple of pills or a shot or a little glass of bitter juice, then locked the door. He checked back every forty minutes to see if I was still alive, took some tests, asked some questions, left again. The rest of the time I spent studying the inside of my forehead, or looking out the little window in the door. It was six inches wide and eight inches high, and it had heavy chicken wire inside the glass.
You get your visions through whatever gate you're granted.
Patients straggled by in the hall outside, their faces all ghastly confessions. Sometimes I looked at them and sometimes they looked at me. but rarely did we look at one another. It was too naked and painful. More was revealed in a human face than a human being can bear, face-to-face.
Sometimes the nurse came by and checked on me. Her face was different. It was painful business, but not naked. This was not a person you could allow yourself to be naked in front of.
Six months or so later I had finished the drug experiments and applied for a job. I was taken on as a nurse's aide, in the same ward, with the same doctor, under the same nurse—and you must understand we're talking about a huge hospital here! It was weird.
But, as I said, it was the sixties.
Those faces were still there, still painfully naked. To ward them off my case I very prudently took to carrying around a little notebook, to scribble notes. I got a lot of compliments from nurses: "Good for you, Mr. Kesey. That's the spirit. Get to know these men."
I also scribbled faces. No, that's not correct. As I prowl through this stack of sketches I can see that these faces bored their way behind my forehead and scribbled themselves. I just held the pen and waited for the magic to happen.
This was, after all, the sixties.
Excerpted from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
Copyright © 1996 Ken Kesey.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestIntroduction
I. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: The Text
II. The Author and His Work
TOM WOLFE, What Do You Think of My Buddha?
KEN KESEY, An Early Draft of the Opening Scene of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
KEN KESEY, Letter to Ken Babbs: ["Peyote and Point of View"]
KEN KESEY, Letter to Ken Babbs: ["People on the Ward"]
KEN KESEY, Characters on the Ward
KEN KESEY, Draft Page with Holograph Revisions
KEN KESEY, from An Impolite Interview with Ken Kesey
KEN KESEY, from Ken Kesey Was a Successful Dope Fiend
KEN KESEY, Who Flew Over What?
III. Literary Criticism
JACK F. MCCOMB, The RPM
LESLIE A. FIEDLER, The Higher Sentimentality
TERRY G. SHERWOOD, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the Comic Strip
JAMES E. MILLER, JR., The Humor in the Horror
JOSEPH J. WALDMEIR, Two Novelists of the Absurd: Heller and Kesey
JOHN A. BARSNESS, Ken Kesey: The Hero in Modern Dress
IRVING MALIN, Ken Kesey: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
ROBERT BOYERS, Porno-Politics
HAROLD CLURMAN, Review of the Play
WALTER KERR, ...And the Young Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
MARCIA L. FALK, Letter to the Editor of The New York Times
LESLIE HORST, Bitches, Twitches, and Eunuchs: Sex-Role Failure and Caricature
ANNETTE BENERT, The Voices of Fear: Kesey's Anatomy of Insanity
BENJAMIN GOLUBOFF, The Carnival Artist in the Cuckoo's Nest
MARSHA MCCREADIE, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Some Reasons for One Happy Adaptation
CAROL PEARSON, The Cowboy Saint and the Indian Poet: The Comic Hero in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
IV. Analogies and Perspectives
DALE WASSERMAN, from his play One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
MARY FRANCES ROBINSON, Ph.D., and WALTER FREEMAN, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.P., Glimpses of Postlobotomy Personalities
ARTHUR P. NOYES, M.D., and LAWRENCE C. KOLB, M.D., Shock and Other Physical Therapies
RALPH ELLISON, from Invisible Man
ROBERT PENN WARREN, from All the King's Men
KEN KESEY, Neal Cassady
JACK KEROUAC, from On the Road
Topics for Discussion and Papers
Selected Bibliography prepared by Joseph Weixlmann and M. Gilbert Porter
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have recently finished this novel as required summer reading for my upcoming AP English class. Many students do not keep an open mind towards required reading books, but if they actually give them a chance they would thoroughly enjoy them as I have this book. From the first chapter I was enthralled, especially by the unique writing style used by Kesey. The extras by Viking Publishing were interesting, but i have not the time to read them in their entirety. I would encourage anyone to read this novel knowing they would enjoy it as much as I have.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the greatest novels written. Certainly Kesey's best and the best to come out of the counterculture movement of the 60s. The book is told from the point of view of Chief, who has schizophrenia. This causes the pov to be skewed, and a certain amount of distrust in the narrator (is Big Nurse really that bad, or is it Chief's illness?) It's a heroic story, McMurphy being our (anti)hero. There's so much going on in the book, you could write a book analyizing it. I will say that if you liked the fiction of the Beats or Hunter Thompson, you'll definitely like this novel. It is also told in one of the most intersting voices - along with novels like Huck Finn, Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye. This i definitely one of the best novels written. I have the Viking Critical Edition of the book. Besides a great introduction, a chronology of Kesey's life, and the text, there are also three other sections, topics for discussion and paper, and a selected bibliography. Section 2 contains letters from Kesey, and selections concerning Cuckoo's Nest from Kesey's Garage Sale. There are Kesey's sketches of what he visualized the characters to look like and an early draft of the opening sequence of the story. There's also an excerpt from Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Section 3 contains literary criticism of the the novel, and these are some great selections of the work done on Kesey's novel. Section 4 is called analogies and perspectives. It contains scientific articles on lobotomy and shock treatment. It's a great addition to a critical edition, and one that you don't see done elsewhere. There are also excerpts from Dale Wasserman's play One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ellison's Invisible Man (chapter 11), Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, and Jack Kerouac's On the Road (where Sal and Dean meet). And there is a sketch of Neal Cassady written by Kesey (taken from Kesey's Garage Sale), which is great to compare with Kerouac's Dean Moriaty. Cuckoo's Nest is one of the masterpieces of American literature, one everyone should read. And the Viking Critical Edition is a great edition to have. I'd recommend getting this edition of the book, but if not, at least pick up another edition. This is great stuff.
Of all the books I have read recently, I'd say this is one of the best. Never have I read a novel that was as funny or as sad as this one. It really made me reconsider my views on the mentally ill. It also shows all the horrible things that happen to patients in mental institutions through the eyes of someone who will be committed forever. The hero of the story is someone I would love to know, and I'm glad that I now do. R P McMurphy is definitely my favorite character ever in a novel. I would recommend this book to anyone. Period. So don't miss out, because once you've read it, you'll never forget it.
This book grows with each page. Ken Kesey's freshman effort realizes the brutality and strength of the human spirit. Through the eyes of chief, humanity is, at once, at its best and worst. A must read
This novel by Ken Kesey has moved me in so many ways. I saw the play in 1999 at a theatre conference. It stuck in my mind, and when I had to choose an independent novel to read for my AP English class, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to read the novel. I loved this novel and I would recommend it for anyone to read.
This is a book all juniors have to read at our school, so I read the whole book.. But it's very hard to understand what's going on! Chief hardly tells what happens, and I don't understand why he even kills McMurphy. I got a D+ on the book test..(our teacher didn't even go over!) I usually get A's and B+'s. Maybe I need to reread it, but I definitely think it's too hard for a high school student to read it on their own. I need to work on my essay too, and.. HELP!!