Ken Kesey

Active - 1982 - 2011  |   Born - Jan 1, 1935   |   Died - Nov 10, 2001   |   Genres - Travel, Culture & Society, History, Film, TV & Radio, Music

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

A well-known writer who turned the literary world on its ear with his searing condemnation of authority in his 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and inspired Tom Wolfe's legendary novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, author Ken Kesey later rallied against director Milos Forman's Academy award-winning film version of Cuckoo for taking away the unique perspective of a schizophrenic Native American named Chief Bromden. Born in La Junta, CA, the son of dairy farmers attended the University of Oregon's School of Journalism while also dabbling in acting. After a short stint in Hollywood as a bit player, the aspiring writer enrolled in the writing program at Stanford in the late '50s. His volunteering for LSD experimentation at the Menlo Park, CA, psychiatric hospital which he worked at in 1959 served as the influence for Cuckoo, and Kesey later expanded on his mind-altering endeavors when he embarked on a cross-country LSD-fueled bus trip with his Merry Pranksters that defined the psychedelic era. Though he continued his passion for writing by penning two more major novels (including Notion, which was also developed into a film), short stories, articles, and children's books, it was Cuckoo that the majority of the literary public most closely associated him with. Kesey returned to the University of Oregon in 1990 to teach writing. Diagnosed with diabetes in 1992, Kesey was later hospitalized in 1997 after suffering a stroke. Hospitalized in October of 2001 for surgery to remove nearly half of his liver due to cancer, the writer died the following month due to failing health.

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