1964 novel written by the great American author Ken Kesey.

Some consider this to be the Great American Novel, it's certainly Kesey's masterpiece. It's much less well known than One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest which was required reading in every school I ever went to.

It is set in the timber country of Oregon. It follows the fortunes of the Stamper family and their standing against the unions and against the elements as well. The characters are extremely well developed. The point of view switches from one character to another repeatedly. The themes of the "rugged individualism" is very prominent. An important work of American Literature.

It was later made into a film starring Henry Fonda and Paul Newman which was also released under the title Never Give An Inch. This the movie definitely gives the book a good run for its money.

Source: http://www.ulster.net/~shady/keezintv.html Last Updated 02.03.03

This is the alchemical output of Ken Kesey in his prime. Written while living in La Honda, CA and forming the Merry Pranksters and taking copius amounts of LSD and other substances the book can be seen as Kesey's attempts to reconcile his various core personalities.

On one hand Kesey was the son of a diary farmer from Oregon who grew up hunting and fishing and was a state champion wrestler (see Hank Stamper). On the other hand Kesey was a beatnik who lived in Palo Alto, CA's hip neighborhood and aspired to some kind of Jack Kerouac likeness of being (see Leeland Stanford Stamper).

More than this the book uses revolutionary narative methods jumping not only from one characters POV to another but also from first to thrid person and back again. Sometimes it even seemes as if Kesey is breaking the third wall of the novel and speaking directly to his audience. This was something he would do more and more of (in various plays) as he grew older and abandoned (more or less) the novel as a communicative medium for being too 'one to one' or 'writer to reader'.

There's a quote from a Grateful Dead song I'm reminded of:
Got to be heaven, cause here's where the rainbow ends.
If this ain't the real thing, then it's close enough to pretend.

And this is the way the book should be viewed. Maybe there is no such thing as the Great American Novel and then again maybe we only need to get close enough to it to pretend.

The title of the book comes from a song by Huddy Ledbetter and John Lomax called goodnight Irene:

Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in the town,
Sometimes I get a great notion,
To jump into the river... an drown

More thoughts on the book as I reread it.

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