- He is the author of the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962).
- An Academy award-winning film version of the novel was directed by Milos Forman in 1975, starring Jack Nicholson as the main character, McMurphy.
- Dale Wasserman wrote an adaptation of the novel which played on Broadway. Kirk Douglas had bought the right to Kesey’s novel and he played the role of McMurphy (1963-64).
- Ken Kesey was born on September 17, 1935 in La Junta, Colorado and grew up on a farm in Oregon.
- His father worked in the creamery business.
- As a boy, Kesey enjoyed hunting, fishing, swimming, boxing , wrestling and was a star football player.
- He studied at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1957.
- He also acted in plays while at University.
- In 1959, after he had enrolled in the creative writing program at Stanford University, he volunteered to be a subject in experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD.
- These experiments took place at a psychiatric hospital in Menlo Park, California where he worked a night shift.
- He was a paid volunteer experimental subject taking mind-altering drugs and reporting their effects.
- His first novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is based upon his experiences while working at the psychiatric hospital.
- Kesey felt that the patients in the hospital were not insane, but they were institutionalized and ostracized by society because they did not behave in conventional ways.
- Kesey says he had visions of a native American Indian sweeping the floor; the narrator of his novel, Chief Bromden (a paranoid schizophrenic), is based on this hallucinogenic vision.
- Kesey dropped out of the creative writing program at Stanford, joined the counterculture movement, and experimented with drugs.
- He and a group of his friends (some who were also prominent writers) toured America and Mexico in a
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