- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 11, 2001

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) Ken Kesey, whose LSD-fueled bus ride became a symbol of the psychedelic 1960s after he won fame as a novelist with "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," died yesterday morning. He was 66 years old.
Mr. Kesey died at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene two weeks after cancer surgery to remove 40 percent of his liver.
After studying writing at Stanford University, Mr. Kesey burst onto the literary scene in 1962 with "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," followed quickly with "Sometimes a Great Notion" in 1964, then went 28 years before publishing his third major novel.
In 1964, he rode across the country in an old school bus named Furthur driven by Neal Cassady, hero of Jack Kerouac's beat generation classic, "On the Road."
The bus was filled with pals who called themselves the Merry Pranksters and sought enlightenment through the psychedelic drug LSD. The odyssey was immortalized in Tom Wolfe's 1968 account, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."
"Anyone trying to get a handle on our times had better read Kesey," Charles Bowden wrote when the Los Angeles Times honored Mr. Kesey's lifetime of work with the Robert Kirsh Award in 1991. "And unless we get lucky and things change, they're going to have to read him a century from now, too."
"Sometimes a Great Notion," widely considered Mr. Kesey's best book, told the saga of the Stamper clan, rugged independent loggers carving a living out of the Oregon woods under the motto, "Never Give a Inch." It was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda and Paul Newman.
But "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" became much more widely known, thanks to a movie that Mr. Kesey hated. It tells the story of R.P. McMurphy, who feigned insanity to get off a prison farm, only to be lobotomized when he threatened the authority of the mental hospital.
The 1974 movie swept the Academy Awards for best picture, best director, best actor and best actress, but Mr. Kesey sued the producers because it took the viewpoint away from the character of the schizophrenic Indian, Chief Bromden.
Mr. Kesey based the story on experiences working at the Veterans Administration hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., while attending Wallace Stegner's writing seminar at Stanford.
A graduate of the University of Oregon, Mr. Kesey returned to his alma mater in 1990 to teach novel writing. With each student assigned a character and writing under the gun, the class produced "Caverns," under the pen name OU Levon, or UO Novel spelled backward.
"The life of it comes from making people believe that these people are drawing breath and standing up, casting shadows, and living lives and feeling agonies," Mr. Kesey said then. "And that's a trick. It's a glorious trick."
Born in La Junta, Colo., on Sept. 17, 1935, Mr. Kesey moved as a young boy in 1943 from the dry prairie to his grandparents' dairy farm in Oregon's lush Willamette Valley. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, where he also was a wrestler.
After serving four months in jail for a marijuana bust in California, he set down roots in Pleasant Hill in 1965 with his high school sweetheart, Faye, and reared four children. Their rambling red barn house with the big Pennsylvania Dutch star on the side became a landmark of the psychedelic era, attracting visits from myriad strangers in tie-dyed clothing seeking enlightenment.
The bus Furthur rusted away in a boggy pasture while Mr. Kesey raised beef cattle.
His son Jed, killed in a 1984 van wreck on a road trip with the University of Oregon wrestling team, was buried in the back yard.


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