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Sometimes a Great Notion (Penguin Classics) Paperback – August 29, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0143039860 ISBN-10: 0143039865

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143039865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143039860
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #640,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A contemporary classic. (Chicago Tribune)

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.

Charles Bowden's is the author of Inferno and A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior.

Customer Reviews

Stick with it and you will love it.
Joseph L. Rockne
Kesey tells a rich, 360-degree story, from the perspectives of all the characters as well as a third-person narrator simultaneousy.
E. Miller
The book, albeit long and at points tough to read, was never boring.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

178 of 187 people found the following review helpful By W. Weinstein on November 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is the Kesey novel that nobody read after One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest stole all its thunder. Although it was filmed with an great cast (Henry Fonda, Paul Newman) it never gained the reputation that its inferior sibling achieved.
This is, quite simply, one of the great classics of the 20th century. Its pace and moody evocation of the American North West are stunning. The collision between the traditional and the modern, the past and the present make riveting, enthralling reading.
The Stamper family are loggers, rough, hard men and women who care for no ones opinion but their own. They are fighting the union, the neighbours, the town, their whole world. Their motto of "never give an inch" was the title of the film of the book. Into the strike-breaking start of the book comes the dope-smoking, college educated half brother, the prodigal son. His arrival triggers a tidal wave of events that spiral gradually out of control until everything that has been permanent before is now threatened.
If I seem vague in this review it is simply that I don't want to deprive you of the pleasure of discovering this story for yourself. This is one of the forgotten masterpieces. A book to be read, and then passed on to friends who are later bullied to give it back to be read again.
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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful By L. Bonner on April 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Sometimes A Great Notion is, in my humble opinion, one of the finest pieces of American literature. I read this book when I was 18, 25, 33, 45 and now once again at my half-century mark. With each read the book has taken on more meaning, more clarity, more subtlety--more importance to living itself.

When I heard of Kesey's passing recently I felt a remorse, a sadness that I had never gone out of my way to meet him and look him in the eye and tell him that this one work of his had touched my life in many ways, moreso than almost any other book I've read.

Other reviews here sum up the narrative well, but there is one passage near the end that cuts far into the meat of the novel:

"...there is always a sanctuary more, a door that can never be forced whatever the force; a last inviolable stronghold that cannot be taken, whatever the attack. Your vote can be taken, your name, your innards, even your life. But that last stronghold can only be surrendered--and to surrender it for any reason other than love is to surrender love..."

An important lesson for us all. We can only hope that Ken has found his eternal sanctuary.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Like "Cuckoo's Nest", this novel is as big and as expansive as the Pacific Northwest it is set in, where Kesey spins the colorful tale of a ogging family pit by circumstance against big business and the negativity of small town America. Describhed with his usual kaliedoscopic powers of wonderfully flowing detail and color, this is a complex and multi-layered tale, with more than enough ingredients for sustained exploration and interest; passion, betrayal, the intricate inner workings of an interesting family of individuals who love and need each other but at the same time want and need to stretch and grow, to be more than just who they are within the confines of that family.
In a sense this book is a almost a deliberate self-parody; Kesey shows there are many more ways to be a man than through the mere use of what are usually thought of as masculine characteristics. Thus we have a character like Hank, the ultimate bad-ass Stamper counterposed by Leland, the younger half-brother who is intellectually curious, a bit rowdy and uncertain, and who is exploring wht it means to be a "Stamper". This interesting rivalry and opposition between the brothers is used to explore a whole range of issues about what it means to be areal man and a real grown-up, and Kesey understands that in contemporary America the two hardly mean the same thing.
Yet at heart, this is a novel that lovingly but urgently explores the idea of family; what it should be, what it is, and what it should never let itself become.
Read more ›
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By suzy murray on May 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
The lumbermen of Wakonda, Oregon are on strike, trying to pressure the Oregon lumber companies to pay more favorable prices. The strike becomes bitter when the Stamper family, bucking the strike and refusing to support the union, struggles to honor a contract with the Wakonda-Pacific Lumber Company at the expense of the town. Needing all the labor they can muster, the Stampers summon Leland Stanford Stamper, the bookish black sheep who left home twelve years before, vowing some day to return to ruin his half-brother, Hank Stamper. Leland returns home in the midst of the strike to wreak his ill-defined plot of revenge against his father and Hank, whom he blames for his mother's broken life and eventual suicide. Thus the Stamper family faces attack from the townsfolk and from within. This is the story Ken Kesey tells in his high-octane prose and skillfully weaved sentences. Kesey creates a very complex narrative that moves in and out of the stream-of consciousness among Hank and Leland Stamper and the third-person narrator, but the transitions are seamless, and the reader has very little difficulty following the narrative. Kesey creates some wonderful symbolism within the story. For example, the Stamper house, built at the turn of the century at the river's edge, rests upon a foundation supported by pilings of beams, cable, and steel girders that the Stamper family has added through the years. The foundation is under constant threat of being washed away whenever the river rises, and Hank Stamper, like his father before him, finds himself driven almost nightly to check the foundation, to tie more cable and add more wood. Kesey's sentences are vivid and establish a cadence to match the mood of each chapter.Read more ›
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More About the Author

Ken Kesey was born in Colorado in 1935. He founded the Merry Pranksters in the sixties and became a cult hero, a phenomenon documented by Tom Wolfe in his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. He died in 2001.

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