Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Classic of the Month: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Well, buckle up, ladies and gents. This blog post is gonna get a little trippy.

Why is that, you ask? Well, Constant Reader, it's time for another Classic of the Month! And this time, we're not looking at Gatsby, but rather something a little more recent. 1962, to be precise. And this time, the review's going insane... literally. That's right, it's Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The one that was made not too long after into a movie starring Jack Nicholson, considered a classic in its own rights. The one about crazy people.

Patrick Randle MacMurphy enters the ward, guns blazing, ready to change things from the start. He's a boistrous fellow, a fan of both gambling and women, and he's not ready to give up either. He'll do anything to keep things interesting, despite the intimidating presence of Nurse Ratched. Throw in a colorful cast of other loonies, and have the book be narrated by a Native American who only pretends to be deaf and dumb, and you've got the gist of the story. Just as long as you realize Nurse Ratched isn't willing to give up without a fight, and it's easy to keep fighting when you hold all the cards.

Where can I start? The characters are mesmerizing. It's never really revealed whether or not MacMurphy is legitimately insane, but Kesey tells the story in such a way that it doesn't matter. Also, Kesey has a good grasp of the surreal and bizarre, presumably aided by the LSD he went around in a bus distributing shortly after. Kesey was one of the Merry Pranksters, subject of the book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Additionally, it's fascinating to look at Chief Bromden's transformation over the course of the novel. MacMurphy's presence is the catalyst in every character's change, and it's Bromden's narration that keeps the novel from having a totally depressing ending. Ratched is genuinely threatening, and despicable in a three-dimensional way. The climactic confrontation between her and MacMurphy is satisfying in the utmost.

To sum it up, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is an unusual, lively story told in an unusual, lively way. The writing is skillful, and it's a pity Kesey didn't write regularly. The dialogue is snappy and realistic. The book is in every was a success, and one that I would certainly recommend, if not for everybody.

My rating: 9.5/10

Coming Soon: Some Stephen King and some movies, along with The Desert Spear and more. A lot of stuff.

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