Sometimes a Great Notion – Ken Kesey (1962)

Sometimes a Great Notion is Ken Kesey‘s second novel, published in 1964. While One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) is arguably more famous, many critics consider Sometimes a Great Notion Kesey’s magnum opus. The story involves an Oregon family of gyppo loggers who cut and procure trees for a local mill in opposition to striking, unionized workers. Kesey took the title from the song ‘Goodnight, Irene‘, popularized by Lead Belly. The story centers on the Stamper family, a hard-headed logging clan in the fictional town of Wakonda, Oregon in the early 1960s. The union loggers in the town of Wakonda go on strike in demand of the same pay for shorter hours in response to the decreasing need for labor. The Stamper family, however, owns and operates a company without unions and decides to continue work as well as supply the regionally owned mill with all the timber the laborers would have supplied had the strike not occurred. This decision and its surrounding details are examined alongside the complex histories, relationships, and rivalries of the members of the Stamper family: Henry Stamper, the elderly, politically and socially conservative patriarch of the family, whose motto ‘Never Give a Inch!’ has defined the nature of the family and its dynamic with the rest of the town; Hank, the older son of Henry, whose indefatigable will and stubborn personality make him a natural leader but whose subtle insecurities threaten the stability of his family; Leland, the younger son of Henry and half-brother of Hank, who as a child left Wakonda for the East Coast with his mother, but whose eccentric behavior and desire for revenge against Hank lead him back to Oregon when his mother dies; and Viv, whose love for her husband Hank fades as she realizes her subordinate place in the Stamper household. … Maurice Dolbier wrote: ‘In the fiction wilderness, this is a towering redwood.’ In his introduction to the Penguin edition, Charles Bowden called it ‘one of the few essential books written by an American in the last half century.’ …”
NY Times: Any Dream May Come True (1962)
[PDF] ANALYSIS: Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey (1935-2001)
‘Sometimes a Great Notion’: Sink or Swim

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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