Sometimes a Great Notion - Ken Kesey

The Great American Novel.

 

Full Stop.

This is it. I found it.

 

Simply the best book I've read since Midnight's Children, and possibly the best work of fiction I've read. Not my favorite book, that would probably be a David Eddings. But the Best.

 

Maybe it's just because I'm from Oregon, but this book resonated with me on so many levels. The great descriptions of the landscape, climate, culture, hardships, and contradictions of Oregon.

 

Sure, it's about some pretty unsavory people. They use bad language and make bad choices. Several of them are embarrasingly old-fashioned (read: racist as heck), but that's my family. These are my neighbors. This is the world in which I live.

 

I'm surprised that over the course of this (pretty long) book, I found myself identifying more with grumpy grandpa Henry Stamper, and almost equally grumpy near-superman Hank than with Lee, the educated outsider. Not what I would have expected. By the end of the book, I had a lot more sympathy for Hank's side of things than Lee's side of things. Nevertheless, the ending brought all those viewpoints together anyways.

 

And the ending... since the book was written in the 60s, I assumed it would have an unhappy ending, as most movies from the 60s and 70s do. As a child of the 80s and 90s, I like my happy endings and find the generation before me uncomfortably profound. This particular ending was like one of those movies that freezes the action right at the climax.(I'm thinking the old Italian Job, but I know there are more movies like that). So the 60s and 70s folks can imagine doom and gloom, and I can go on keeping the happy ending in my head where...

 

Hank and Lee ride the log booms into the mill victoriously down the river past the screaming hordes of townspeople. Where Viv leaves the both of them to head back east to find herself, and where Hank and Lee, with the assistance of Andy sneak old Henry out of the hospital (and off the drugs) and they go riding off with a fat paycheck and the animosity of the whole town into the sunset.

(show spoiler)

 

Anyways, it was a good book and one that every Oregonian should read.