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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Author: Ken Kesey

Published: February 1st 1963 by Signet (first published 1962)

Format: Mass Market Paperback , US / CAN , 325 pages

Isbn: null

Language: English


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Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electric shock therapy. But her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electric shock therapy. But her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on behalf of his fellow inmates. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned. Ken Kesey's extraordinary first novel is an exuberant, ribald and devastatingly honest portrayal of the boundaries between sanity and madness.

30 review for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

  1. 4 out of 5

    Samara Steele

    Last night, at about 2 am, I finished 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey. I lay awake for a long time afterward, watching the bars of light on the ceiling, holding my eyes open until the pupils dilated enough to shrink the light, then I'd blink and have to start all over. Finally I sat up and turned on the lights. The book had done something to me. Like it'd punched me in the face and said, "Do something, you idiot!" So I gathered up a bunch of sentimental shit from around my apartment Last night, at about 2 am, I finished 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey. I lay awake for a long time afterward, watching the bars of light on the ceiling, holding my eyes open until the pupils dilated enough to shrink the light, then I'd blink and have to start all over. Finally I sat up and turned on the lights. The book had done something to me. Like it'd punched me in the face and said, "Do something, you idiot!" So I gathered up a bunch of sentimental shit from around my apartment, stuffed it into a backpack, hiked across town, and threw it off the Morrison Bridge. The backpack made a loud 'thunk' when it hit the water. Like a body falling from a building. I watched it float downstream: a tiny dot weaving through the rippling reflections of the city lights, until it finally sank below the surface. I tell you this story because, in a way, throwing that bag of stuff off the bridge is the best analysis I can make of Kesey's book. So much has been said before, what else can I say? Chuck Palahniuk summed it up nicely in the forward for the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. He explains that "'Cuckoo's Nest' tells the same story as the most popular novels of the last century," it focuses on the modern paradox of trying to be human in the well-oiled machine of a capitalist democracy, where you must be either a savior or a slave. Palahniuk points out that 'Cuckoo's Nest' shows us a third option: "You can create and live in a new system...not rebelling against or carving into your culture, but creating a vision of your own and working to make that option real." Is there anything else left to say? Reading this book is like being inside Fight Club. You take punch after punch, but keep crawling back for more because it's making you feel things you didn't know you could feel--and as long as you stay conscious, and don't give up or let your eyes glaze over, this book will creep into the very edges of your consciousness and give you new words for the questions you always wanted to ask, show you how to draw a map of your own, and give you a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, it is possible to rise above the machine of society and become human again.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Profane, hilarious, disturbing, heartbreaking, shocking – powerful. Ken Kesey’s genre defining 1962 novel that was made into a Broadway play and then made into an Academy Award winning film starring Jack Nicholson will inspire strong emotions. I can see people loving it or hating it. I loved it. First of all, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart: a book that is banned from libraries has a place on my bookshelf. So all you amateur censurers out there – you are my enemy. I don’t like you. I de Profane, hilarious, disturbing, heartbreaking, shocking – powerful. Ken Kesey’s genre defining 1962 novel that was made into a Broadway play and then made into an Academy Award winning film starring Jack Nicholson will inspire strong emotions. I can see people loving it or hating it. I loved it. First of all, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart: a book that is banned from libraries has a place on my bookshelf. So all you amateur censurers out there – you are my enemy. I don’t like you. I defy you. A book that you don’t like is a book that I do and I want to rub it in your face. This from Wikipedia: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of America's most highly challenged and banned novels. • 1974: Five residents of Strongsville, Ohio sued the local Board of Education to remove the novel from classrooms. They deemed the book "pornographic" and said that it "glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles, and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination". • 1975: The book was removed from public schools in Randolph, New York and Alton, Oklahoma. • 1977: Removed from the required reading list in Westport, Maine. • 1978: Banned from the St. Anthony, Idaho Freemont High School and the teacher who assigned the novel was fired. • 1982: Challenged at Merrimack, New Hampshire High School. • 1986: Challenged at Aberdeen Washington High school in Honors English classes. 2000: Challenged at Placentia Unified School District (Yorba Linda, California). Parents say that the teachers could "choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again". The teacher who assigned this as reading was FIRED??? The year 2000? The year 2000??? We are in the 21st century and someone is calling this garbage?? Ok. First of all, McMurphy is alive. “Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.” The dramatic tension between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched was literary diamonds – rare treasure. Kesey created a novel wherein was a clash between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Clash! That’s what it was and a reader could see it coming from a mile down the tracks, like a freight train whistling and steaming. Here it comes. McMurphy was the novel’s tragic hero – a red headed Irish American troublemaker who everyone loves deep down. The Big Nurse – Mildred Ratched, is the Man. She is the embodiment of the institution, the rules, the law, the Order. Kesey has drawn an epic clash between chaos and order and did so within the halls and bleached clean walls of an insane asylum. Though I could not help picturing Jack Nicholson as McMurphy while reading this, Kesey’s McMurphy is really described more like Charles Dickens’ Fagan, a red headed trickster, and perhaps in mythic terms he is Coyote, or Loki, he is THE TRICKSTER GOD, he is that opposing force that makes the orderly way of the universe stronger. “Rules? PISS ON YOUR FUCKING RULES!” In another way, McMurphy is the quintessential American, and he can be seen as a metaphor for the spirit of America. He is the entrepreneur, the self-starter, the untamed rebel who makes his own rules. He is the great equalizer, the leader who kicks down the boundaries, who champions the little guy, who colors outside the lines and who picks the small boys and the fat kids on his team and then wins anyway and wins big. “All I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.” Kesey’s narrator is also an unlikely selection: Chief Bromden, nicknamed Chief Broom because he is made to sweep the halls. A giant of a man, the rational, modern world has emasculated him, made him small and without a voice or strength. Chief is clearly schizophrenic but also lucid, he and the other patients are humans, deserving of respect and sympathy; one of the central points made by Kesey, who is as humanist as Kurt Vonnegut and as fun as a barrel full of monkeys. Chief’s dramatic and dynamic evolution is the barometer of this great work. The Chronics and acutes. When McMurphy arrives at the institute, the residents are informally divided between the chronics – those whose condition has demanded their lifelong commitment; and the acutes, those whose insanity may be temporary and remedied. Interestingly, many are there voluntarily. McMurphy’s friendship with Chief (an erstwhile chronic) and his championing of the acutes status is a central theme of the book. “What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin'? Well you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole out walkin' around on the streets and that's it. ” Like Upton Sinclair’s muckraking journalistic exposures in The Jungle, Kesey’s novel can also be seen as a bright light shined on the mental health facilities in the 60s. “He Who Marches Out Of Step Hears Another Drum” A book that should be read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Milo

    I have a love/hate relationship with this book. The writing and imagery are superb and I always love a "down with tyrannical overloads, generic living, and medicalization" moral, but its other lesson leaves me cringing. In the basic knowledge I have of Ken Kesey, the book ultimately seems very misogynistic and anti-feminist. I'm all for a gender balance, but this book botches up the entire process in a method that purposely lacks tongue-in-cheek flair. Basically, the plot seems to involve men me I have a love/hate relationship with this book. The writing and imagery are superb and I always love a "down with tyrannical overloads, generic living, and medicalization" moral, but its other lesson leaves me cringing. In the basic knowledge I have of Ken Kesey, the book ultimately seems very misogynistic and anti-feminist. I'm all for a gender balance, but this book botches up the entire process in a method that purposely lacks tongue-in-cheek flair. Basically, the plot seems to involve men mentally castrated by a domineering woman who could just as easily be labeled "Bitch" as she could "Big Nurse." Enter main character--who, in my tattered, yellow-paged, 70's copy, directly labels him as "the hero of [the book]" on the back cover--a man that pretty much shakes the men up to the supposed feminization of American culture and how it's destroying their identities as males. (Read here: a huge characterization of the male ego is to dominate the female with opposites all around.) How is this man so easily labeled a hero? Have we forgotten he has been charged and convicted, among other things, with rape of a female minor? And the main reason he's in the asylum is to skimp out on his prison sentence? How is that "masculine," if I am to continue on with the stereotypes the book itself perpetuates--and yet backpedals when necessary? Why do we consider him the "main character" when the story is being told in the first person by a Native American? Can you not be a man--a hero--unless you're white? Or perhaps it was because he was so docile? In the end, the supposed hero of the book teaches men that, to cast off impending feminization, one must be violent towards women; muscle them out of the way, destroy them if they're relentless. If you are unable or fearful of doing so, you're better off killing yourself than being only half of a man. Oh, but wait, there's a special lesson for the ladies themselves, too; To steer clear of the eventual rape, assault, murder, or torture--and yes, it will happen--simply sexualize yourself. That's the only way to be safe and--isn't it convenient--securely a woman. So much for individualization and going against cultural norms, gentlemen. You're a dime a dozen. Before we glorify such a book, we have to sit down and figure out what exactly masculinity is outside of a cultural setting before we can complain that culture itself is taking it away. Are we to allow a cowardly, violent, "looking-out-for-Number-One" individual give us this definition, fair and balanced? It's one thing for him to say it, it's another for us to listen.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Annet

    I just watched an interview with Stephen Fry and he mentioned this book. Read it a long long time ago. Read it for highschool already I think. Remember being shocked and amazed. Scary, funny, dark and wonderful at the same time. Un-be-lievable. And I just realized this is one of the best and impressive books I ever read. Definitely a top tenner ever.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Raeleen Lemay

    August 2017 THANK GOODNESS I GAVE THIS ANOTHER TRY. Honestly though, watching the movie is what motivated me to pick this book up, and the fact that we picked it for my book club helped as well. I love both the book and the movie, both for completely different reasons. In the movie, Jack Nicholson's R.P. McMurphy is the main focus, whereas in the book Chief Bromden (the narrator) plays a much bigger role, which is almost entirely neglected in the movie. Reading the book from Chief's perspective a August 2017 THANK GOODNESS I GAVE THIS ANOTHER TRY. Honestly though, watching the movie is what motivated me to pick this book up, and the fact that we picked it for my book club helped as well. I love both the book and the movie, both for completely different reasons. In the movie, Jack Nicholson's R.P. McMurphy is the main focus, whereas in the book Chief Bromden (the narrator) plays a much bigger role, which is almost entirely neglected in the movie. Reading the book from Chief's perspective added a whole new layer to the story, what with his backstory and hallucinations. Plot-wise, the book and movie are almost identical, but the feel is so much different between the two, which I thought was brilliantly done on the movie-making end. All in all, I really enjoyed this, and I highly recommend picking it up! Also, the Penguin Classics edition I got has line drawings done by Ken Kesey himself, and those added a bit more atmosphere to the book as well. July 2017 I've decided to give this book another chance! I watched the movie for the first time not too long ago and I LOVED IT. SO MUCH. therefore I figured it was worth giving the book another try. Excited to pick this up soon! January 2017 I'm not entirely sure why this isn't clicking for me, but I just can't make myself read it anymore. I don't hate it by any means, but I'm not enjoying it enough to bother to continue.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

    My friend Ed was recently updating his books with reviews on here and this book popped up in my feed. It's my husband's favorite movie/book of all time and I realized that I had never picked the book up. I've watched bits and pieces of the movie in the three thousand times that my husband has watched it, but I had never experienced it first hand. I'm gutted. Why have I not just sat down and watched the film that was made from this book? I'm completely off my rocker. Randle Patrick McMurphy. Tha My friend Ed was recently updating his books with reviews on here and this book popped up in my feed. It's my husband's favorite movie/book of all time and I realized that I had never picked the book up. I've watched bits and pieces of the movie in the three thousand times that my husband has watched it, but I had never experienced it first hand. I'm gutted. Why have I not just sat down and watched the film that was made from this book? I'm completely off my rocker. Randle Patrick McMurphy. That guy who plays crazy to get out of a work detail. Goes into the mental hospital and completely owns it. He gets the "inmates" to smoking, drinking, having women and fishing. He makes them back into the men that they were. I wanted to reach over and touch the place where he was tattooed, to see if he was still alive. He's layin' awful quiet. I told myself, I ought to touch him to see if he's still alive... That's a lie. I know he's still alive. That ain't the reason I want to touch him. I want to touch him because he is a man. The evil in this book. Nurse Ratched. I usually have a fond spot for the villains but this woman scares me. She has got to be one of the top baddies of all time. I still have goosebumps from her. I've always been hit or miss on books that are called classics and that's probably why I have not tried some that now I'm beginning to reconsider. Because if they are like this one I'm definitely missing out. Thanks Ed for pointing out this most wonderful book to me. He'd shown us what a little bravado and courage could accomplish, and we thought he'd taught us how to use it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    I first read this book in 2007 after I became a daytime outpatient at Our Lady of Peace, my city's mental health facility. I had a nervous breakdown after losing my teaching job. I went 5 days a week; I ate lunch there. I was so medicated they transported me. Somehow this book and movie, and especially the character of McMurphy, was how my dad related to me during this trying time. Mental health is a trigger issue with me. It's not understood today. It certainly wasn't understood in the '60s. Le I first read this book in 2007 after I became a daytime outpatient at Our Lady of Peace, my city's mental health facility. I had a nervous breakdown after losing my teaching job. I went 5 days a week; I ate lunch there. I was so medicated they transported me. Somehow this book and movie, and especially the character of McMurphy, was how my dad related to me during this trying time. Mental health is a trigger issue with me. It's not understood today. It certainly wasn't understood in the '60s. Let's just keep them caged, sedated, and manipulated. Make them feel guilty about their problems. Take away comfort and leisure. No friends, no family, no fun, no fresh air. Yeah, that sounds healthy Addendum 2/13/18: just bought this on audible. 50th anniversary edition read by John C. Reilly Got me thinking of my dad asking his McMurphy how Ms. Ratchett was today. That was probably the roughest patch of my life, but I would never have changed a thing. I learned so much about myself, and became so much stronger in spirit. However, I realize that if I had lived in an earlier time period my outcome could have been much gloomier and permanent. I’ve been reading various other mental health books lately, and sadly some things never change as advanced medicine has become. We just can’t seem to grasp the BRAIN. AUDIO REREAD # 19 How many of us "have been told dragons do not exist, then been dragged to their lairs?" How many of us "forget sometimes what laughter can do?" I think out of all the characters out of all the books, Billy the most breaks my heart. Tag teamed by his mother and Nurse Ratchett, he never had a chance in life. All he wants in life is love, and he proves himself to be such a gentleman. As I drove home from work this morning listening to this book, I glanced at my speedometer; I was driving 40 mph on the interstate. It was during the gas station scene when the gang learns being insane can still mean being powerful. That’s when I finally realized how much hope McMurphy instilled in these terrified, suppressed lives, which makes the last couple of hours of the story all the more tragic. McMurphy gave these men another glance at happiness, reminded them how to be assertive, inspired a little self-worth again. He basically he showed them they were men, they were deserving of humane treatment. They were not anyone’s “ Boys” even at Billy’s age, the youngest at 31. They didn’t didn’t deserve the underhanded, demeaning manipulations and insinuations of a sadist. But these these new emotions did not germinate and bloom, only malice and grief took root. Very few books hold my heart through years as this one does. I appreciate Kelsey’s honesty on the pages.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    “All I know is this: nobody’s very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.” - Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest This is a book I had little interest in reading. A novel set in an insane asylum? No thanks. I spent four years of my legal career defending indigent clients facing commitment before our local Board of Mental Health. It was an experience I had not trained for, prepared for, or frankly could have imagined befo “All I know is this: nobody’s very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.” - Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest This is a book I had little interest in reading. A novel set in an insane asylum? No thanks. I spent four years of my legal career defending indigent clients facing commitment before our local Board of Mental Health. It was an experience I had not trained for, prepared for, or frankly could have imagined before I started. It was an eye-opening glimpse into the world of mental illnesses. Underfunded and understaffed hospitals. Patients with deep paranoiac beliefs, their minds spinning webs within webs within webs. Patients who suffered terrifying hallucinations. (I was once told, while interviewing a client, that I appeared to him as a skeleton). Patients capable of sudden, violent changes of moods. (The one piece of advice I ever received: sit next to the door. Always sit next to the door). Patients who were stigmatized, ostracized, alienated from families and friends. One of the lasting takeaways from those years is a healthy skepticism of the way mental illness is portrayed in popular culture. Typically, we’re either dealing with a psychopathic killer (ala Michael Meyers) or a person whose mental illness is portrayed as a moral failing, a character flaw that can be overcome with a better attitude (ala Hurley in LOST, or the entire cast of Dream Team). With those prejudgments in mind, I likely would have ignored Ken Kesey’s counterculture classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I imagined it as shallow hijinks, with a plot that struck me as a bit like Cool Hand Luke getting involuntarily committed. But then it was chosen by the Eastern Nebraska Men’s Biblio and Social Club, and the choice was out of my hands. Even so, I hesitated, until just a few days before our meeting. Grudgingly, I opened the first page, and read the first odd, discombobulating lines: “They’re out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.” Suffice to say, Kesey had my attention. Those words are spoken by Chief Bromden, the tale’s first-person narrator. Bromden, known as Chief Broom, is a Columbia Indian who has convinced everyone on the ward that he is deaf and dumb. Because of this perception, no one pays attention to him. He is able to see things others wouldn’t be allowed to see, and hear things other wouldn’t be allowed to hear. And so he is able to relate the story of Randal P. McMurphy, a red-haired Steve McQueen-type with a personality disorder, who shows up on the ward and engages in an epic battle of wills with the Nurse Ratched, a.k.a., the “Big Nurse.” (Side note: I watched the movie after reading the book. Jack Nicholson is a fine actor. He is not Randal P. McMurphy). Chief Bromden is a fascinating choice as narrator, because he is not – at least initially – the central focus. Instead, Bromden barely figures in the early plot, serving mainly to describe McMurphy’s attempt to upend the ward that Nurse Ratched runs with an iron hand. The action flows around him, like water around a rock. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest unfolds episodically, with Ratched and McMurphy trading figurative blows, notching both victories and defeats as they struggle for the soul of the other patients. Kesey’s Bromden has an inimitable voice, and is a classic unreliable narrator (“it’s the truth even if it didn't happen”), prone to long, hallucinatory digressions that serve as a jarring reminder that his brain chemistry is different from that of others. There were times when his phrasing is so breathtakingly brilliant that it takes you out of the story – after all, this is supposed to be Bromden talking, not literary star Ken Kesey. Mostly though, the hypnotic progression of events leading to the shocking endgame leave little time for such quibbles. The power play between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy is a classic pitting of “the Man” versus “the Rebel.” It was published in 1962, and the authoritarian-antiauthoritarian dialectic is part of the larger context of those times. However, Kesey is also critiquing the mental health establishment. He once worked in a psychiatric ward, and famously experimented with a host of psychoactive drugs. His observations and insights are baked into Bromden’s story. By the time Cuckoo’s Nest came out, electroshock therapy and lobotomies had started to lose their luster as panaceas, though they were certainly still employed. Thus, Kesey’s critique isn’t focused specifically on the primitive barbarism that marks the history of psychiatry (though the barbarism is certainly present); rather, he focuses more on the insidious oppression he felt he observed. The patients on the ward are controlled, but controlled in such a subtle fashion that most don’t know they are being coerced. It is McMurphy who arrives to show them the light (though, because we can never get in his head, we never know his angle; we don’t know, either, whether he has a diagnosis or is merely malingering). It’s always great when a novel is worthy of deeper exploration. When it has layers upon layers. However, at the end of the day, there also needs to be some level of entertainment factor. That’s what makes this so memorable. It is filled with scenes that come alive in the imagination, and stay in your memory. There is, for instance, a big set piece where the inmates take a “field trip” on a fishing boat. The scene is played for big laughs but also subtle poignancy. When I read it, it gave me a rare exhilaration, like I felt the first time I watched The Shawshank Redemption. McMurphy laughs. Rocking farther and farther backward against the cabin top, spreading his laugh out across the water – laughing at the girl, at the guys, at George, at me sucking my bleeding thumb, at the captain back at the pier and the bicycle rider and the service station guys and the five thousand houses and the Big Nurse and all of it. Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy. He knows there’s a painful side; he knows my thumb smarts and his girl friend has a bruised breast and the doctor is losing his glasses, but he won’t let the pain blot out the humor no more’n he’ll let the humor blot out the pain. The ending, too, is unforgettable and near-perfect. The movie has made this denouement iconographic, but I think it works far better on the page than on the screen. To be sure, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is flawed at times, especially in tone. There are several ugly strains running throughout the book, including casual racism, misogyny, and violence against women. I’m not going to defend this by saying the book is “a product of its time.” I will note, though, that some of it is idiomatic, meaning it is the product of the imperfect world view of the storyteller. Still, several scenes, which were probably meant to elicit certain responses, definitely don’t play as well today. These unsettling aspects do not fatally detract from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Indeed, the sense of unsettledness is pervasive, almost a calling card. The humor and the violence and the sadness and the joy and the discomfort are all of a piece. They do not mesh together perfectly, just as they do not mesh perfectly in real life. That, for me, is why this is a masterpiece.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Evgeny

    …one flew east, one flew west, One flew over the cuckoo’s nest. This classic book gave birth to a movie which won a truckload of Academy Awards. This means the majority of readers are familiar with one or the other and I thought a very brief review would be enough; something along the lines, "The book is very good". Seeing that some people miss the point of the story I had to ramble a little more than this short sentence, sorry. A ward of a mental hospital in Oregon was ruled by an iron hand of it …one flew east, one flew west, One flew over the cuckoo’s nest. This classic book gave birth to a movie which won a truckload of Academy Awards. This means the majority of readers are familiar with one or the other and I thought a very brief review would be enough; something along the lines, "The book is very good". Seeing that some people miss the point of the story I had to ramble a little more than this short sentence, sorry. A ward of a mental hospital in Oregon was ruled by an iron hand of its head nurse Ratched. She even had power over the doctor of the ward. The patients were completely under her thumb until a rebellious guy called McMurphy was committed for the treatment. He decided to challenge the nurse's rule for completely selfish and not-so-selfish reasons. I mentioned the movie. This is one of the rare and very precious occasions when the movie was as good as the book. In case you have not seen it, but like the book: drop everything and do it now. Those Oscars I mentioned in the beginning: they are well-deserved. I also believe Jack Nicholson was born to play McMurphy. No actor in the world - dead or alive - could do a better job. I really did not want to use the movie stills in my review as countless other people did it in theirs, but I also thought it is impossible to talk about the book without mentioning the movie. By the way I saw it before reading the book. Later when I read it I realized I cannot put it down even though I knew what would happen next at any moment. This should tell something about how good the book is. Another points for the book: I really hate stories told in present tense. This time it took me about one quarter of the tale to realize this one was in present tense as well; I simply had not noticed that before being busy literally living in Nurse Ratched's ward. When my mother got her hands on this one she was sure she would not like it, being a doctor and as such familiar with goings-on in psychiatry hospitals. Several pages later I realized I had to wait for her to finish it to resume my own reading - her having an advantage of seniority and all. Unlike the movie the book is told from Chief Bromden POV - this by the way made a nice surprise in the middle of the movie. He is without a doubt mentally disturbed in the beginning and as such it is possible to see him as an unreliable narrator; this would open a can of worms and a whole new level of speculation: what if not everything he told really happened? Aside from his obvious delusions that is. I will not go there. We now come to the main reason I decided to write a longish review: the Nurse Ratched. I heard two types of argument. 1. She is a strong woman doing what she thinks is best and as such cannot be a villain thus McMurphy is the one. 2. If the Nurse is a villain how comes there is no other strong woman on a good side? My answer for the first argument would be yes, she is undoubtedly a strong woman. Being a strong woman does not make one a good person by default. The fact that she believes that everything she does is for the greater good makes her even scarier - and she is scary, no doubt about it. For the second argument I can only say that there is no place for a good strong woman in the story. We are talking about a male ward, so she cannot be one of the patients. She also cannot be one of the nurses as the head nurse surely would not let a strong woman into her domain: she really does not want a competition. So to have another strong woman only as a tribute to political correctness would be pointless. I will stop here. TLDR (too long; did not read) version of the review: book - great, read it; movie - great, see it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a groundbreaking book and it is a manifesto about the rights of man to have an individuality… …a guy has to learn to get along in a group before he'll be able to function in a normal society; how the group can help the guy by showing him where he's out of place; how society is what decides who's sane and who isn't, so you got to measure up. Are you different from the others? Then we’ll correct you, make you fit and suit. …people will force you one way or the other One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a groundbreaking book and it is a manifesto about the rights of man to have an individuality… …a guy has to learn to get along in a group before he'll be able to function in a normal society; how the group can help the guy by showing him where he's out of place; how society is what decides who's sane and who isn't, so you got to measure up. Are you different from the others? Then we’ll correct you, make you fit and suit. …people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite. Society strives to pull mentality of its members down to the level of total conformity and it tends to destroy those who try to be original. But there are always those who wish to escape the cuckoo's nest.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Annemarie

    I needed some time to get used to the writing style, but letting the Chief (an outside figure, who, due to his "deafness", doesn't intervene with the main storyline too much) is certainly a stroke of genius, and after a while, I got used to his way of telling the story. All the characters found a place in my heart, and they are what make the book so remarkable and memorable. I thought they were some unnecessary scenes, but they were really minor, so they didn't put a huge dent into my enjoyment. T I needed some time to get used to the writing style, but letting the Chief (an outside figure, who, due to his "deafness", doesn't intervene with the main storyline too much) is certainly a stroke of genius, and after a while, I got used to his way of telling the story. All the characters found a place in my heart, and they are what make the book so remarkable and memorable. I thought they were some unnecessary scenes, but they were really minor, so they didn't put a huge dent into my enjoyment. The end certainly came unexpected and surprising to me, but I thought it was fitting and rounded the whole thing up. Despite it not being one of those books that absolutely blew me away, I know that it will stay in my mind for a very, very long time - maybe even forever.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Painful and heartbreaking to witness humanity's struggle to have a decent life while living within the boundaries others set for them. Not to be a rabbit, that is the ultimate goal! Truer than ever...

  13. 5 out of 5

    F

    loved this. One of my favourites.

  14. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    "Ting. Tingle, tingle, tremble toes, She’s a good fisherman, catches hens, puts ‘em inna pens Wire blier, limber lock, three geese inna flock One flew east, one flew west One flew over the cuckoo’s nest O-U-T- spells out… goose swoops down and plucks you out."The title of the book was taken from a nursery rhyme but the first 3 and last lines were from the book, i.e., thoughts inside the head of the schizophrenic narrator, Chief Bromden as the nursery rhyme was used to be sung to him by his grandmothe "Ting. Tingle, tingle, tremble toes, She’s a good fisherman, catches hens, puts ‘em inna pens Wire blier, limber lock, three geese inna flock One flew east, one flew west One flew over the cuckoo’s nest O-U-T- spells out… goose swoops down and plucks you out."The title of the book was taken from a nursery rhyme but the first 3 and last lines were from the book, i.e., thoughts inside the head of the schizophrenic narrator, Chief Bromden as the nursery rhyme was used to be sung to him by his grandmother when he was young. “Cuckoo” here is used to refer to insane people and “flying over the cuckoo’s nest” means either going too far or leaving the nest. It is also known that cuckoos lay their eggs in other bird’s nests, and do not have nests of their own. The cuckoo, upon hatching, throws the other birds out of the nest out of instinct. (Source: Wiki) [image error] I was 11 years old when the 1975 movie by Milos Forman was shown. Jack Nicholson starred as Randle Patrick McMurphy, a criminal sentenced on a prison farm for statutory rape and transferred to an Oregon asylum because of his insanity plea. Cuckoo’s Nest was the 2nd time a film won all the five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay) following It Happened One Night in 1934 and followed by The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. Both of which I saw also. Freaking, movie addict! Despite the major awards of Cuckoo’s Nest and despite the fact that the movie was faithful to the book in terms of the sequence and the events contained in it, the emotion and the impact of the book is totally different from that of the movie. The funny antics incorporated in the brilliant performance of Jack Nicholson gave an interesting and comedic taste to the movie eclipsing or diluting, in my opinion the book’s wake-up shocking message – that some mental wards are not designed to cure their patients but rather serve as instruments of oppression. The character of sane-yet-confined-in-the-mental-institution McMurphy is the first irony in the movie. As he is sane, he fights against the wrong methods and stands up against Nurse Mildred Ratched aka Big Nurse who, being an obsessive compulsive lady, wants to have everything in order and done by the tick of the clock. Hers is the second irony in the story as, unlike the prison in say Shutter Island, there is no conventionally harsh kind of discipline here. The setting is also not as dark as the scary cells in The Silence of the Lambs. In fact, in this asylum, the patients watch the TV, play cards, roam in the basketball court and at one time they even go out for fishing! The rest of the story shows their constant power struggles as they try to outwit each other. The ending is tragic and almost feels like not the right ending because it does not offer any hint of resolution to the revealing message. However, as one of my friends here in Goodreads has explained in one of my previous reviews, offering a solution may not be the author’s objective. Rather, it may be just to present the issue so people will be aware of what’s going on. This thought made sense to me since Wiki also stated that the book was a direct product of Kesey’s time working the graveyard shift as an orderly at a mental health facility in Menlo Park, California. So, he, Ken Kesey (1935-2001) knew and probably experienced some of these things. One can get lost in amazement reading (book) or watching (movie) McMurphy and Nurse Ratched especially with their Oscar-worthy performances. However, what makes this book different in a great way, is the narration. Just like Nellie in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Chief Bromden is also not a reliable narrator. Nellie has a crush on Heathcliff or Edgar and the feeling tainted her actions as a housemaid and her story as narrator. Similarly, the Chief is unreliable because he is a schizophrenic but Kesey made use of this to come up with a strangely beautiful interesting narrative. Come to think of it, had this been narrated in a straightforward manner, i.e., sans insanity and scattered prose, the novel would not have the same impact. Time Magazine included this novel in its “100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005” and it is an achievement that Kesey deserves even without the Oscar awards of Nicholson and Forman. For its shocking revelation and its brilliant loony narrative, reading this book should send shivers down your spine…

  15. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    Ratched Up: A Spectacle of Literature's Power to Stand against Oppression "I remember when, I remember ... when I lost my mind Does that make me crazy? Does that make me crazy?" Gnarls Barkley, Crazy, 2006. The monotypic, iconoclastic novel illustrating the evils of unbridled government oppression in institutional forms within a democracy, both subtle and ruthless. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest evinces the fortisimmo force of literature as a "monument of wit" that "will survive the monuments of Ratched Up: A Spectacle of Literature's Power to Stand against Oppression "I remember when, I remember ... when I lost my mind Does that make me crazy? Does that make me crazy?" Gnarls Barkley, Crazy, 2006. The monotypic, iconoclastic novel illustrating the evils of unbridled government oppression in institutional forms within a democracy, both subtle and ruthless. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest evinces the fortisimmo force of literature as a "monument of wit" that "will survive the monuments of power." Francis Bacon. After working at a mental institution, Ken Kesey wrote this easily accessible novel, published in 1962. Set in an Oregon mental ward, the novel's centers on the battle between Randle McMurphy and Nurse Ratched, the former a rebellious, gregarious low-level convict who saw the ward as an easy way to serve his few months of prison time, the latter one of the most memorable and monstrous villains in all of literature. From the film based on the novel The book's primary metaphor is that of the government as "The Combine," as it's called by the story's narrator "Chief" Bromden, as a mechanism for manipulating individuals and processes. Kesey personifies The Combine in Nurse Ratched, a hellhag who uses a bagful of disciplinary tactics, most so subtle that the mental patients can't see they're being controlled and some so heinous it's unimaginable they could be used as a punitive measure without some sort of due process (e.g., electroshock "therapy" and lobotomy). The novel is, by turns, infuriating, intelligent and hilarious.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    Like most people who grew up in the 60s, I loved this book and, even more, the film version with Jack Nicholson. I was reminded of it yesterday when Not and I got to talking about the Winona Ryder movie Girl, Interrupted. "Oh," said Not dismissively, "it's just a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." But I completely disagree. In fact, I think it's the most coherent criticism I've ever seen of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and does a wonderful job of subverting the message. Throughout mo Like most people who grew up in the 60s, I loved this book and, even more, the film version with Jack Nicholson. I was reminded of it yesterday when Not and I got to talking about the Winona Ryder movie Girl, Interrupted. "Oh," said Not dismissively, "it's just a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." But I completely disagree. In fact, I think it's the most coherent criticism I've ever seen of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and does a wonderful job of subverting the message. Throughout most of the movie, you are indeed tricked into seeing the world through Winona Ryder's eyes: she's a free spirit, who's been incarcerated in a mental hospital despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her. In fact, she's saner than everyone around her, especially the Nazi-like staff. But you know what? In the end, she makes a surprising discovery. She's out of control, and these appalling fascists are actually trying to help her. She'd somehow missed this important fact. Much as it pains me to say it, I suspect that Winona Ryder might be right and Jack Nicholson might be wrong. It's extremely disappointing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    This renowned classic is a slow-paced read and an intense character study, set in the enclosed environment of a psychiatric hospital. Nurse Ratched rules her ward with a tyranny and a close-scrutiny that has the patients bent to her will and fearful of any misstep they might make to upset her. That is until a new character joins their ranks and threatens to usurp Ratched's rule. In their fight for dominance the inhabitants of the ward begin to understand a little something about personal freedom This renowned classic is a slow-paced read and an intense character study, set in the enclosed environment of a psychiatric hospital. Nurse Ratched rules her ward with a tyranny and a close-scrutiny that has the patients bent to her will and fearful of any misstep they might make to upset her. That is until a new character joins their ranks and threatens to usurp Ratched's rule. In their fight for dominance the inhabitants of the ward begin to understand a little something about personal freedom and the part they have been entrusted to play in the well-oiled machine of the ward. The casual racism and the horrific treatment of the psychiatric patients was so hard to read about, but was a necessary evil in delivering the power inherent in this tale. Without the reader garnering a deep understanding about the horrors that abound on a psychiatrist ward and the norms that were accepted during this time period, this would not have remained such an influential, relevant and much-studied text. It was interesting that a perspective was garnered through the eyes of one of the patients. This lent an untrustworthy air to the events relayed and the reader could not be certain of all they were told. This, as well as the philosophical nature of the text kept the reader an active participant of the story, as they had to work hard at untangling the narrative to get to the truth buried inside this series of anecdotes. Despite the subtle power in all aspects this tale, I enjoyed, on a baser level, some scenes more than others. Those that moved beyond the confines of the ward lost some of their interest, for me, despite how moving and educational they still remained. They became a little less compelling when action took a more central focus and character studies and societal insights were removed to the background. The ending, however, returned to the philosophical insights I earlier appreciated and I ended up really appreciating how this novel made me think about all the subject matters and events discussed in an entirely new light.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    "There is generally one person in every situation you must never underestimate the power of." A novel that celebrates the counterculture and the aspects on the fringes of society, "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a book that mythologizes the individual (even the dishonest or vulgar individual) over the restraints of society. I have mixed feelings about that message. The battle between being true to oneself and giving into societal expectations is identified here as the battle between one's min "There is generally one person in every situation you must never underestimate the power of." A novel that celebrates the counterculture and the aspects on the fringes of society, "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a book that mythologizes the individual (even the dishonest or vulgar individual) over the restraints of society. I have mixed feelings about that message. The battle between being true to oneself and giving into societal expectations is identified here as the battle between one's mind and the "Combine" as personified by the "Big Nurse" Ratched. The action takes place in a mental institution where most of the patients have voluntarily committed themselves, a key but often overlooked plot point, somewhere in Oregon in the early 1960s. Keeping in mind the time period is an important consideration in enjoying this text, as the book is extremely misogynistic (only 1 minor female character is presented in a halfway decent light) and the ideas of nonconformity were a much bigger deal in 1962 then they are today. To take the novel out of its original context is to loose some of the enjoyment of reading it. Be careful to not judge it by today's standards. Ken Kesey was obviously a gifted writer, and he has some truly unique ways of crafting a text to resemble the scrambled mind of a person enduring electroshock therapy, and he was a clever user of figurative language. He was also gifted at crafting character, as the text has four (to my mind) that stand above and beyond the book they inhabit. The first is the novel's narrator, Chief Bromden, whose dry and insightful narration has the right mix of intelligence and self doubt to keep the reader on the edge of their toes. Another delightful and well rendered character is the mental ward patient Harding whose intelligence and wit serve as a nice foil to McMurphy's vulgarity and broad humor. Harding is a man who loathes what he truly is, and watching him mask that pain and self awareness is one of the most touching aspects of the novel. The "hero" and the "villain" of the piece, R. Patrick McMurphy and Nurse Ratched are nice personifications of abstract ideas and Kesey endows each with a depth and realism that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has paid even the remotest attention to human nature. The passive aggressive animosity and unhappiness inherent in Nurse Ratched is unnervingly real, and the chaos and self destructive behavior in McMurphy is equally impressive. The reason I think these two characters stand out to readers is because there are bits of both of them in most of us. The war between those two poles comprises not only the major conflict of this text, but also of many of our lives. There is a lot to digest in this book, and it will yield rewards on rereading it years later. Enter Kesey's world. It might not be a fun journey, but it is a worthwhile one!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This is one of the most fantastic novels of individualism pitted against the vast depersonalization of industrial society ever written. Ken Kesey has an extraordinary grasp of the challenges faced by us all in modern civilization, and he is able to convey his ideas through some of the richest imagery I have ever read. My favorite line in the novel, when Chief Bromden (the paranoid schizophrenic narrator) says, "But it's the truth, even if it didn't happen," sets the reader up from the very begin This is one of the most fantastic novels of individualism pitted against the vast depersonalization of industrial society ever written. Ken Kesey has an extraordinary grasp of the challenges faced by us all in modern civilization, and he is able to convey his ideas through some of the richest imagery I have ever read. My favorite line in the novel, when Chief Bromden (the paranoid schizophrenic narrator) says, "But it's the truth, even if it didn't happen," sets the reader up from the very beginning for a story in which one's perception of situations more accurately reflects the truth than the outward appearance of things. The story can be a bit confusing to follow at times, given that the narrator is a paranoid schizophrenic and it is often difficult to differentiate between reality and his hallucinations- but at the same time, his hallucinations sometimes more accurately reflect reality than reality itself. I would highly recommend this book to anyone- I have read and taught it many times, and it always provides new insights and revelations. Also, the film starring Jack Nicholson is well worth seeing- it won many Academy Awards when it came out, but diverges quite a bit from a lot of the themes of the book. One of the coolest things about the book is that it is told from the point of view of a paranoid schizophrenic; to do this in a film would be incredibly challenging and more likely to turn out cheesy than insightful and revealing (as it is in the novel).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I thought this was one of the best books I had ever read years ago. (just could not stop thinking of it).... THEN....I went to see the stage play in S.F. (young maiden in High School) -- Powerful Classic!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aj the Ravenous Reader

    Really unpopular opinion coming your way. Escape while you can.^^ How much of life is defined by choices and how much is determined by fate? Or is really fate that directs life’s order or is it people’s thirst for power, to remain strong? Does the rabbit live in a hole because the wolf decided so? What happens when the rabbit decides to challenge the wolf? Such thoughts are provoked by this widely read and loved classic novel. The messages buried in an unexpected setting (a mental institution re Really unpopular opinion coming your way. Escape while you can.^^ How much of life is defined by choices and how much is determined by fate? Or is really fate that directs life’s order or is it people’s thirst for power, to remain strong? Does the rabbit live in a hole because the wolf decided so? What happens when the rabbit decides to challenge the wolf? Such thoughts are provoked by this widely read and loved classic novel. The messages buried in an unexpected setting (a mental institution revealing the grim aspects of such an institution), striking metaphors and symbolism which I detected early on in the first part of the story, the part I genuinely enjoyed. Meeting Mc Murphy (the rabbit that challenged the wolf) felt like listening to the wisest philosophy teacher explaining juicy stuff about life with expertise, wit and charm and reading the story in the perspective of Chief Bromden, a patient feigning deafness made it even more interesting. It's clear to me why several of my friends loved the novel. Let me link you to their excellent reviews: Partheeey's, Nina's and (Ate) Shelby's. Unfortunately, the significant themes of the novel for me were overwhelmed by the strong sexist and racist undertones until the actual meanings of the story got lost behind the chauvinistic approach. I found the story ironic because instead of feeling empowered by a woman character who is “the boss” at a mental institute where majority of population are males, she is depicted as a controlling, unreasonable and heartless freak with over-sized chests in a “matriarchal world” where all the women are no good unless they provide sexual service. It was very saddening and frustrating because I believe the author was driven by a conscious effort when he deliberately wrote/insinuated such messages in his novel. The demoralizing climax added insult to injury and ultimately the reason I went for two stars. It would have been just a star if not for the redeeming although really depressing conclusion answering the most important of the above questions. In the battle between the rabbit and the wolf, it’s the bird who fled for freedom that wins. I should have just read Harry Potter 2.

  22. 4 out of 5

    emily

    4.5 "He knows that you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy." This was one heck of an intelligent, gripping and daring novel. Whilst, Ken Kesey's work is classified as a classic - it definitely does in no way correlate to that of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. It was vulgar and uncomfortable and, definitely, controversial at the time of its publishing - but, man, was it a complex, mind-numbing, page-turne 4.5 "He knows that you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy." This was one heck of an intelligent, gripping and daring novel. Whilst, Ken Kesey's work is classified as a classic - it definitely does in no way correlate to that of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. It was vulgar and uncomfortable and, definitely, controversial at the time of its publishing - but, man, was it a complex, mind-numbing, page-turner of a story, questioning freedom and confinement in our society, and set in an psychiatric hospital - a setting often neglected in literature. This was truly a great, great book, that I recommend. Forget perfect characters, sunny settings, and 'kind sir's and ma'ams'; this story was packed to the brim with complications, grit and a strange mixture of humor and darkness, with an ending that will leave you... speechless. Brillant, and thought provoking, this was a knock out of a book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    So, I re-read this book for my postwar fiction class. Read it first when I was 21, working at Pine Rest Christian Hospital (in Grand Rapids, MI) as a psych aide, very shaped by it in many ways, I now realize in reading it some 40 years later. I think (because how can I know for sure?) I liked this book better this time than I did when I first read it. As I said, it shaped my view of myself, of institutions, of psych hospitals and psychiatry in general, of madness, of Society, of the need for Fre So, I re-read this book for my postwar fiction class. Read it first when I was 21, working at Pine Rest Christian Hospital (in Grand Rapids, MI) as a psych aide, very shaped by it in many ways, I now realize in reading it some 40 years later. I think (because how can I know for sure?) I liked this book better this time than I did when I first read it. As I said, it shaped my view of myself, of institutions, of psych hospitals and psychiatry in general, of madness, of Society, of the need for Freedom, man, and the process of self-knowledge itself. I think now it feels very much like a period piece, an experience of the late Beats to early hippie sixties, from On the Road with the Merry Pranksters to Woodstock, or to maybe something Kesey realized Woodstock would never deliver. It feels horrific and cartoonish and a little too easily separating the good from the bad for much of it, but then it changes very very quickly at the end (spoiler alerts all over the place) and becomes more sixties nightmare than romantic dream of peace and freedom. Yes, for me it was also reading as autobiography, as, like Randle in some respects, I also made a mess of my life (and others) leading from the joyful end of the sixties to the terrible end of the seventies. I think I may have cried at the end of the book when I completed it at 21, still romanticizing Randle McMurphy as a symbol of freedom, nature, and the visceral life I had not known as a young Calvinist going to church twice on Sundays. He was wild, unbridled, laughed heartily, lived lustily, joked inappropriately, raged passionately, loved life; he was my Uncle Lee, my Dad's brother-in-law, who was unlike any of my family members, smoking 4 packs a day, drinking constantly, swearing hilariously, fighting with my Aunt Ag publicly, frighteningly. He picked the young me up when he saw me and sang, too loudly, "Davey, Davey Crockett, king of he wild frontier!" I didn't want to be him, exactly, at 300+ profane pounds, but I loved parts of him. I wanted his sense of freedom, as he drove truck all over the country. Now I read Randle as, yes, a symbol of Freedom and Nature and Laughter vs Ratched's sterile Institutional authority, but now not so innocent, as I realize I think about myself. I read it with some self-reflective regret as he crashed and burned and hurt others as in some ways I crashed and burned for a few years there. I did and do come, too, to appreciate Randle for the good he tried to do even as so much bad happened because of and in spite of him. At first I thought this was a cartoon--Nurse Ratched is so evil as to not be believed (are there any believably good women in this book? Nope. Ratched is Rat-shit, a ratchet wrench for cogs in a machine, monstrously Anti-woman, and then there are Candy and Sandy, the prostitutes). In that sense, it feels like a very (male, most definitely) adolescent fantasy of "The Man" or Society, or the Adult World (never trust anyone over 30!); it's like Ferris Buehler's ride with all the cartoonish adults you always find in YA films and books, only a ride that makes a sharp turn to Hell, as the one who strays from the flock MUST be destroyed. It's a romp of sorts, for much of the book, as Randle takes on the evil Big Nurse with an intent to destroy her in the name of fun and freedom. What is Society to the Beats and Hippies? Squareness, Order, 5,000 white picket fence suburban homes with 5,000 identically dressed suburban children playing on identically manicured lawns (cue David Lynch's Vision of suburbia in Blue Velvet, opening sequences, here). And what does the straight life, the life of business and capitalism and science and technology lead to, as we recall in postwar America? To the Holocaust, to millions dead in countless wars, to suicidally unhappy rich people accumulating wealth beyond imagination, to the destruction of the Chief's Indian lands and culture for profit, trading Paradise for a Shopping Mall. So what do On the Road's Dean Moriarty and Randle do (and literally did, as Neil Cassidy literally drove Kesey's Merry Pranksters bus?!!)? Why, they go on a road trip, as Randle does to go salmon fishing in the Sound with several lovable crazies from the psych hospital and Candy. Who's NOT in? Who doesn't want in his card game, his various challenges to authority (why CAN'T they watch the World Series, damn it?! Rules, argh!!!), his partying? To say no is to become a Vegetable or to be part of the Problem, a Cog in the Machine, dude! But the power struggle turns dark, at the end (spoiler alert, I said!) when, at the high point of the drunken party at the hospital (this time with Candy and Sandy) and Billy has lost his virginity and his authoritarian-Mom-induced stutter, and in maybe ten pages of a 280 page book. it all unravels quickly: Ratched, (The Satan of this Miltonic struggle between Good and Evil) shames Billy, and he kills himself in despair; Randle beats up and rapes Big Nurse in retaliatory rage (prefiguring Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, where she shows us rape is about destructive male power and control over women, accomplished through sexual means); she retaliates by making sure Randle gets a lobotomy (chalk one up for Society, who always crushes individuals who are want to be "different"); Big Chief kills Randle to save him from becoming Ratched's ward symbol of destructive freedom, and our amazing narrator Big Chief (and he IS amazing, one of the great voices in American literature, I think) smashes down the walls, lets the Moon in, and escapes the psych hospital. Randle is not so innocent, no hippie freedom lover, he becomes violent and rapes and nearly kills Ratched, he is out of control with his freedom, no flower child, finally, and by the way, where did all the flowers go, finally? To Vietnam, to Wall Street, and for me to divorce and some lost years. But we have hope when the Chief is on the road, at the very end, after many years maybe able to live his life in the woods again, and in many ways, I took my chance to remake my life as well. I have my kids and loving wife and picket fence, with humble thanks that I am still here and able to still learn and still try to some good in the world if I can. But I was talking about Kesey's book, wasn't I? Well, I really liked this book, second time around. I liked the sketches in this edition from Kesey himself, the cover pages done by Joe Sacco, the preface on the sixties from Kesey, the introduction on madness and psychology seen through a sixties lens… all very good. The images of the psych hospital early on were horrific, then there were an increasing number of darkly hilarious and often insightful episodes about institutional control that seem to be still relevant (even if still comically exaggerated) today, and finally the comedy turns amazingly and effectively to tragedy, though in the coda we are again a little hopeful that a return with Chief Broom to the Garden (or, the Rez, in this case) (and Music and Art and Nature) may still offer us some possibilities. . . so as we hitch a ride with him Home.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nat K

    "I never been in a Institute of Psychology before." - Randall P. McMurphy "... but you do understand: everyone...must follow the rules." - Nurse Ratched I'll start this review by saying that yes, I did see the movie. Though it was such a long time ago, I can't pretend to remember a lot about it. Vague scenes flash through my mind: the maniacal grin of Jack Nicholson's character, the quiet grace of the giant Indian chief who at some point loses it, the absolute menace of the nurse. When Ron suggested "I never been in a Institute of Psychology before." - Randall P. McMurphy "... but you do understand: everyone...must follow the rules." - Nurse Ratched I'll start this review by saying that yes, I did see the movie. Though it was such a long time ago, I can't pretend to remember a lot about it. Vague scenes flash through my mind: the maniacal grin of Jack Nicholson's character, the quiet grace of the giant Indian chief who at some point loses it, the absolute menace of the nurse. When Ron suggested this as a buddy read with Dawn, I was keen. It's one of those things where I wonder why I've never read a certain book before, especially one most certainly considered a "classic". And a cult classic at that. This book is set in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. Our narrator is Chief Bromden (aka "Broom" or "Chief"). Six foot seven of solid, brooding silence. Purportedly deaf & mute, he sees far more than most realise. And hears far more than they know. "I'm cagey enough to fool them that much." Chief explains that the men are split into one of two categories: Acutes & Chronics. The first haven't been broken yet and can still be "saved"; there is a chance they will once again rejoin the big wide world. The second are lifers, who are long since broken and society has forsaken; they ain't going nowhere. Then there are the sub-categories. The Wheelers, the Walkers, the Vegetables. You get the idea. Each man has his place. Each man knows his place. Enter one Randall Patrick McMurphy. Boisterous, vital, cracking jokes, full of life, full of himself. Into this sterile world of disinfectant and mysterious therapy rooms, McMurphy is like a breath of fresh air. Like the windows being flung wide open in a house that's been locked up for too long. "Yet he looks like he's enjoying himself, like he's the sort of guy that gets a laugh out of people." But the problem is, not everyone is keen on fresh air... not the medical staff and especially not Nurse Ratched, who runs her ward like a tight ship. She is the mistress of her domain, make no mistake. And she doesn't appreciate anyone rocking the boat. McMurphy is a riot of colours and emotions. Ratched is cold hard steel. Fire meets ice. McMurphy has ended up in this institution by feigning mental illness to avoid working on a prison farm. His logic being he'd be fed three square meals a day and have "...orange juice every day for breakfast!" Jesus wept. Don’t get me wrong, McMurphy certainly is no angel, and wasn’t working on a prison farm for no reason. But the ending...oh the ending. As the story progresses, we see into Chief Broom's mind. We see flashbacks of the platoon he served in. We see his Daddy, an Indian Chief living on a reserve. And the fog... always the fog making everything a bit blurry. Which is preferable to seeing it clearly. That is until McMurphy arrives to chase the fog away. Which begs the question, how much of Chief's narrative is true? Is the story he tells us about McMurphy, Nurse Ratched & others fact or fiction? Or a blend of the two? Is he a reliable narrator? How many of us are reliable in relating events that happen in our daily lives? I have to admit that I couldn't help but laugh at so many of the things McMurphy said when he attended his first Group Therapy Meeting. He's quite the character and certainly stole the show. As he did with future meetings. And in his unofficial cold war with Nurse Ratched. Here's a great line from where his punishment is to clean the latrines. "I try and try, ma'am, but I'm afraid I'll never make my mark as head man of the crappers." McMurphy goes out of his way to stir the pot and to antagonize Nurse Ratched. Which is something that hasn't happened before. He starts a rebellion amongst the men who have been there for years. To speak up, to think. Once the can of worms is open, you can't put them back in. The use of humour puts the spotlight on the powerplay between these two strong characters. Which on reflection makes this book even more dark. From the opening lines there is an air of menace about this story. A malevolence. A definite sense of disquiet and discomfort. "...society is what decides who's sane and who isn't..." This was a tough read, in the sense that it brought home to me how delicate our minds are, how they control our entire being. Our good bits, our bad bits & all the bits in between. How easy it is for us to break. And how the power of people supposedly given the duty of care of people who need help can be abused and take an ugly turn. Is McMurphy an anti-hero to be admired? Perhaps. Did he push the boundaries? You bet. Did he pay for it? Absolutely. This is a definite must read. At least once in your lifetime. Tick it off your reading bucket list. Utterly disturbing. 3.5★s *** Buddy with Dawn & Ron. Thanks for joining me. Another intriguing pick which left me with a lot to think about. Make sure you check out both of their reviews. *** As an aside, it's interesting to note that Ken Kesey and his pals the "merry pranksters" dropped LSD & cavorted around the countryside in a fluoro, psychedelic decorated bus. One of the pranksters & the driver at the wheel being none other than Neal Cassady, best friend of one Jack Kerouac. Wowza! Talk about six degrees of separation. And of truth being stranger than fiction.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Thoughts after reading Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: 1. Jack Nicholson (from the movie version) is physically NOTHING like Ken Kesey’s Randle Patrick McMurphy, who’s described as a big, barrel-chested, red-headed guy with beefy hands and a big scar over his nose. Everyone knows the story, right? McMurphy escapes a prison farm sentence by pretending to be mentally ill; he imagines a stay at a mental ward will be much easier than hard labour. Little does he know he’s going to meet hi Thoughts after reading Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: 1. Jack Nicholson (from the movie version) is physically NOTHING like Ken Kesey’s Randle Patrick McMurphy, who’s described as a big, barrel-chested, red-headed guy with beefy hands and a big scar over his nose. Everyone knows the story, right? McMurphy escapes a prison farm sentence by pretending to be mentally ill; he imagines a stay at a mental ward will be much easier than hard labour. Little does he know he’s going to meet his biggest match in the ward’s Big Nurse, Miss Ratched. 2. Oh, Miss Ratched. What a name. It suggests hatchet, ratchet, wretched, rat shed, rat shit… none of them very complimentary. Kesey, or rather Kesey’s narrator (we’ll get to him in #3) describes her as machine-like, with a doll like face, a big bosom and of course a starched white uniform. She personifies the expression “passive aggressive.” Over the years, the book has been criticized for being misogynist. And this hateful portrait of castrating female authority is a large part of it. (The other is that the only other main female characters are prostitutes.) 3. The first-person narration by Chief Bromden, who’s thought by everyone to be deaf and mute, is a stroke of genius and Kesey’s most original mark. Bromden sees and hears everything, and he’s been in the ward for a long time, mostly sweeping up with a broom (giving him the nickname Chief Broom), so he can fill us in on the history. The only times he might not be giving us accurate information is when we’re given his medication-fuelled (?) hallucinations. His memories of his Indigenous father and his white mother, and the way his father was forced/tricked to sell his land, is carefully layered in the book. And the way the Chief's life is affected by RPM (think of those initials, by the way, and what they suggest - something continually in motion) is quite moving. 4. It’s a classic Man. Vs. The System book. Bromden says the whole hospital feels like a Combine, and there are a couple of nightmarish sequences in which we feel like we’re choking on fumes in an enormous factory. The book was published in 1962, just before massive changes in the U.S. In a way Kesey predicted the big social revolution to come. 5. Kesey’s writing can be poetic without being precious. Here’s an early passage about McMurphy: He stands looking at us, rocking bar in his boots, and he laughs and laughs. He laces his fingers over his belly without taking his thumbs out of his pockets. I see how big and beat up his hands are. Everybody on the ward, patients, staff, and all, is stunned dumb by him and his laughing. There’s no move to stop him, no move to say anything. He laughs till he’s finished for a time, and he walks on into the day room. Even when he isn’t laughing, that laughing sound hovers around him, the way the sound hovers around a big bell just quit ringing – it’s in his eyes, in the way he smiles and swaggers, in the way he talks. This is very effective writing. I love the detail about McMurphy having his thumbs in his pockets but lacing his fingers over his belly. And the description of the laugh that lingers like a just rung bell is just perfect. 6. There are a lot of secondary characters, and gradually they come into focus, especially Dale Harding, a well-educated man with a sexually frustrated wife (he’s quite possibly gay); Billy Bibbit, a stuttering man who seems much younger than his 31 years and whose mother is a good friend of Nurse Ratched; and Doctor Spivey, the ward’s rather spineless physician who gradually gains confidence, like the rest of the patients, after McMurphy’s arrival. (A whole passage is devoted to Ratched’s hiring of the hospital’s doctor and its cleaning staff.) 7. Speaking of that cleaning staff, I'm not a fan of the depiction of the book’s Black characters, from the opening sentences onwards: “They’re out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them. They’re mopping when I come out the dorm, all three of them sulky and hating everything, the time of day, the place they’re at here, the people they got to work around. When they hate like this, better if they don’t see me.” The Black men are repeatedly called “boys,” and I’m not sure why. Is that how the Chief sees them? And what sex acts are these? Are they hallucination? There’s no other suggestion that these characters may be gay. 8. It’s a very loud, rambunctious book, but some of the most powerful passages are when McMurphy is figuring out the system (remember, he’s a gambler, and needs to read the situation before he wagers) and remains quiet. It’s a good lesson that when a character doesn’t speak, the reader starts wondering what they’re thinking. Planning to escape? Whether he can beat the Big Nurse in the end? 9. The last 100 pages race by. From the fishing trip through the big all-night party, there’s so much going on. The men are out from the hospital for the first time in years (and we’re suddenly released from that claustrophobic place); they’re mocked by outsiders; one of the characters proves a great sailor; and the men get a taste of so-called normal life. 10. The end. You knew it was coming, right? It’s both inevitable, depressing and liberating. Just the perfect ending to a justly famous book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    I’ve mentioned in a previous review (The Enchanted, I think it was) how much I love stories about incarceration. There’s probably something psychological there I need to work through, some deep-rooted issue I’m ignoring, but who cares! I loved this book, just like I loved The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, The Enchanted, that one show on HBO, etc. This is also an amazing movie that I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it already. Jack Nicholson is just fantastic in it, and all of the suppor I’ve mentioned in a previous review (The Enchanted, I think it was) how much I love stories about incarceration. There’s probably something psychological there I need to work through, some deep-rooted issue I’m ignoring, but who cares! I loved this book, just like I loved The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, The Enchanted, that one show on HBO, etc. This is also an amazing movie that I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it already. Jack Nicholson is just fantastic in it, and all of the supporting cast is top-notch. Check it out. And the book delivers in the same way. Just a whole lot of shaking up the status who, questioning authority, pushing the limits, partying on a boat. It’s just a raucous institutionalized good time for the whole family. Probably not the whole family. Maybe just read it on your own. Also, not necessarily a good time. Part of what I said before was true, but other parts were incorrect. This is the second time I’ve read the book, and I saw the movie before reading it. I would actually recommend doing that in this case. It helped me keep track of the characters, but I guess I did just picture them all in my head as I read the book. When McMurohy would talk, I heard Jack Nicholson. Do what you want I guess. I think the movie may actually be just a hair, just a tiny tiny tiny hair better than the book. You can disagree with me on that and very easily persuade me. They are both awesome so just do both.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mariah Roze

    I was listening to it on audio CD and had a lot of problems with it, so I needed to take many day breaks in-between listening…. so I got a little behind! I read this book for the goodreads book club Diversity in All Forms! If you would like to participate in the discussion here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... I found this book fascinating. What I am really focused on right away was the nicknames everyone had and how that represented where they stood, their importance. The BIG I was listening to it on audio CD and had a lot of problems with it, so I needed to take many day breaks in-between listening…. so I got a little behind! I read this book for the goodreads book club Diversity in All Forms! If you would like to participate in the discussion here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... I found this book fascinating. What I am really focused on right away was the nicknames everyone had and how that represented where they stood, their importance. The BIG Nurse (nickname), explained that she was someone that needed to be noticed because her name was of high importance. The Black Boys was an insulting name, so that means those characters are the lowest of the employees. And the list goes on and on for employees. They even do it to the patients when they divided them into two groups. I was surprised by the sexual comments and remarks in the book. I didn't expect that at all. :p I thought it was really powerful when Chief talked about how he never started to pretend he was deaf. Others decided for him. In the army people ranked higher than him looked down on him. Then when he went to "the home" the staff decided he was too dumb to understand what they were saying. It is interesting how we affect how we look at others. We have an idea of who they are and never really realize all their abilities. This is very common with people with disabilities. We look at their hurdles instead of their accomplishments and skills. All, in all, I am very surprised this is the first time that I had read this book. I am also surprise how much I enjoyed it :) I suggest it to everyone!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    I really wish I'd read this before seeing the film. Because all I could think about while reading, was him: and, her: and, of course, this guy: It's a case of a brilliant movie sucking the life out of its original source. I was pleased to learn that the movie was true to the book, but it was SO true, I didn't find I got much out of this that I hadn't already. I have to give kudos to Ken Kesey for creating a fantastic trio of characters - McMurphy is a complex and compelling protagonist, Chief Bromd I really wish I'd read this before seeing the film. Because all I could think about while reading, was him: and, her: and, of course, this guy: It's a case of a brilliant movie sucking the life out of its original source. I was pleased to learn that the movie was true to the book, but it was SO true, I didn't find I got much out of this that I hadn't already. I have to give kudos to Ken Kesey for creating a fantastic trio of characters - McMurphy is a complex and compelling protagonist, Chief Bromden a poignant narrator, Nurse Ratched an iconic villainess. I have to admire the story he told, which, in 1962, shone a very important light on abuse of power and misuse of treatment in mental health facilities. But, all my "feels" were felt about 20 years ago, watching the fabulous movie version on a rented VHS tape, on a square shaped television, with my dad. Surprisingly, not a lot felt in the literary version. I could blame Kesey for a rather simplistic, spelled-out-in-capital-letters plot, misogynistic portrayals of pretty much every female character, and Bromden's annoying habit of referring to the black orderlies as "boys" every single time. Personally though, I prefer to hold Jack and Louise 100% responsible. 3.5 stars

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Ashleigh

    "It's the truth even if it didn't happen.”

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Damn, I liked the movie better 😕 Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

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