Posted by: Mark | March 20, 2019

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

As with a huge percent of 70s and 80s pop culture, my first exposure to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was through Mad Magazine. It was a dark but funny parody and after 40-some years I can still remember many of the jokes.

Often when I read/see/hear the parody first, I end up liking it more than the original (especially with more recent Weird Al songs) but when I finally saw the movie,  I was surprised how good it was.

I just read the book and it was even better than the movie (I just read The Godfather a while back which proved the movie can be better).

The first-person narration through mental illness made the book challenging but rewarding. The book has been banned repeatedly; at first due to sex, profanity, and violence,  but more recently due to charges of sexism and racism. In my view, the book contains all five offenses but that’s fitting for the speech and actions of the characters and setting, not that any are messages from the author. I would say Ken Kesey no more advocated racism through the book than he did lobotomies (then again, I’m an apologist for Lovecraft so let the reader be the judge).

As I was reading, knowing how the story would end, the conclusion felt compressed and rushed. However, now that I’ve finished, it seemed to fit well. I wish I could have erased my memory so I wouldn’t have known what would happen, although this is one of the few books from my resolutions that I’d like to read over soon.

Treatment of mental illness has changed so much within my lifetime that this novel probably seems like a story about smallpox to a younger reader. Future generations might forget all about this era. Despite all the challenges, I’m glad teachers still put this on reading lists.


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