Ken Kesey was born on September 17, 1935 in La Junta, Colorado. Though, he lived most of his life in Eugene, Oregon. In high school, he was a wrestling champion. After he finished high school, he started college at the University of Oregon. He participated in the college’s “School of Journalism” program in 1957. Once there, the staff had recognized Kesey’s prowess and awarded him the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship award that allowed him to attend the creative writing program at Stanford.
In 1959, Kesey volunteered to aid in a CIA program named Project MKULTRA at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital. Project MKULTRA was a program that tested the use of psychedelic drugs and there effect on the human mind. The drugs used were mainly LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, cocaine, and DMT. If Kesey had not been involved in this program, he would not have received as much incentive in writing One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Kesey was often “under-the-influence” when he was writing his novel. He received a lot of help writing his novel through the patients that he worked with. He did not believe that the patients were crazy; he thought that society had pushed them away because they did not meet the criteria for normal human behavior.
After One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was published, Hollywood wanted to produce a movie. Kesey did not have much enthusiasm, however. He said that he never got to see the movie, due to a legal suit over $20,000 he was paid for film rights. He hated that the film was not portrayed through the character Chief Bromden. He also did not want Jack Nicholson to play as Randle McMurphy. Though, despite all of this, his wife said that he enjoyed the movie, after all.
The last article that Ken Kesey ever wrote was an essay written to the Rolling Stones magazine. The article called for peace after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Kesey died on November 10, 2001, following an operation for liver cancer.
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