Sometimes a Great Notion is an anti-union manifesto, a work of flowing literature that should be studied in the cloistering halls of higher learning--not as much for its deep meaning, but rather for the structure of its text (I dare a professor to take any one of the 600+ pages and study it for an entire semester), a masterpiece of prose, the second novel by The Great Ken Kesey, a juxtaposition of two brothers that has been unequalled since Tolstoy.
Sometimes a Great Notion is many things, including a followup to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest published two years prior in 1962. The latter book is an undeniable classic of literature that has rarely been equaled. Read my review of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Sometimes a Great Notion was published in 1964 and Kesey's next novel would not be published until 1984 when Demon Box (a collection of short stories thinly-veiled as fiction) was launched. What was this supremely talented author doing for 20 years? Most would claim it was drugs. Kesey had spent time in clink to prove it. Who knows? And when he finally rid himself of the Technicolor synthetics flowing through his veins, his brain was fried into a pigskin cracklin'. Instead of the psychedelics unlocking fantastic worlds, they seem to have hidden them away from Kesey in a demon box.
Sometimes a Great Notion at times becomes a long-winded bore over vast swaths of pages. It makes one wonder if Ken Kesey lost the Oregon forest through the trees on which his characters hack out a living. At times he tries to be too literary. But Kesey pulls it out in the last 200 pages to a wonderful conclusion. A side note on the movie of the same name starring Robert Redford and Henry Fonda--skip over like a rolling log! It's a real Hollywood hack job that treats the novel as though it was a short story.
Notion, in the hands of a master, is the closest you will ever get to the logging world of Oregon and the real-to-life characters Kesey created.
By Andrew Barger - Author of The Divine Dantes trilogy