Captain, I Protest: I Am Not A Merry Prankster
Can you de-canonize a writer? I'm not talking about waiting for their work to fall out of critical favor. I'm talking about using metaphysical tricks to actually strip them of the property of Respect, to tear away their Respect like tearing a scab from a long-festering wound. Can we do that? Can we all wake up groggily from fermented dreams and just admit that we made a mistake about someone's work being Lasting?

Can we do that with Ken Kesey?

Now I'm not against literary madmen. Any immoral or demented behavior that promotes fiction is good. But there are ways to hype yourself for Jesus and there are ways to hype yourself for Jesus.

William Burroughs: knocked over convenience stores for heroin, ran a marijuana ranch in Texas, hacked his way through South American jungles in search of the perfect drug, joined Scientology on a whim, wrote some kind of horrible skeleton album with Tom Waits. Probably single-handedly destroyed American values in the 1960s and 1970s. Good hype man for Jesus.

Ken Kesey: held acid parties and drove around in a van doing acid with Neal Cassady. Showed up at Phish concerts, regularly. In 1994 made his big literary comeback: a novel about a group of cowboys competing for a silver saddle. Written in dialect.

BAD hype man for Jesus.

No one has to turn his/her life into art. The work should stand on its own, all things being equal. But here is the moral: if you're going to turn your life into art, be dangerous about it. Sell arms in the desert. Join cults left and right; don't start them. Don't drive a magical van from Grateful Dead show to Grateful Dead show. Don't give Tom Wolfe things to write about. Don't lead a life of pure self-indulgence and self-promotion. Don't.


Fun fact about Ken Kesey: do you know who did the last-ever interview with Ken Kesey before his all-too-timely death in 2001? Why, it was editor Miracle Jones!

Seriously! That isn't bullshit. Miracle Jones really got the last ever interview with Ken Kesey. The interview was conducted by phone and published in Mr. Jones's alternate high school newspaper, The Fashionable Troglodyte, in the year 2001.

Although the interview is no longer available, Kesey did tell Mr. Jones to see the movie The Mummy Returns. He said the special effects were beautiful.

And then he died.

Posted by future on Mon, 10 Mar 2008 13:40:52 -0400 -- permanent link

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