Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."


Book: Sometimes A Great Notion, by Ken Kesey

Today was a good day. The weather didn’t crap all over my head or worsen my vitamin D deficiency; they played quality entertainment on the TVs at the gym, significantly increasing the duration of my workout; all my culinary endeavors turned out quite well (Pita bread french toast triangles! It works!) (& so do these muffins!) (& so do hard-boiled eggs) (those are a lot easier to screw up than you’d think, okay…). Anyhow, my mood rates at a happiness level of orange, I’d say–that is, pretty chipper. Mellow, perhaps. Or at least as close to mellow as I am capable of getting.

Which is probably the appropriate mindset from which one should approach this book: not starving for instant narrative gratification, & ready to go along for a rather long ride. I found it a bit rambly in parts, but ultimately well worth the time spent. Kesey is clever and funny in terms of style, and very wise indeed in terms of message. A winning combination! His tone is kind of…gruff, maybe? Yet behind that voice his narrator says some pretty adorable/romantic lines–and the juxtaposition is endearing. Cuckoo’s Nest was probz more ‘my jam,’ if you will, but I think that says more about my personal literary alley than a difference in the quality of the two books–they’re both great. I kept the quotes pretty short because the book was so long. N-Joi!


That Man will oppose everything except a Hand Extended; that he will stand up in the face of every hazard except Lonely people; that for the sake of his poorest and shakiest and screwiest principles he will lay down his life, endure pain, ridicule, and even, sometimes, that most demeaning of American hardships, but will relinquish his firmest stand for love.

Love—and all its complicated ramifications, Draeger believed—actually does conquer all; Love—or the Fear of Not Having It, or the Worry about Not Having Enough of It, or the Terror of Losing it—certainly does conquer all. To Draeger this knowledge was a weapon; he had learned it young and for a quarter-century of well-mannered and enormous success, conquering a world rendered simple, safe, and predictable by his iron-hammered faith.

Look…Reality is greater than the sum of its parts, and also a damn sight holier.

To begin devoting their restless energies to pursuits more tangible than wandering, more practical than walking, pursuits like business and community and church.

But that’s just what you did not know. You knew the cursed look of wanderlust but you did not know the hell that lust was leading you into. You must go through a winter first…

But I say a man can get accustomed, get comfortable and accustomed to emptiness, just the way he can get accustomed to the cold or accustomed to the dark.

It all just came so downright thick and fast that I knew I could never get accustomed to it. But I do not mean that. I mean I had no choice but do as I did; God as my witness…I had no choice!

(She had a funny way of looking, too, that was like a bird looked: you know, with the head turned, never dead at something, but kind of past it, past it like she could see something nobody else could see; and whatever it was she saw sometimes scared her like a ghost. “I’m lonely,” she says.)

Maybe they’re like cork boots; with corks It don’t make no matter how long since you quit wearing ‘em because once you been used to going around with ‘em, then the ground underfoot is always gonna seems slippery and strange without—though you maybe been wearing oxfords for years and years.

“Men are forever eager to press drink upon those they consider their superiors, hoping thereby to eliminate that distinction between them.”

Hell, I sighed, exiled even from the sanctuary of insanity. What a drag. Madness might have been a good way to explain terror and excuse anarchy, I mooned, a good whipping boy to blame in the event of mental discomfort, an interesting avocation to while away the long afternoon of life. What a crashing drag…
You can never tell: it might have constituted as bad a drag as sanity…Yes, I sighed again, in the long run insanity would be the same old coldhearted drag of too solid flesh, too many sings and arrows, and too much outrageous fortune.

And like: “Why should one want to wake up dead anyway?” If the glorious birth-to-death hassle is the only we are ever to have…if our grand and exhilarating Flight of Life is such a tragically short little scrap anyway, compared to the eons of rounds before and after—then why should one want to relinquish even a few precious seconds of it?

“Man is certain of nothing but his ability to fail. It is the deepest faith we have, and the unbeliever—the blasphemer, the dissenter—will stimulate in us the most righteous of furies.”

There’s times when the only way you can win is by being weak, by losing, by doing your worst instead of your best.

What am I doing here? I had managed up until then to avoid this problem by treating it facetiously, as demonstrated above, or by passing it off with vague fantasies about heroically measuring up or righteously pulling down. But now that I was being confronted by the demon work…which would it be?

“You must go through winter to get some notion…”

Perhaps the epitome of giving 0 inches?


Filed under: Ken Kesey,

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