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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado, in 1935. His family moved to Springfield, Oregon, where he attended public schools. After graduation, Kesey attended the University of Oregon at Eugene and married while still in college. In 1957, he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree. He was then granted a Saxton Fellowship and the Woodrow Wilson scholarship to Stanford University, where he enrolled in the creative writing program.
While he was at Stanford, he volunteered for an experimental program at a local hospital to test the effects of newly discovered drugs. Here he was introduced to LSD and its mind-altering properties.
Kesey took a night job at a mental hospital, where he held long conversations with the inmates in order to gain an understanding of them. It was during this period that he wrote the first draft of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Most of the characters in the novel are based upon actual patients he met while working at the hospital.
Because of the financial success of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey was able to buy a farm in California, where he and his friend experimented with LSD. He was also the king of the Merry Pranksters, a group that traveled the West Coast staging happenings. He was accused and later convicted of possessing marijuana and took refuge for a time in Mexico. When he returned to the United States, he was jailed for a short period of time. Kesey became a cult hero that was acknowledged in Tom Wolfe's documentary book and best seller entitled The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Besides One flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which is considered a modern classic, Kesey has also written Sometimes a Great Notion, a conventional and unsuccessful novel, and published a collection of shorter writings, Ken Kesey's Garage Sale. He currently lives and writes in Oregon.