The University of Wisconsin Press | Fall 2013 - page 1

“Every page is an illumination. This is a brilliant, landmark biography of the
novelist who gave the world
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
a Great Notion.
—Douglas Brinkley, author of
Counterculture icon and best-selling author of the anti-authoritarian novels
Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Sometimes a Great Notion
, Ken Kesey said he was
“too young to be a beatnik and too old to be a hippie.”
It’s All a Kind of Magic
the first biography of Kesey. It reveals a youthful life of brilliance and eccentric-
ity that encompassed wrestling, writing, magic and ventriloquism, CIA-funded
experiments with hallucinatory drugs, and a notable cast of characters that would
come to include Wallace Stegner, Larry McMurtry, Tom Wolfe, Neal Cassady,
Timothy Leary, the Grateful Dead, and Hunter S. Thompson.
A child of the Depression, Kesey was born in 1935 to a migrant farming fam-
ily that settled in Oregon during World War II. Based on meticulous research
and many interviews with friends and family, Rick Dodgson’s biography docu-
ments Kesey’s early life, from his time growing up in Oregon as a farm boy and
wrestling champion through his college years, his first drug experiences, and the
writing of his most famous books. While a graduate student in creative writing
at Stanford University in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Kesey worked the night
shift at the Menlo Park Veterans Administration hospital, where he earned extra
money taking LSD and other psychedelic drugs for medical studies. Soon he and
his bohemian crowd of friends were using the same substances to conduct their
own experiments, exploring the frontiers of their minds and testing the boundar-
ies of their society.
With the success of
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
, Kesey moved to La
Honda, California, in the foothills of San Mateo County, creating a scene that
Hunter S. Thompson remembered as the “world capital of madness.” There, Kesey
and his growing band of Merry Prankster friends began hosting psychedelic
parties and living a “hippie” lifestyle before anyone knew what that meant. Tom
Wolfe’s book
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
mythologized Kesey’s adventures in
the 1960s.
Illustrated with rarely seen photographs,
It’s All a Kind of Magic
depicts a pre-
cocious young man brimming with self-confidence and ambition who—through
talent, instinct, and fearless spectacle—made his life into a performance, a wild
magic act that electrified American and world culture.
Rick Dodgson
is associate professor of history at Lake-
land College in Wisconsin. English by birth but global
by inclination, he has lived much of his life outside the
United Kingdom. In his younger years, he worked as a
plumber, heating engineer, soccer referee, handyman,
Mediterranean deckhand, and teacher of English in a
village on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. He is also the
creator and producer of
Mission to the Stars: A Space Rock
. This is his first book.
 LC: 2013010411 PS
196 PP. 6 × 9 19 B/W ILLUS.
E-BOOK $16.95 T ISBN 978-0-299-29513-4
“A rich, complex, and historically
telling portrait of the sixties
author and acid luminary Ken
Kesey. Dodgson’s research is
impeccable, and he captures Kesey’s
individualistic ethos, physicality, and
creative flair.”
—David Farber, author
The Age of Great Dreams: America in
the 1960s
Jeff Kernan / Lakeland College
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