Saturday, October 9, 2010

R.P. McMurphy

Well, as I rapidly punished book three of the Stieg Larsson series in two days, it was time to move on to one of the books I brought with me that I hadn't read yet: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. This was a fine gift from one of my oldest friends, Graham Smith, and I can't thank him enough. Maybe this is a sentiment most avid readers feel but I find it impossible and pointless to explain ---really, that reading has changed my life. I'm reminded of Malcolm X's autobiography as I type. What a strong illustration of the point I'm trying to grasp at. Malcolm X said, "My alma mater is books, a good library...I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity." I struggle to think of a more amazing personal story of someone learning to read than his and really dig that quote.  

I've always loved to read but growing up in school, it would occasionally slip my mind that I had actual choices in the content I wanted to explore. Also, any reading that was required tended to bore and annoy me. In the last three years, what I've read has changed my life more than anything and I'm convinced the library is pretty much the coolest idea someone ever had. It's my favorite example of the world at work.  

Graham gave me "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" as a gift quite awhile back. I had yet to read it until this week and finished it pretty quickly, as it's not a long book. I didn't want to weigh down my luggage with books so I tried to bring the small collection of unread books I owned and a few favorites. I've been here barely over a month and only have one book left to read of those I brought with. Thank the LAWD I found that Seomyeon bookstore with the decent selection of English books. 

I've posted the trailer for the movie version of the book, starring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy, directed by Milos Forman, and with what I consider brilliant music by Jack Nitzsche. Nitzsche has worked with Phil Spector, the Rolling Stones, and Neil Young to name a few. Michael said he thinks the eery-sounding effect I like so much in this music is a saw. I have no idea but it's straight up one of the coolest sounds I've heard in a long time. 

I had seen this movie a long time ago but was eager to watch it again after finishing the book. The movie is amazing but I'm still being loyal to the school of thought that books will outdo a film any day. There's just too much a movie can't capture and so much of what is lost onscreen makes for the finest details in the story. 

I'm not entirely sure how to articulate how or why this book was so provocative to me. My mind has been buzzing with it all week and I felt like crying and laughing the whole way through the book. The humor is amazing and McMurphy's character is quite the accidental hero. He is so powerful and perfect amongst a gang of "lunatics" in a mental institution. Apparently, Kesey got the idea for the book while working the night shift at a Veteran's Hospital in the 60's. He didn't believe that the patients there were insane but rather, that they were societal outcasts because they didn't fit into conventional ideas of how people were supposed to behave. This is clearly illustrated in the book by the all the interesting characters and McMurphy is the perfect person to draw out their similarities to the world rather than their differences. 

I'm sure there are a million more articulate breakdowns and analyses than what I'm fumbling around with here.  I can't quite get it all clear in my head --there are so many points to what Kesey is writing about. But it may be how funny the book is that slays me the most. When Chief Bromden and everyone are laughing in the book, I was too. So much. Read it if you haven't and then help me talk about it some more, will ya? 

"I sat there, feeling whole and good, sipping at a beer; I could hear the beer all the way down me ---zzzth, zzzth, like that. I had forgotten that there can be good sounds and tastes like the sound and taste of a beer going down. I took another big drink and started looking around me to see what else I had forgotten in twenty years." 
--The Chief

1 comment:

  1. Reading this post put me back into that head state a bit. Watching that movie was so powerful--so intense. The book was so good.

    And yes, Michael wins the prize. It's a saw!