Died on this day – 10 November 2001


Kenneth Elton Kesey was born on 17 September 1935. He was an American novelist, essayist, and major figure in the counterculture of the 1960s. He considered himself a link between the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s.

Kesey was born in Colorado, and grew up in Springfield, Oregon. He graduatedfrom the University of Oregon in 1957. He began writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1960. The novel was an immediate commercial and critical success when published two years later. During this period Kesey participated in government studies involving hallucinogenic drugs to supplement his income.

Following the publication of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he moved to nearby La Honda, California, and began hosting happenings with former colleagues from Stanford, miscellaneous bohemian and literary figures (most notably Neal Cassady), and other friends collectively known as the Merry Pranksters; these parties, known as Acid Tests, integrated the consumption of LSD with multimedia performances.

In1964 his novel Sometimes a Great Notion was published. An epic account of the vicissitudes of an Oregon logging family was a commercial success that polarized critics and readers upon its release, although Kesey regarded the novel as his magnum opus.[

In 1965, following an arrest for marijuana possession and subsequent faked suicide, Kesey was imprisoned for five months. Shortly thereafter, he returned home and settled in Pleasant Hill, Oregon, where he maintained a secluded, family-oriented lifestyle for the rest of his life.

In 2001 Kesey made a trip to France and visited Montmorillon in a search for the famous cuckoo that nests close to the banks of the river Gartempe. After a friendly visit to The Glass Key bookshop in the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon Kesey went in search of the nest, but unfortunately fell into the river and drowned. Not such a great notion then.


Thought for the Day

Poet and Philosopher

Sink Song by J. A. Lindon

This poem is especially for the husband of a cousin of mine.  He is suffering from health problems and I hope this will cheer him up.  He, of course, takes porridge for breakfast every day.

Sink Song

Believe it or not

Tom Lehrer abandoned his piano and stifled the urge to write satirical songs in 1973 when Henry Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize. Lehrer reasonably concluded that if a man who had paved the way for Pol Pot by bombing neutral Cambodia ‘back to the Stone Age’ was to be blessed as a peacemaker, ‘political satire had become obsolete’.

(Reported by Nick Cohen in Cruel Britannia)


A thought for today

Prior poem

Died on this day – 7 June 1967


Dorothy Parker (née Rothschild)was born on 22August 1893 was an American poet, writer, critic, and satirist, best known for her wit, wisecracks, and eye for 20th-century urban foibles.

From a conflicted and unhappy childhood, Parker rose to acclaim, both for her literary output in publications such as The New Yorker and as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table . Following the breakup of the circle, Parker traveled to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting. Her successes there, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed when her involvement in left-wing politics led to a place on the Hollywood blacklist.

Dismissive of her own talents, she deplored her reputation as a “wisecracker.” Nevertheless, both her literary output and reputation for sharp wit have endured.

Holidaying in France in 1967 Parker visited Montmorillon where she admired the Cité de l’Ecrit with its wonderful mixture of everything bookish. Unfortunately when she called at The Glass Key bookshop and checked their reasonably extensive humour section she found none of her own publications on display. She then suffered a heart attack and died on 7 June 1967. 

Died on this day – 2 June 1962


Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolsonwas born on 9 March 1892. She was usually known as Vita Sackville-West and was an English poet, novelist, and garden designer.

She was a successful novelist, poet, and journalist, as well as a prolific letter writer and diarist. She published more than a dozen collections of poetry during her lifetime and 13 novels. She was twice awarded the HawthorndenPrize for Imaginative Literature: in 1927 for her pastoral epic, The Land, and in 1933 for her Collected Poems. She was the inspiration for the androgynous protagonist of Orlando: A Biography, by her famous friend and lover, Virginia Woolf

She had a longstanding column in The Observer (1946-1961) and is remembered for the celebrated garden at Sissinghurst created with her husband, Sir Harold Nicolson.

Keen to visit the famous weekend of Jardin Passion she came to Montmorillon in 1962 where she also visited The Glass Key and she much admired the wide rang of gardening books in stock there. Unfortunately she succumbed to abdominal cancer and died in the bookshop on 2 June 1962.