Kesey vs Salinger

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November 30, 2010 by David Gillaspie

Mixed Martial Authors Coast To Coast

If you’re as well read as the average doorstop, you see parallels between writers who seemed to flash and fade. 

In geological time, it’s all flash and fade; if it happens in your lifetime, the flash, you’re blinded if you don’t look away, or worse, disappointed.

Two writers come to mind:

Ken Kesey. 

Brilliant, then jumped the tracks for the road most lit.  (With an mma record of 1-0.)

J.D. Salinger

Brilliant, then?  (A record of 0-0.)

Salinger, by most accounts, took his secluded writer’s life into further seclusion.  Even the local townsmen guard against questions from strangers.

You wonder how Joyce Maynard ever found him. 

Picture an older ex-writer living in a small Northeast town with it’s sharp seasons smoothed by the company of a beautiful, young, groupie/future columnist.

Score for Jerome, but do you want an isolated village life with a hot stalker, or room to live big out west?  Where’s Philip Roth when you need an important relationship answer?

Make the Kesey Choice.  Find some room and make some wrestlers, then stand back and watch another generation take a flyer.

Choose outrageous, out loud, and out in the open

Salinger looks like his indoor voice is his outdoor voice.  How could he call cattle?  More important, how would he do in mixed martial authors?  Would he throw a few punches, back away, then land his haymaker?  Catcher In The Rye still sells in knock-out numbers, but it’s not enough.

Ken Kesey stands on top of the Mixed Martial Author’s pyramid for a reason.

He’s a D-1 wrestler whose kids are D-1 wrestlers.  By most math, that’s a lot of bigtime wrestling.   

Think of genetics and injuries that weed out most athletes, and the Kesey’s did the most limb-twisting, body-wrenching sport invented. 

Think generational power, a rare thing, and they have it.   

That he also blasted out the best books is coincidence and maybe overrated. 

Who wasn’t happy with native born Oregonian H.L. Davis’ Honey in the Horn and his Pulitzer Prize in 1936?

They don’t just give away big prizes because you pose like William Faulkner any more than they give away the sort of credit Kesey’s books get.  Their work makes the difference. 

If Harold here was the face of Oregon lit, then it needed a good lift.

Dr. Kesey?

He came into the operating room and sliced and diced with the sort of precision seldom seen.  It was nearly miraculous, with more miracles expected from his miracle pipeline.

Except Kesey showed his true self.

The game-changer changed his game.  Instead of a disconnected Holden Caulfield life of the wandering lit-star, or the shuttered life of Holden’s daddy, J.D., Kesey slid the windows open and let the wind blow back his hair. 

He chose the big ‘EL’ Life, a life with kids. 

Did The Chief listen to The Boss, or the other way around?  Bruce seemed to know part of the Kesey soundtrack:

“You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now, I ain’t no hero, that’s understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well, the night’s busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven’s waiting on down the tracks

Oh oh, come take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey, I know it’s late, we can make it if we run
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road”

For some, Kesey is a minor detour in their life road.  For others, he is the road, which doesn’t mean forsaking another.  

It’s more of sharing the road.

Sharing the road was big back then.  It still is.  So was sharing the load, making room for others.  That comes natural when you get on the bus. 

Salinger called Kesey

“Ken, I’ve been thinking.  I’ve had a longer, stranger trip than you.”

“I’d say so, if you call being a house-mouse a trip, Jerry.  Strange, yes.  Long, yes.  But it’s not a trip.  You’d didn’t go anywhere.  You’re biggest deal was Joyce.”

“Don’t bring her up.”

“Who?  Joyce?”

“I said don’t bring her up.”

“What’s wrong, J.D.?  You thought she wouldn’t leave?  That you’re thing with her wouldn’t fail?  We’re writers.  Failing is what we do.  With any luck we fail good enough to keep our readers’ attention.”

“Catcher wasn’t a failure.  It’s still hot.”

“When’s the movie coming out?”

“What is it with you and a movie about everything.”

“Just asking.  Maybe Joyce will get a part?”

“You’re talking smack?  My last splash was ’63.  What was yours, Notion in ’64.  Not much difference.”

“Two movies.”

“And how’s that working out?”

“Could be better, J.D., but it’s two more than you’ve got on your life’s work.”

“And John Irving wins an Oscar for writing a script on his books?  I was the darling of the northeast once, you know.”

“You could shine again.  Irving’s been making noise about getting back into the octagon.  Face him and everyone sings your song again instead of his.”

“Is he tough?”

“Real tough.”

“Who else is there?”

“Terry Davis might take you on.”

“What about you?”

“People come to a fight to see a fight.  They don’t want to see someone brutally whiplashed around the cage.”

“I’d be the one getting whiplashed, right?  Is that what you’re saying?”

“I’ll check on Davis.”

(to be continued)




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