American writer Ken Kesey was a hugely popular writer and had the world at his feet when he became the first to test LSD for the American government. He snuck some home and shared it with his literary friends and wrote, Sometimes a Great Notion. Being the literary elite was not enough. He bought a bus, painted it in psychedelic colours and set off across America to New York’s World Fair on the 17th of June 1964. He sipped Kool-Aid laced with LSD (acid) and experienced hallucinations while travelling with other writers and creatives. The group called themselves the Merry Band of Pranksters. Kesey filmed the adventure. Wolfe states, “I have tried not only to tell what the Pranksters did but to re-create the mental atmosphere of subjective reality of it”.
The rhythmic and repetitive writing draws the reader into its poetic musicality. The style matches the experiences the Pranksters were having. “Kesey hears a voice, and it tells him to get up from the table and he does, and there are Page and other Pranksters spaced out of their gourds and holding hands and … keening, with their eyes closed because like with DMT opening your eyes doesn’t change a thing – those eyelid movies just keep pouring out into the living room.” The effect Kesey and his Pranksters had on America was profound. This trip was the beginning of the counterculture, being filmed and written about as it happened. It was a meeting of clans, a rally to arms, a proclamation for a new civilisation. It echoed across America, with the Beatles doing their Magical Mystery Tour three years later. Kesey’s search for something more than he could get from literature instigated a social revolution. Being active in creating our dreams and desires is evidence the trip is ongoing – are you onboard?