30+ quotes from Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

Quotes from Sometimes a Great Notion

Ken Kesey ·  640 pages

Rating: (17.3K votes)


“Look...Reality is greater than the sum of its parts, also a damn sight holier. And the lives of such stuff as dreams are made of may be rounded with a sleep but they are not tied neatly with a red bow. Truth doesn't run on time like a commuter train, though time may run on truth. And the Scenes Gone By and the Scenes to Come flow blending together in the sea-green deep while Now spreads in circles on the surface. So don't sweat it. For focus simply move a few inches back or forward. And once more...look.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“For there is always a sanctuary more, a door that can never be forced, a last inviolable stronghold that can never be taken, whatever the attack; your vote can be taken, you name, you innards, or even your life, but that last stonghold can only be surrendered. And to surrender it for any reason other than love is to surrender love.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“The story is told that when Joe was a child his cousins emptied his Christmas stocking and replaced the gifts with horse manure. Joe took one look and bolted for the door, eyes glittering with excitement. 'Wait, Joe, where are you going? What did ol' Santa bring you?' According to the story Joe paused at the door for a piece of rope. 'Brought me a bran'-new pony but he got away. I'll catch 'em if I hurry.' And ever since then it seemed that Joe had been accepting more than his share of hardship as good fortune, and more than his share of shit as a sign of Shetland ponies just around the corner, Thoroughbred stallions just up the road.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“But if the strength ain't real, I recall thinking the very last thing that day, before I finally passed out, then the weakness sure enough is. Weakness is true and real. I used to accuse the kid of faking his weakness. But faking proves the weakness is real. Or you wouldn't be so weak as to fake it. No, you can't ever fake being weak. You can only fake being strong. . .”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Time overlaps itself. A breath breathed from a passing breeze is not the whole wind, neither is it just the last of what has passed and the first of what will come, but is more--let me see--more like a single point plucked on a single strand of a vast spider web of winds, setting the whole scene atingle. That way; it overlaps...As prehistoric ferns grow from bathtub planters. As a shiny new ax, taking a swing at somebody's next year's split-level pinewood pad, bites all the way to the Civil War. As proposed highways break down through the stacked strata of centuries.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“To know a thing you have to trust what you know, and all that you know, and as far as you know in whatever direction your knowing drags you. I once had a pet pine squirrel named Omar who lived in the cotton secret and springy dark of our old green davenport; Omar knew that davenport; he knew from the Inside what I only sat on from the Out, and trusted his knowledge to keep from being squashed by my ignorance. He survived until a red plaid blanket--spread to camouflage the worn-out Outside--confused him so he lost his faith in his familiarity with the In. Instead of trying to incorporate a plaid exterior into the scheme of his world he moved to the rainspout at the back of the house and was drowned in the first fall shower, probably still blaming that blanket: damn this world that just won't hold still for us! Damn it anyway!”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Because sometimes the only way to keep from losing everything is to give everything up. Because sometimes strength must for the sake of winning give in to--”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“The best of all possible cages.' Ben stepped back to regard the job with a sad smile. 'What more can one ask?”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“He couldn't seem to get his teeth into anything. Except books. The things in books was darn near more real to him than the things breathing and eating.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“But a system made secure by the protective plating of humor and pretense always runs the risk of having its protection get out of hand. A relationship based on jokes invites jokes; jokes about anything -- and jokes about anything are now and then bound to cut too close to the truth.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“You might hide in some Freudian jungle most of your miserable life, baying at the moon and shouting curses at God, but at the end, right down there at the damned end when it counts... you would sure as anything clear up just enough to realize the moon you have spent so many years baying at is nothing but the light globe up there on the ceiling, and God is just something placed in your bureau drawer by the Gideon Society. Yes, I sighed again, in the long run insanity would be the same old coldhearted drag of too solid flesh, too many slings and arrows, and too much outrageous fortune.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“They think they know the book by its cover, but the book knows what it is. Now he knew better; if the book never opens up and comes out, it can be warped to fit the image others see.

. . .No, a book wasn't invulnerable to the appearance of its cover, not by any means.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“I could now (possibly) go back and restretch those shrunken hours, flake the images separate, arrange them in accurate chronological order, (possibly; with will-power, patience, and the proper chemicals) but being accurate is not necessarily being honest.... Nor is chronological reporting by any means always the most truthful (each camera has its own veracity) especially when, in all good faith, one cannot truthfully claim to remember what happened accurately....”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Down through the druid wood I saw Wildman join with Cleaver Creek, put on weight, exchange his lean and hungry look for one of more well-fed fanaticism. Then came Chichamoonga, the Indian Influence, whooping along with its banks war-painted with lupine and columbine. Then Dog Creek, then Olson Creek, then Weed Creek. Across a glacier-raked gorge I saw Lynx Falls spring hissing and spitting from her lair of fire-bright vine maple, claw the air with silver talons, then crash screeching into the tangle below. Darling Ida Creek slipped demurely from beneath a covered bridge to add her virginal presence, only to have the family name blackened immediately after by the bawdy rollicking of her brash sister, Jumping Nellie. There followed scores of relatives of various nationalities: White Man Creek, Dutchman Creek, Chinaman Creek, Deadman Creek, and even a Lost Creek, claiming with a vehement roar that, in spite of hundreds of other creeks in Oregon bearing the same name, she was the one and only original...Then Leaper Creek...Hideout Creek...Bossman Creek...I watched them one after another pass beneath their bridges to join in the gorge running alongside the highway, like members of a great clan marshaling into an army, rallying, swelling, marching to battle as the war chant became deeper and richer.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“. . .sometimes reading the same page over and over, until one sleepy afternoon something clicked, like a lock unlocking, and she saw those printed doors swing open on a vast house of words.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“You can make a mark across the night with the tip of an embered stick, and you can actually see it fixed in its finity. You can be absolutely sure of its treacherous impermanence. And that is all.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Man is certain of nothing but his ability to fail”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“The river split for the jump of a red-gilled silver salmon, then circled to mark the spot where it fell. Spoonbills shoveled at the crimson mud in the shallows, and dowitchers jumped from cattail to cattail, frantically crying "Kleek! Kleek!" as though the thin reeds were as hot as the pokers they resembled.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Which is just another way of blaming, and perhaps the best way, because there is solace and a certain stoical peace in blaming everything on the rain, and then blaming something as uncontrollable as the rain on something as indifferent as the Arm of the Lord.

Because nothing can be done about the rain except blaming. And if nothing can be done about it, why get yourself in a sweat about it?”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“One of the reasons for his drinking, Henry said, was John's mama used to make the whole family get down on their knees and pray like fury everytime John's daddy--Henry's first cousin, I believe--would come home boozed, and John never quite got it straight that they weren't thanking the good Lord for his blessing same as they did at the supper table. So according to Henry booze come to be sort of holy to him and with faith like that John grew up religious as a deacon.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Alarm, when used for anything less than a fire or an air attack, is certain to muddle the mind, unsettle the senses, and, in most cases, more than double the danger.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“They don't have to think. Just be afraid naturally and pulling together. Like specks of mercury rolling into the big piece. Like little specks of mercury rolling into bigger specks and then bigger and then just one piece, and nothing to be scared about or hurt about because you're just a piece of a bigger piece getting bigger rolling across the land into an ocean of mercury...”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Hank was walking barefoot up the dock, carrying his sweatshirt over a freckled shoulder and his boots clamped between thumb and finger of that maimed hand. Lee marveled at the scamper of small muscles across the narrow white back, at the swing of the arms and the lift of the neck. Did it take that much muscle just to walk, or was Hank showing off his manly development? Every moment constituted open aggression against the very air through which Hank passed. He doesn't just breathe, Lee decided, listening to Hank's broken-nosed puffing, he gobbles the oxygen. He doesn't just walk; he consumes distance step by carnivorous step. Open aggression is what it is all right, he concluded.

Yet couldn't help but notice the way those shoulders seemed to savor the swing of the arms, or the way those feel relished the feel of the dock. These people...am I one of these people?”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“The same old rain, and, if not welcomed, at least accepted—an old gray aunt who came to visit every winter and stayed till spring. You learn to live with her. You learn to reconcile yourself to the little inconveniences and not get annoyed. You remember she is seldom angry or vicious and nothing to get in a stew about, and if she is a bore and stays overlong you can train yourself not to notice her, or at least not to stew about her. Which”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Does one ever play Coltrane for the uninitiated without subconsciously hoping for the worst?”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Along the western slopes of the Oregon Coastal Range . . . come look: the hysterical crashing of tributaries as they merge into the Wakonda Auga River . . . The first little washes flashing like thick rushing winds through sheep sorrel and clover, ghost fern and nettle, sheering, cutting . . . forming branches. Then, through bear-berry and salmonberry, blueberry and blackberry, the branches crashing into creeks, into streams. Finally, in the foothills, through tamarack and sugar pine, shittim bark and silver spruce—and the green and blue mosaic of Douglas fir—”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“Cafe Owners are more frustrated than the common laborer," Draeger writes. "The common laborer answers only to the foreman; the cafe owner answers to every patron who stops in”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“That aunt of mine; boy, she used to wear make-up all week long so terrible thick that - well, she started about Wednesday layering it on, and she never washed, and every day she slapped down a new layer. Until Sunday. Then on Sunday she kind of peeled it off to go to church. *** Boy, she was a case; I used to hope she'd skip a Sunday - sleep through to Monday or something - because I knew two weeks' worth of make-up and she'd set up like a statue.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“You must go through a winter to understand.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


“there was nothing, not a thing! about the country that made a man feel Big And Important. If anything it made a man feel dwarfed, and about as important as one of the fish-Indians living down on the clamflats. Important? Why, there was something about the whole blessed country that made a soul feel whipped before he got started.”
― Ken Kesey, quote from Sometimes a Great Notion


About the author

Ken Kesey
Born place: in La Junta, Colorado, The United States
Born date September 17, 1935
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