cover image Demon Box

Demon Box

Ken Kesey. Viking Books, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-670-80912-7

The central theme running through this collection of stories (many of which seem to be primarily nonfiction with elements of fiction thrown in) by the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the struggle to come to terms with the legacy of the 1960s. Kesey draws largely on his own experiences after returning to his Oregon farm following a brief stint in prison on drug charges. A series of tales, apparently sections from a novel in progress, star an alter-ego named Devlin Deboree: his relatively tranquil post-jail farm existence is disturbed both by memories of now-dead companions and the seemingly extinct passions of the '60s, and by burned-out refugees from that era who intermittently arrive on his doorstep, hoping for some sort of help from the most famous survivor of the psychedelic wars. Pieces on visiting Egypt and covering a Chinese marathon examine the complex relationship between Americans and people from other cultures. Kesey's distinctive gift with language and tough sense of humor unify this somewhat disorganized collection, and his elegy for the passing of the mad energy of the '60s will strike a responsive chord with all those who lived through those dangerous, liberating years. 30,000 first printing; BOMC and QPBC alternates. (August 18)