Sunday, September 30, 2012

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: Banned Book Review and GIVEAWAY!

Today is the start of Banned Book Week 2012!  According to the American Library Association, this is what constitutes a challenged or banned book:

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.

Sheila at Book Journey organized this Banned Book Week Celebration as a way to honor these banned and challenged books.  If you go through the list of books that fall into these categories, I'm sure you'll be amazed to see so many classics (and some of your favorites!) mentioned.

As part of this week's celebrations, I chose to read a banned book that I've been meaning to get to for quite some time--One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey.  This 1962 release has been banned and challenged many times over the years, most recently in 2000 in a California school district (check out the full list/reasons here).  But please excuse me while I stick it to the man* and give you my full review here.


Summary from Goodreads:

An international bestseller and the basis for a hugely successful film, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was one of the defining works of the 1960s. A mordant, wickedly subversive parable set in a mental ward, the novel chronicles the head-on collision between its hell-raising, life-affirming hero Randle Patrick McMurphy and the totalitarian rule of Big Nurse. McMurphy swaggers into the mental ward like a blast of fresh air and turns the place upside down, starting a gambling operation, smuggling in wine and women, and egging on the other patients to join him in open rebellion. But McMurphy's revolution against Big Nurse and everything she stands for quickly turns from sport to a fierce power struggle with shattering results.

My Review:

I was immediately struck by how appropriate this choice was for Banned Book Week, because it deals strongly with themes of social norms, conformism, and government power.  Throughout the book, McMurphy and his band of friends in the asylum become a force to be reckoned with by Nurse Ratched and the other members of the "Combine" (a term to describe the society at large forcing them to conform to "normal" ways of living).  Some of their antics are downright hilarious.  McMurphy is the most unlikely hero you could imagine for a novel.  A big, violent, undereducated, profane criminal...and yet, you find yourself rooting for him all the way to the last page.  I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm dying to see how Jack Nicholson took to this role.

The novel is narrated by Chief Bromden, another patient on the ward with McMurphy.  Bromden, assumed deaf and dumb by all the staff and patients for many years, is in fact quite coherent of all the goings-on around the hospital.  He has his own history of fighting the power--his family's Indian tribe was "bought out" by the government some years ago, in order to move them and make room for new developers.  However, it isn't until McMurphy arrives on the ward that Bromden (and many of the others) are able to find the strength to live as themselves, despite what society tells them is "normal".

Does this book deal with some uncomfortable subjects?  Yes.  Prostitution, sex, violence, drug use, and profanity abound.  But they aren't thrown in willy-nilly--they all tie back to the central themes of the novel.  At the last page, I felt blown away by how well Kesey got his message across--and that would not have been the case if those details were not included.  But they are discussion tools, not ends in themselves.

I wouldn't say this one has a happy ending per se, but it does illustrate how fighting the establishment, while not easy, can lead to small, important victories over time.  It's a great read, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it!

So, GIVEAWAY TIME!  Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win:
-Your own new paperback copy of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, plus
-a very cool bookmark that includes a quote from George Eliot (another banned book author). 
 
Giveaway closes at the end of Banned Book Week, so sign up now!  US/Canada residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*A lot has already been said about banned books over the years, but I want to include my soapbox entry too. Do you dislike the content of a certain book? Do you think it's inappropriate for your children to read? Great. Then you can choose not to read it, and you can have discussions with your children about why they should wait to read it. (Even better--read it with them, and then discuss it together!!) But thinking you have the right to ban others from it as well? The very idea boggles my mind.  The world is not full of fairy tales, and it's naive to expect the same from our books.

24 comments:

  1. I've always wondered about this book and what a great review you did! I will definitely have to put it up closer to the top of my TBR.

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  2. This is one of the classics on my list to be read. I am definitely interested in. Great review and giveaway!

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  3. this book is memorable, unique and wonderful. Many thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  4. This is one of my all-time favorite books! This book should be required reading for all high school seniors.

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  5. Saw the movie but have never read the book.

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  6. I agree Ryan, this would be amazing reading for older high school kids!

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  7. I have never read this one or watched the movie... can you believe that? But I want to! Thanks for a great giveaway and a great review!

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  8. Oh and favorite banned books are the Harry Potter books.... LOVE THEM!

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  9. I loved this book when I read it as a sophomore in high school. I did feel myself rooting for the protagonist too. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I've heard good things about it.

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  10. well this certainly sounds interesting. Thanks for enlightening me to this book. I love books about controversial topics with a good story. if we can't read about them and if we can't talk about them, what can we do?

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  11. I haven't read the book, but I saw a theatrical production of it at the local university some years back. Quite interesting.

    Nice to see another blogger celebrating Banned Books Week! I highlighted Crank, by Ellen Hopkins.

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  12. LOVE Harry Potter!! :) And I'll have to check out Crank as well.

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  13. I haven't had the chance to read this book yet, but the movie had a really strong impact on my young mind when I first saw it...and again when I watched it as an adult. I will certainly read the book someday!

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  14. I love the first line under "My Review" -- it speaks volumes. I loved this novel, which I read in high school, and the movie adaptation is just as good. Excellent review!

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  15. I cannot believe that I haven't read this book :( I need to, and soon! Thanks for the kick I needed. Thanks for the giveaway too!

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  16. I've always wanted to read this but never got around to it. Thanks for the give away.

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  17. I haven't read it either! I "borrowed" it from my mother five(?) years ago (likely more...) and it has just sat. Loved the movie, though. Thanks for the great post!

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  18. I haven't read this one yet, but it's on my TBR list!
    Some of my favorites from the Banned Book list include the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series.

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  19. I haven't read it. My favorite banned books are Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird.

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  20. I really need to read Gone With The Wind...it's been on my to-read list FOREVER!

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  21. Ive never read it. Always wanted to. But my fav banned is The Awakening.

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  22. I haven't read this book but would love to win a copy and try it! I loved The Giver by Lois Lowry and all of the Hunger Games trilogy! Thanks for this great post and giveaway!

    Suz Reads

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  23. great book. I completely agree that the controversial topics that caused Cuckoo's Nest to be banned in the first place are totally necessary, and add to the poignancy of the book. I think people are offended by and shy away from it because it's so honest.

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    Replies
    1. Agreed. I actually just saw the movie for the first time and felt similarly. It deals with a lot of uncomfortable subjects, but they are absolutely worth talking about.

 
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