Shelves: phenomenal , read after reading: Oh my. Oh my goodness what an incredible book. Absolutely stunning. Sometimes A Great Notion which, btw, gets its title from the Ledbelly song "Goodnight Irene" is the story of the Stamper family, renegade loggers in Oregon in maybe the fifties. There has been a lifelong and mostly unspoken rivalry between the brothers, but because the Stampers have run afoul of the logging union, Hank and Joe Ben write to Leland, asking him to come back home to help make a big run. The other important thing is that the entire town despises the Stampers.
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Shelves: phenomenal , read after reading: Oh my. Oh my goodness what an incredible book. Absolutely stunning. Sometimes A Great Notion which, btw, gets its title from the Ledbelly song "Goodnight Irene" is the story of the Stamper family, renegade loggers in Oregon in maybe the fifties. There has been a lifelong and mostly unspoken rivalry between the brothers, but because the Stampers have run afoul of the logging union, Hank and Joe Ben write to Leland, asking him to come back home to help make a big run.
The other important thing is that the entire town despises the Stampers. Everyone has always hated the Stampers anyway, because they are big and strong and stubborn and put everyone else to shame, and now the whole town is seriously turning against them. Now look. That encapsulation is not only horribly unjust a book of this magnitude deserves much more than a paltry surface summation like that , but also is likely to turn off your average modern reader.
I know, I know, an entire novel about logging in the country? And a boring union struggle with a bunch of backwoods hicks? But listen, there is so much more than that here.
Above all, this is a book about people, filled with some of the most fascinating and deeply drawn characters I have come across in a terribly long time. And those are just the incidental characters. The complicated ways these people love each other, the intricate ways they fuck each other up Because I will tell you right now, this book made me cry. Not just cry but sob. In public. On the fucking subway. It crept into my dreams, the way really intense movies do, I kept repeating lines to myself and my friends, re-examining scenes I had read days ago to smooth them out and polish them and find in them more beauty and meaning and truth.
And listen: Kesey is not without his own literary machinations. For example, he manages to tell the story from several points of view. At once. As in, in the same paragraph there would be three "I"s: one in italics, one in parentheses, and one in regular type.
But where with a modern-day irnoicist, this might come of as metafictional gimicry, here it felt not only smooth and effective, but necessary.
Because everyone is thinking all the time, right? And all these characters have rich internal lives to match their rich outer ones, and so a major climactic scene needs to be told by everyone at once, just like it happens. Each narrative augments and enhances the other, making for a stunningly complete picture. One drawback I did notice was the womenfolk. These stoic, complicated, multifaceted men were unfortunately not graced by the presence of equally complex women; most of the ladies in the book were shrewish, mute, or dead though the dead were often even more powerful forces than the living.
The only truly developed gal was Viv, and she was not nearly as thoroughly done as any of the men. One of her central decisions, one of the axes on which the entire plot turned, I found completely unfounded, unjustified, and almost insulting.
Ultimately that was not nearly enough to seriously detract from this utterly amazing story. I cannot remember the last time I was so thoroughly knocked out by a novel. I cannot believe how much this affected me. While reading this book for pleasure, I am also proofing an erotic vampire romance novel for work I wish that was a lie. And you would think that the stark contrast between, you know, amateur silliness and a serious work of literature would bring this book into absolute focus.
Sometimes a Great Notion
Plot[ edit ] The story centers on the Stamper family, a hard-headed logging clan in the fictional town of Wakonda, Oregon, in the early s. The union loggers in the town of Wakonda go on strike in demand of the same pay for shorter hours in response to the decreasing need for labor. The Stamper family, however, owns and operates a small family company without unions and decides to continue work as well as supply the regionally owned mill with all the timber the laborers would have supplied had the strike not occurred. This decision, and the surrounding details of the decision, are deeply explored in this multilayered historical background and relationship study, especially in its examination of the members of the Stamper Family: Henry Stamper, the old, politically and socially conservative and half-crazed patriarch whose motto "Never Give a Inch! The family house itself manifests the physical stubbornness of the Stamper family; as the nearby river widens slowly and causes erosion, all the other houses on the river have either been consumed or wrecked by the waters or moved away from the current, except the Stamper house, which stands on a precarious peninsula struggling to maintain every inch of land with the help of an arsenal of boards, sand bags, cables, and other miscellaneous items brandished by Henry Stamper in his fight against the encroaching river. All of these qualities are exhibited, in even higher degree, in Sometimes a Great Notion. Here he has told a fascinating story in a fascinating way.
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