Oregon’s Trail-blazers

Creative Commons License photo credit: eyeliam

I was so happy to see that Melanie Jones’s next choice is a state I have yet to cover: Oregon!

And the author she chose is the namesake of my brother’s dog, Kesey…  Enjoy!

Melanie Jones continues her series The Fifty States of Literature with Oregon and Ken Kesey’s classic novel Sometimes a Great Notion.

Lovely blue water of Crater Lake
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alaskan Dude

Best known for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey’s under-recognized Sometimes a Great Notion chronicles the times and misfortunes of the hard-headed Stamper family of Wakonda, Oregon. When union loggers go on strike, the Stamper family’s independent company not only continues production but attempts to make up the difference at the regional logging company, incurring the ire of union organizer Mr. Draeger and the ostracism of the town at large. The history behind this decision, and the politics within it, make up the bulk of Kesey’s novel, exploring this family of stubborn “migrants… a clan of skinny men inclining always towards itchy feet and idiocy [and] toward foolish roaming”. The Stamper obstinacy, illustrated by their family motto “Never Give an Inch”, is combated by a river that both gives life and is the greatest threat to the logging community. Swallowing up everything in its path but the Stamper homestead, patriarch Hank fights the current with an arsenal of broken planks, cables, and sand bags.

Stitched shot of Crater Lake from one of the pullouts (view on large)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alaskan Dude

Kesey’s greatest strength is his ability to take organic elements of Oregon and apply them to the Stamper history. Leland, Hank’s half-brother and perpetual misfit due to his intelligence and physical weakness, is fascinated with the Darlingtonia, a swamp plant trapped between no-man’s lands: “I stared at the stalk in my hand and it stared blindly back”. And of course, there is the fog, as part of Oregon as the rains accompanying it. “It drapes over the low branches of vine maple like torn remnants of a gossamer gown… eating at the yellow-grained planks with a white soft mouth. There is a quiet hiss, not unpleasant, as of someone pensively sucking”. In capturing both the tensions and the beauty of this fictional town, it’s little wonder that Notion is considered by many critics to be “the quintessential Northwestern novel”.

Stitched shot of Crater Lake from one of the pullouts (view on large)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alaskan Dude

Curious about what states we’ve done so far and which ones are on deck?

Photo by marxchivist

First, from Melanie Jones:

  • Alabama: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (check out my To Kill A Mockingbird Sample Kit!)
  • Michigan: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides
  • Alaska: The Man Who Swam With Beavers by Nancy Lord
  • Arizona: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  • North Dakota: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  • Vermont: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • Hawaii: Heads by Harry by Lois-ann Yamanaka
  • Georgia: Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones
  • Massachusettes: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
  • And I happily borrowed the collective wisdom of Omnivoracious for

    • Delaware: Marisa de los Santos (and W.D. Snodgrass, Robert Montgomery Bird, Jonathan Kellerman… they are choosing an author for every electoral vote…)

    And I went out on my own for…

  • Florida: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston
  • Minnesota: In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien
  • Wisconsin: When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton
  • Louisiana: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells (Jones’ pick) and The Awakening by Kate Chopin (my pick)
  • Colorado: Plainsong by Kent Haruf
  • Maryland: Anything by Anne Tyler
  • Georgia: Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • Ohio: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Arkansas: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Virginia: John Grisham
  • Idaho: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  • North Carolina: Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
  • Tennesee: Run by Ann Patchett
  • New Jersey: Anything by Janet Ivanovich
  • Texas: Anything by Elmer Kelton
  • Connecticut: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  • Montana: The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie
  • Utah: Edward Abbey
  • South Carolina: Pat Conroy
  • Iowa: Wallace Stegner
  • Pennsylvania: John Updike and James Michener
  • Missouri: Mark Twain
  • New Hampshire: Robert Frost
  • Kentucky: Robert Penn Warren
  • California: John Steinbeck
  • Wondering where your state is? Coming soon… In the meantime, weigh in on future picks!

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    3 Responses to Oregon’s Trail-blazers

    1. Kathy says:

      This sounds like an interesting series. Your reviews are great. =)

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