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Can't Get on the Bandwagon -- Sorry!
am 22. April 2000
This is a modern masterpiece, or so I've heard, many times, from various sources. So I gave it EVERY CHANCE in the world. But I have to be honest, I found it an utterly shallow raving about how the "modern matriarchy" [whatever that is] has "cut off men's balls". I read a bunch of reviews that hail this book as subtle and insightful and say that it really challenged stereotypes and drew characters fully and sympathetically. I thought it was quite the opposite. The characters were flat, two-dimensional, and predictable. The rambunctious, "life-loving" hearty male. The repressive, bureaucratic older woman emasculating the poor men in her charge. The sympathies were clear. The "good" characters, even when they raped teenage girls, were simply expressing their zest for life. The bad character was so bad that no one could even "get it up for her".
The only thing "new" was the recognition that the mentally ill were human beings worthy of basic dignity. I'm not even sure that that view was (in 1962) quite as radical as everyone is making it out to be. It was more like a mid-century trend to reconceive deviance.
And please, those of you snapping up to write a knee-jerk response chiding me for "political correctness", desist! All I am saying is that I doubt an author purporting to expose stereotypes serves his work well by resorting to yet more stereotypes with such gusto. Kesey could have made the UNSYMPATHETIC characters more human.