Book Review: The Further Inquiry by Ken Kesey

Publisher: Viking
Format: Hard cover, 215 p.
ISBN: 0-670-83174-3
Price $24.95

This is definitely not the first book you should read on the Great bus trip of 1964, because it requires some knowledge of the events that happened on that bus trip to enjoy the book. This is because this book kind of puts a spin on that story. It is like a photo album and a screen play of the bus trip. The twist here is the Pranksters find themselves at a trial of Neal Cassady's spirit and they have to testify about what happened on the bus trip. Knowing something about the personalities of the Pranksters helps you dig the story, because it's kind of like an inside joke. A good book to get a background for The Further Inquiry is The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.

Luckily, I was anything but a newbie when I got the book and understood the dialog just fine. There a few things that Kesey didn't explain well enough, like he didn't explain that the mysterious KEM machine was a flat-bed film editing table. I had just completed a film production class and knew about that but everyone I talked to about the book didn't understand that. It would have helped to have some illustrations of the equipment talked about in the court room.

I think the thing that makes this book work is the same thing that makes One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest work, well thought out satire. It is a funny story and it really cracked me up. It stirs up the Prankster in you. It reminds me of the trouble we had just trying to keep KCHU on the air. Trying to get 14 people across the country in an old un-airconditioned school bus that keeps breaking down is no easy matter, especially when people keep freaking out on LSD.

The pictures in the book help tell the story of the bus trip. Almost all of them are in color. Basically, the story goes from painting the bus to the things they did in New York. I've seen little coverage of what happened on the way back. One reason may have been that Cassady was not with them and another might be that they were out of LSD.

There are now at least three books that cover the bus trip. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test does a good job of telling the story but has no pictures. On the Bus differs in that several people tell different parts of the story and it has mostly black and white photos. Kesey's The Further Inquiry tells the story in Technicolor and in some cases, Day-Glo, making it a nice one to have around the pad when the subject of the bus trip comes up.

Copyright 1995, Colin Pringle