EUGENE, Ore. — The collected papers of novelist Ken Kesey, including drafts of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion,” will remain at the University of Oregon.
President Michael Gottfredson has agreed to add $1 million to about $400,000 in donations from fans of the writer so the university can buy the papers from the Kesey family and the collection can stay at the school’s Knight Library.
“There’s an incredible and widespread feeling that this is our cultural and literary heritage and we had to have it here,” libraries Dean Deb Carver told the Eugene Register-Guard.
Some had feared a well-heeled university, such as Stanford, where Kesey studied writing with Wallace Stegner, might swoop in to buy the 121-box collection.
The fundraising drive included a tie-dye theme doughnut with a sugar cube atop from Voodoo Doughnuts, the Portland company with a store in Eugene.
Carver said that drew attention and donations, but the flow of $25 donations was too slow for that alone to fulfill the university’s agreement with the family to complete the sale within two years.
“It would have taken a long, long, long, time,” Carver said.
Kesey graduated from the school in 1957. His most famous books, “Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Great Notion,” were published in 1962 and 1964.
He had moved to Oregon from Colorado at age 11 and except for forays such as the Merry Pranksters journeys, spent much of his life in Lane County. He died in 2001.
The papers will be available to students and scholars, but the Kesey family retains copyright rights.
The collection holds typewritten and handwritten manuscripts, journals, artwork, photographs, correspondence and personal papers that Kesey produced from 1960 until his death.
The university’s special collections department had stored many documents for the author — including letters from Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady — for as long as three decades.
“We were always terrified that the barn that we lived in — it was filled with hay and stuff — would burn down,” Kesey’s son Zane said Monday.
The university also agreed to keep Kesey’s diaries closed and confidential for 50 years.