New Writing From the Northwestrnby Gregory McNameern”Every kind of writing is good save that which bores.”rn—^VoltairernSailor Songrnby Ken KeseyrnNew York: Viking; 533 pp., $23.50rnYoung Men and Firernby Norman MacleanrnChicago: University of Chicago Press;rn288 pp., $19.95rnNothing But Blue Skiesrnby Thomas McGuanernNew York: Seymour LawrencernHoughton Mifflin; 349 pp., $21.95rnThe Pacific Northwest of the UnitedrnStates, embracing Oregon,rnWashington, Idaho, and western Montana,rnhas long been a major source ofrnagricultural and mineral wealth. Forrngenerations it has also served as a centerrnfor the fine arts, but only recently has itrndone the same for literature. Since thernend of the Second Worid War, when tliernregion experienced rapid growth, arnloosely allied group of writers havernGregory McNamee is the author ofrnChrist on the Mount of Olivesrn(Broken Moon Press), a book ofrnshort stories.rnclaimed the Northwest’s places as theirrnown. The most visible of them havernbeen natives Richard Hugo, WilliamrnStafford, William Kittredge, NormanrnMaclean, Ken Kesey, Raymond Carver,rnIvan Doig, and James Welch, along withrntransplants like Annick Smith, Rick Bass,rnand Thomas McGuane.rnThese writers have collectively producedrna large shelf of books in the lastrntwo decades at, or so it seems, an everquickeningrnpace. Bass, for instance, anrnaccomplished young writer, is workingrnsimultaneously on 18 books, surely arnrecord for ambition. Soon after the publicationrnof his monumental anthologyrnof literature about Montana, I’he LastrnBest Place, William Kittredge completedrnhis newly released memoir Hole in thernSky, which seems destined to become arnstandard. Each season brings new offeringsrnfrom the flourishing Northwesternrnstates—which as recently as arndecade ago were considered, in thernwords of journalist Joel Garreau, “thernempty quarter.” The fall of 1992 boastsrnthree of special interest: Ken Kesey’srnlong-awaited novel Sailor Song, NormanrnMaclean’s Young Men and Fire, andrnThomas McGuane’s Nothing But BluernSkies.rnKen Kesey, a native of Oregon, achievedrnnotoriety three decades ago as the leaderrnof the so-called Merry Pranksters,rndrug-devouring free spirits who prefiguredrnthe rise of hippiedom in all its gloriesrnand excesses. Before diving into therncounterculture, however, Kesey had publishedrntwo astonishingly strong novels.rnSometimes a Great Notion and One FlewrnOver the Cuckoo’s Nest, both of whichrnremain classics of postwar American fiction.rnSidetracked by LSD and self-absorption,rnKesey failed to follow up onrnthat early promise, and his writing hasrnbeen only marginal for thirty years. Hisrnsprawling new novel concerns a PacificrnCoast town full of old hippies who havernbeen stewing over the rape of the environmentrnand the collapse of constitutionalrnvirtues. They decide to strikernback, and Kesey’s story wends its leisurelyrnway to a sort of goofy apocalyptic ending.rnThe book aches with nostalgia for thernI960’s. Its epigraph is taken from a lyricrnby Leonard Cohen, the poet of gloomrnand doom; the novel’s resident rockrnband is called the Dreadful Great, arntransparent twist on the group that providedrnatmosphere for Kesey’s legendaryrnLSD fiestas of three decades past; itsrncharacters sport weird hippie names likernLouise Loop, Billy Bellisaurius, Alice thernDECEMBER 1992/33rnrnrn