Editor’s Note: Those who follow the Points Interview series know that Joe Spillane has managed this aspect of the blog since our founding. While in today’s iteration we mourn Joe’s departure, we are also delighted to announce that Contributing Editor Ron Roizen has agreed to take over as our official interview steward. A member of the merry research staff at the Alcohol Research Group at “Berzerkeley” in the early 1970s, it’s fitting that his first Points Interview is a “Freaky Friday” confab with Mark Christensen, another denizen of the Wild West. In addition to publishing several novels, Christensen has written for Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Oregon Magazine. Here he graces Points with his replies to our series of probing interrogatives on Acid Christ: Ken Kesey, LSD, and the Politics of Ecstasy (Schaffner Press, 2010).
I was contacted by a former editor working for my eventual publisher, Tim Schaffner. Tim had an idea for a new kind of nonfiction book, a “shepherd and his sheep” biography in which the writer would tell the story of a major modern “culture changer” and the change the “shepherd” brought from the writer’s own perspective. As one of the sheep. That would be me. A former upper middle-class “suburban-urchin,” I’d written about counterculture icons like David Crosby, Richard Pryor and Paul Krassner for Rolling Stone and High Times and, so to speak, the paradise that was “pre-AIDS ‘Freak Freely’ America.” So I guess I was a good get.
As for the shepherd, larger than life Ken Kesey was an easy choice. By age 28 he had two critically acclaimed bestselling novels, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, a feat never bested by Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow or John Updike.