— Ken Kesey novelist 1935 - 2001
The Paris Review interview (1994)
Kontext: Kerouac had lots of class — stumbling drunk in the end, but read those last books. He never blames anybody else; he always blames himself. If there is a bad guy, it’s poor old drunk Jack, stumbling around. You never hear him railing at the government or railing at this or that. He likes trains, people, bums, cars. He just paints a wonderful picture of Norman Rockwell’s world. Of course it’s Norman Rockwell on a lot of dope.
Jack London had class. He wasn’t a very good writer, but he had tremendous class. And nobody had more class than Melville. To do what he did in Moby-Dick, to tell a story and to risk putting so much material into it. If you could weigh a book, I don’t know any book that would be more full. It’s more full than War and Peace or The Brothers Karamazov. It has Saint Elmo’s fire, and great whales, and grand arguments between heroes, and secret passions. It risks wandering far, far out into the globe. Melville took on the whole world, saw it all in a vision, and risked everything in prose that sings. You have a sense from the very beginning that Melville had a vision in his mind of what this book was going to look like, and he trusted himself to follow it through all the way.