Vanessa V. Friedman
July 22, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Last Go Round

Current Status
In Season
Ken Babbs, Ken Kesey

We gave it a B+

When Ken Kesey, that Beat hero of the ’60s and ’70s, was a teen, his father told him a story about three cowboys and a 1911 rodeo in Oregon. Now, along with his collaborator Ken Babbs(the author of the Beat chronicle On the Bus), Kesey has re-created the tale, Last Go Round. Actually, he has made up most of it: ”The best way to summon up these spirits is not by combing through the musty archives, but by studying the shadows they still cast across the years.” The spirits are George Fletcher, a black man with an incredible grin, a boundless good nature, and a handmade barrel in his home; Jackson Sundown, a Native American with a taciturn mien and perfect grooming; and Johnathan E. Lee Spain, a know-nothing kid just out of Tennessee. The three meet while hopping a train to the rodeo. Once they arrive, Buffalo Bill Cody makes an appearance, as do fictional and not-so-fictional individuals, and ultimately Fletcher, Sundown, and Spain face off in a quest for the bull-riding crown. It’s a breezy kind of book; it makes no deep philosophical claims on its reader; it doesn’t challenge. And its light touch makes going along for the ride easy. B+

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