This is a book which courts the dangers of two extremes. It can be taken not seriously enough or, more likely, critical climate considered, too seriously. Kesey's first novel is narrated by a half-Indian schizophrenic who has withdrawn completely by feigning deaf-muteness. It is set in a mental ward ruled by Big Nurse -- a monumental matriarch who keeps her men in line by some highly original disciplinary measures: Nursey doesn't spank, but oh that electric shock treatment! Into the ward swaggers McMurphy, a lusty gambling man with white whales on his shorts and the psychology of unmarried nurses down to a science. He leads the men on to a series of major victories, including the substitution of recent issues of Nugget and Playboy for some dated McCall's. The fatuity of hospital utilitarianism, that alcohol-swathed brand of idiocy responsible for the custom of waking patients from a deep sleep in order to administer barbiturates, is countered by McMurphy's simple, articulate, logic. This is a thoroughly enthralling, brilliantly tempered novel, peopled by at least two unforgettable characters. (Big Nurse is custom tailored for a busty Eileen Heckert.) Though extension is possible, make no mistake about it; this is a ward and not a microcosm.