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All the King's Men is a 1946 novel by Robert Penn Warren. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty". The novel tells the story of charismatic populist governor Willie Stark and his political machinations in the Depression-era Deep South. It is commonly thought to have been loosely inspired by the real-life story of U.S. Senator Huey P. Long, who was assassi All the King's Men is a 1946 novel by Robert Penn Warren. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty". The novel tells the story of charismatic populist governor Willie Stark and his political machinations in the Depression-era Deep South. It is commonly thought to have been loosely inspired by the real-life story of U.S. Senator Huey P. Long, who was assassinated in 1935. Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for All the King's Men in 1947. The novel has received critical acclaim and remained perennially popular since its first publication. It was rated the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, and it was chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 best novels since 1923. All the King's Men portrays the dramatic and theatrical political rise and governorship of Willie Stark, a cynical populist in the 1930s American South.


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All the King's Men is a 1946 novel by Robert Penn Warren. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty". The novel tells the story of charismatic populist governor Willie Stark and his political machinations in the Depression-era Deep South. It is commonly thought to have been loosely inspired by the real-life story of U.S. Senator Huey P. Long, who was assassi All the King's Men is a 1946 novel by Robert Penn Warren. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty". The novel tells the story of charismatic populist governor Willie Stark and his political machinations in the Depression-era Deep South. It is commonly thought to have been loosely inspired by the real-life story of U.S. Senator Huey P. Long, who was assassinated in 1935. Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for All the King's Men in 1947. The novel has received critical acclaim and remained perennially popular since its first publication. It was rated the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, and it was chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 best novels since 1923. All the King's Men portrays the dramatic and theatrical political rise and governorship of Willie Stark, a cynical populist in the 1930s American South.

30 review for All the King's Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud." Robert Penn Warren Robert Penn Warren is the only person to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction as well as poetry. He won the prize for fiction in 1946 for this very book. If you are lucky enough to have a great aunt who reads, and bought a lot of books in the 1940s, you might take a gander at her books some time and see if she has a first edition, first printing of this book "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud." Robert Penn Warren Robert Penn Warren is the only person to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction as well as poetry. He won the prize for fiction in 1946 for this very book. If you are lucky enough to have a great aunt who reads, and bought a lot of books in the 1940s, you might take a gander at her books some time and see if she has a first edition, first printing of this book in her library. First edition, First printing of the 1946 edition Depending on the condition of the dust jacket a true first will bring anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000. It will be up to you; if you decide to "liberate" the book, tucking it under your shirt, and sneaking it out with the paper bag of home made oatmeal cookies she always sends you home with. If you are not a natural felon you might just say "hey auntie couldn't you tuck this in a safety deposit box and put my name on it". The last time I was in New Orleans they were shooting the new movie version of All the King's Men. We sat in a little cafe across from where they were setting up a shoot hoping for a glimpse of one of the marquee actors involved in the production. No luck, just film crew people bustling around trying to build a street scene. We were anxious to explore the little bookshops and artist galleries in the French Quarter, so we left before seeing anything truly interesting. I have not seen the 1949 or 2006 film versions. From the reviews I skimmed, both movies seem to struggle to capture the true essence of the book. I'm not surprised, even if they put the book through a small holed strainer, they would still have way more material than what a standard length movie can handle. 1949 Movie Poster 2006 Movie Poster Jack Burden, newspaper reporter, finds himself following around an ambitious, well meaning, but naive candidate named Willie Stark. A man hand picked to split the vote in the primary and insure the nomination of the customary corrupt, crony, politician that Louisiana is famous for. Stark is the only person who is unaware that the fix is on. He is stumping and receiving discouraging indifference from his crowds as he tries to tell them the truth. As he finds himself on the ropes more than he is in the ring, he starts to understand that to be successful he will have to give the crowds what they want. He replaces substance with hyperbole, and Burden observes the emergence of a candidate and the corruption of an honest man. Warren based Stark on the dynamic personage of Louisiana governor Huey P. Long. Huey P. Long Burden soon finds himself unemployed, but Stark always liked him and gave him a prominent position on his staff. Stark, though soundly defeated, uses the time between elections to become a polished orator and electable candidate. Burden studied for a history degree in college and believes from his studies that truth will always win out. As he becomes more ensnared in the shady activities of Governor Stark's administration he starts to stumble over his own high ideas of the worthiness of truth. He tries to convince himself that he just does what the boss wants him to do. What the boss does with the information he brings him has nothing to do with him, but the longer he is involved, and the more people he knows who become victims of Stark's ambition the less distance he can claim. "I didn't mean to cause any ruckus. I didn't think--" And all the while that cold, unloving part of the mind--that maiden aunt, that washroom mirror the drunk stares into, that still small voice, that maggot in the chess of your self-esteem, that commentator on the ether nightmare, that death's-head of lipless rationality at your every feast--all that while that part of the mind was saying: You're making it worse, your lying is just making it worse, can't you shut up, you blabbermouth!" Burden is in love with Anne Stanton, his childhood friend and the daughter of a previous governor. Briefly they are an item and then they drift apart. Burden marries Lois, the woman who has the "peach bloom of cheeks, the pearly ripe but vigorous bosom, the supple midriff, the brooding, black, velvety-liquid eyes, the bee-stung lips, the luxurious thighs." Despite these attributes they have different goals and different ambitions and the elephant in the room is the fact that Jack is still in love with Anne. He becomes close friends with Anne again. He can't help but make allusions to the fact that his marriage proposal is still on the table. Even though she is 35 and never been married she continues to dance around the issue. Burden can't ever see her as just a friend. "It was Anne Stanton herself, who stood there in the cool room of the looking glass, above the bar barricade of bright bottles and siphons across some distance of blue carpet, a girl--well, not exactly a girl any more, a young woman about five-feet-four with the trimmest pair of nervous ankles and smallish hips which, however, looked as round as though they had been turned on a lathe, and a waist just the width to make you wonder if you could span it with your hand, and all of this done up in a swatch of gray flannel which pretended to a severe mannish cut but actually did nothing but scream for attention to some very unmannish arrangements within." Stark still sees himself as one of the good guys despite the number of men he has felt compelled to destroyed. He came to the conclusion that it was better to destroy them than to bribe them. If he bribes them he still has to keep those untrustworthy associates in his organization. If he destroys them they can no longer thwart his ambitious aims. He is on a self-imposed mission to use the corrupt system, but use it for good. "Goodness. Yeah, just plain, simple goodness. Well you can't inherit that from anybody. You got to make it. If you want it. And you got to make it out of badness. Badness. And you know why? Because there isn't anything else to make it out of." When Burden experiences the ultimate betrayal it hit me like a left hook coming out of the smokey darkness of an Oklahoma bar. I never saw it coming and I had to stagger away from the book for a while. Jack took 8 days and ran away to California. I took thirty minutes to go stand out on my deck and let some fresh air sort my scattered thoughts. There is a whole marvelous section on Cass Mastern, Jack's relative, who provides a colorful history for Jack to research for his PHD. I almost need a separate review to handle the intricate betrayals explored by Warren in that section. I notice that the departure from the main story line bothered other reviewers. I just thought I'd been handed another thick seam of gold to be mined. I like history and I especially like family history, so I didn't mind the story in the story at all. Political cynicism wrapped in lyrical prose makes this one of the more fascinating books I've read in many, many years. It is an honest book, exposing all the worst elements of human behavior. We are so good at fooling ourselves into thinking that when we do wrong for the greater good we are still on the side of the angels. Highly recommended!! If anyone has any political novels that they love, and feel I should read, please send me your recommendations. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    “For this is the country where the age of the internal combustion engine has come into its own. Where every boy is Barney Oldfield, and the girls wear organdy and batiste and eyelet embroidery and no panties on account of the climate and have smooth little faces to break your heart and when the wind of the car's speed lifts up their hair at the temples you see the sweet little beads of perspiration nestling there, and they sit low in the seat with their little spines crooked and their bent knees “For this is the country where the age of the internal combustion engine has come into its own. Where every boy is Barney Oldfield, and the girls wear organdy and batiste and eyelet embroidery and no panties on account of the climate and have smooth little faces to break your heart and when the wind of the car's speed lifts up their hair at the temples you see the sweet little beads of perspiration nestling there, and they sit low in the seat with their little spines crooked and their bent knees high toward the dashboard and not too close together for the cool, if you call it that, from the hood ventilator. Where the smell of gasoline and burning brake bands and redeye is sweeter than myrrh. Where the eight-cylinder jobs come roaring around the curves in the red hills and scatter the gravel like spray, and when they ever get down in the flat country and hit the new slab, God have mercy on the mariner…” - Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men Look, I understand that you may not want to read a political novel right now, especially not one about a populist demagogue who harnesses the rage of the people to gain power, while engaging in no small amount of corruption. But here’s a little secret about Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Despite its reputation, it really isn’t about politics at all. It’s about a man searching for himself by sifting back through history – his own and his family’s – and discovering a bit about the skeletons that live in the past, yet still haunt the present. However you classify it, you should know this: All the King’s Men is a damn good read. It is, in fact, one of my favorite books. Funnily enough, that makes it hard to talk about. It’s easy to explain the things about a book you did not like. Poorly-drawn characters, lazy plotting, and clueless pacing are simple to highlight. It’s much harder to express appreciation or even love, because so much of that is tangled up in an emotional response that can be intensely personal. I first read All the King’s Men at a turning point in my life. I had just passed the bar exam, I was engaged to be married, and I was weeks away from my first real job. It was in that heady environment that Penn Warren’s classic first came into my hands. To be honest, at that moment in time, I’d probably give a five-star rating to an Arby’s menu. Thus, it’s a bit hard for me to separate the objective from the subjective in formulating a review. In fact, instead of scratching out my thoughts, it’d be far easier to simply strip naked and run around the block screaming Robert Penn Warren’s many virtues at the top of my lungs. Since local law enforcement has asked me to stop doing that, I’ll try to put it into complete sentences. All the King’s Men is a novel about local politics, back room deals, and bombastic speeches; it is about greed and corruption, secrets and lies, vendettas and murder; it is about the dreams of youth, the realities of age, and love. At the center of this gloriously overstuffed novel is Willie Stark, who Penn Warren based on Louisiana’s Huey “the Kingfish” Long. When All the King’s Men opens, Stark is a small-time politico in an unnamed southern state who is tapped by the local Democratic bosses to run for governor. Unbeknownst to Willie, he has been asked to run in order to split the so-called “rube vote.” When Willie finds out he's been duped, he gets angry, and sets out to campaign as a vengeful populist with nothing to lose. Over time, and with a plot contrivance or two, Willie climbs the ladder to real power, able to do good things like building roads and schools and hospitals. A real man of the people. Unfortunately, for Willie, his definition of “man” is not altogether sparkling, as expressed in his famous motto: Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the diddy to the stench of the shroud. While the larger-than-life Willie gets top billing, he is not actually the central personage of Penn Warren’s opus. Indeed, All the King’s Men is about Willie Stark in the same way that Moby Dick was about Ahab. Stark, like Ahab, is the center of gravity, but not necessarily the focus. The story flows through them but is not necessarily about them. Instead, the main character here is really Jack Burden, the first-person narrator of All the King’s Men. It is Jack with whom we spend most of our time. It is through Jack, a natural cynic, that we gain our perceptions of Willie as an increasingly ambitious, unstoppable force: “So you work for me because you love me,” the Boss said. “I don't know why I work for you, but it's not because I love you. And not for money.” “No,” he said, standing there in the dark, “you don't know why you work for me. But I know...” “Why?” I asked. “Boy,” he said, “you work for me because I'm the way I am and you're the way you are. It is an arrangement founded on the nature of things.” Jack, like Melville’s Ishmael, has a lot to say. Unlike Ishmael, Jack is actually interesting most of the time. He is a former history student who begins the novel as a journalist and later joins Willie’s campaign. If I’m being honest, he’s a bit of a navel-gazing narcissist, with a penchant for long, digressionary detours that force you to pay close attention. For all the side-paths and narrative excursions, which see Jack putting together the mysteries of his youth, I was never less than fully engaged. The reason – and the determining factor in whether you love or hate this novel (there seems to be no in-between – is Penn Warren’s distinctive style. He was a poet by trade – the nation’s first poet laureate, actually – and his writing takes on certain cadences, like poetry, that had an effect on me that I felt but cannot accurately describe. One element that jumps out are his long, detail-packed sentences, filled with rhythm and repetition, sentences that start one way, seem to veer off, then loop back to their origin. It can be exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I don’t like overwritten books, but though this came close at times, it always stayed on the right side of the line. All the King’s Men is a novel that is more than a bit skeptical of the realities of American politics. Every bit of good in Willie is balanced by a bit of bad. The constant horse trading, in which ideals have less currency that expediencies, holds true today. Yet for all that, there is also more than a strain of unabashed sentimentalism in All the King’s Men. For all its uncertainty about politicians, it is more sure about humans in general. There is, for example, a beautiful passage where Jack is ruminating about falling in love: [F]or when you get in love you are made all over again. The person who loves you has picked you out of the great mass of uncreated clay which is humanity to make something out of, and the poor lumpish clay which is you wants to find out what it has been made into. But at the same time, you, in the act of loving somebody, become real, cease to be part of the continuum of the uncreated clay and get the breath of life in you and rise up. So you create yourself by creating another person, who, however, has also created you, picked up the you-chunk of clay out of the mass. So there are two you's, the one you yourself create by loving and the one the beloved creates by loving you. The farther these two you's are apart the more the world grinds and grudges on its axis. But if you loved and were loved perfectly then there wouldn't be any difference between the two you's or any distance between them. They would coincide perfectly, there would be perfect focus, as when a stereoscope gets the twin images on the card into perfect alignment. It is a surprising bit of writing to find in a book that has been sold – since the time it was first published – as a bracingly cleareyed look at the dark side of democracy. To be sure, Penn Warren does not neglect that angle, and All the King’s Men is both a very particular Roman à clef about Huey Long, and also a general indictment of the political process as a whole, where gaining power requires convincing a bunch of people that you are what they want you to be. All the King’s Men, however, has achieved its timelessness because it is far more than a fictionalized version of a New Deal-era public servant who lost his way. It is a novel filled with ornate prose and memorable passages and excellent dialogue, and which is populated by characters that are hard to forget. Though it is sometimes as slow as a summer afternoon in the deep south, it creates a world that you are in no real hurry to leave.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren All the King's Men is a novel by Robert Penn Warren first published in 1946. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. In 1947, Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for All the King's Men. It was adapted for a film in 1949 and 2006; the 1949 version won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is rated as the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, and it was chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 best novels. All the King's Men portra All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren All the King's Men is a novel by Robert Penn Warren first published in 1946. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. In 1947, Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for All the King's Men. It was adapted for a film in 1949 and 2006; the 1949 version won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is rated as the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, and it was chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 best novels. All the King's Men portrays the dramatic and theatrical political rise and governorship of Willie Stark, a cynical, liberal populist in the American South during the 1930's. The novel is narrated by Jack Burden, a political reporter who comes to work as Governor Stark's right-hand man. The trajectory of Stark's career is interwoven with Jack Burden's life story and philosophical reflections: "the story of Willie Stark and the story of Jack Burden are, in one sense, one story." تاریخ خوانش نسخه اصلی: روز یازدهم سال2007میلادی عنوان: همه مردان پادشاه؛ نویسنده رابرت پن وارن ؛ مترجم: یوسف سلیمان‌ سالم؛ تهران: نشر تیسا، سال 1397؛ در570ص؛ شابک9786006662046؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م کتاب «تمام مردان شاه» اثری از: «رابرت پن وارن» است؛ برای نخستین بار در سال1946میلادی منتشر شده، و عنوان آن برگرفته از اشعار کودکان، و شعری به نام «هامتی دامتی» است؛ در سال1947میلادی «وارن» برای نگارش این کتاب، «جایزه ی پولیتزر» را به دست آوردند، از این کتاب فیلم‌هایی در سال1949میلادی و سال2006میلادی اقتباس شده اند، فیلم نسخه ی سال1949میلادی این اثر، برنده ی جایزه ی اسکار بهترین فیلم سال شد، کتاب به عنوان سی و ششمین اثر برگزیده، از بهترین رمان‌های سده ی بیستم میلادی از سوی کتابخانه ی مدرن برگزیده شد، مجله ی «تایم» این کتاب را به عنوان یکی از صد رمان برتر پس از سال1923میلادی برگزید این کتاب «رابرت پن وارن» بر اساس یک سری از ماجراهای راستین نگاشته شده، و نویسنده با الهام گرفتن از آن ماجراها که شامل زندگی یکی از سیاستمداران عوامگرای «جنوب آمریکا»، به نام «ویلی استارک» در طول دهه ی1930میلادی است، راوی این داستان شخصی است به نام «جک بوردن»، یک خبرنگار سیاسی، که آمده تا به عنوان دست راست فرمانده «استارک»، و در کنار او کار کند، مسیر زندگی حرفه‌ ای و سیاسی «استارک» با داستان «جک بوردن» بازتابی فلسفی به خود گرفته، و به گونه‌ ای شامل دو داستان شده، داستان «ویلی استارک» و داستان «جک بوردن» در یک معنای کلی، کتاب به شکلی بازتاب کننده ی کارهای اخیر «رابرت پن وارن» است ایشان مدعی بودند که که کتاب «همه ی مردان شاه» از دید او کتابی نیست که درباره ی سیاست باشد تاریخ نخستین خوانش 18/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 20/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Compelling, overstuffed, overplotted, sexist, labyrinthine, poetic, atmospheric. To me this book's status as The Great American Political Novel seems like a terrific bitter joke, because the author's vision of "politics" is comprised entirely of blackmail, physical intimidation, pork-barreling, rabble-rousing, nepotism, bribery, rigged elections, and hilariously contrived "family values" photo shoots. (I love the scene where a photographer and two aides attempt to wrestle a comatose, foul-smelli Compelling, overstuffed, overplotted, sexist, labyrinthine, poetic, atmospheric. To me this book's status as The Great American Political Novel seems like a terrific bitter joke, because the author's vision of "politics" is comprised entirely of blackmail, physical intimidation, pork-barreling, rabble-rousing, nepotism, bribery, rigged elections, and hilariously contrived "family values" photo shoots. (I love the scene where a photographer and two aides attempt to wrestle a comatose, foul-smelling dog into position for a shot of the dog leaping up to greet its beloved master, the Governor!) I would place this novel in the Philosophical Potboiler genre (together with "East of Eden" and "Sophie's Choice"). There are lengthy meditations on the Human Condition, the nature of History, the problem of Free Will, the Original Sin of slavery as a hereditary taint corrupting the southern upper class, etc... woven among scenes featuring such archetypes as the Angelic Woman (Anne Stanton), the Demonic Woman (Sadie Burke, and Cass Mastern's mistress), the Saintly Aesthete and Crypto-Homosexual (Adam Stanton), the Seductive Mother, the "Colonel Sanders" With a Secret (Judge Irwin), and What's Bred in the Bone Coming Out in the Flesh (Tom Stark, the embodiment of his father's egoism and brutality). In the ranks of minor characters we find the Long-Suffering Wife in the Country (Mrs. Stark), and Flannery O'Connor-style Mad Missionary (Jack's father). What an array! There are a number of rather heavy-handed themes, of which I thought the most interesting was the contrast between Jack the self-identified "student of history" and product of History, and Willie the man without a history... no family, no formal education, no tradition, nothing to explain his ambition, charisma, ruthlessness, and power over others. There seems to be a trade-off between History and Act. Jack is Burdened by the past at every level -- his parents' broken marriage, his half-mad father, his unfinished dissertation, the end of the plantation class's reign in Southern politics, the guilt of slavery. He lives in a fog of depression, cynicism, sophistication, and rationalization. He is fascinated by Willie at their first meeting because Willie is his opposite: an earnest rube who seems unaware of his own dorkiness and believes the political game could and should be played fair. But Willie isn't just a naif. He's also a kind of monster. Even at that early stage there's a monstrous ego and ambition germinating inside him... ambition not for political goals but for personal power and domination. Where does his ambition come from? What sets Willie apart from any other impoverished child of dirt farmers in any other wretched little town like Mason City? And which side is the true Willie Stark -- the idealist who fights on behalf of poor farmers and families, the builder of new roads and schools and hospitals, or the bully who fights for the sadistic joy of humiliating and dominating others? These mysteries haunt the novel, and Penn Warren never offers a solution. Willie remains an enigma from start to finish. In fact I felt that Penn Warren wrote himself into a corner - he COULDN'T solve the enigma of Willie Stark's origins and essential nature, so he shifted focus to the more solvable mysteries in Jack Burden's past. I don't think the Jack Burden plot has aged particularly well. It has the kind of heavy-handed Freudianism you see in 1950s movies... the seductive mother, the discovery of the True Father; the taboo of virginity; the sorting of women into angels and whores, spirits and bodies. Almost every character has at least one light or dark "double" (Willie/Jack, Willie/Adam, Jack/Adam, Sadie/Ann, Burden/Irwin, Lois/Ann, etc), which is very schematic. The happy ending is only achieved by the death/disappearance of everyone but Jack and Ann... they don't so much overcome or escape the Burden of history as have history conveniently relax its grip on them.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    This was a wonderful book. I listened to it on Audible, but it was so well-written that I have ordered hard-copy as well. The story of Willie Stark and Jack Burden (which are the same story as the narrator says) is both poignant and realistic. Seen through the cynical and poetic eyes of Burden, the Southern cronyism of Huey Long is parodied here (and honestly reminds me of recent and current American political history). The writing is absolutely spectacular - Penn Warren is the only person ever This was a wonderful book. I listened to it on Audible, but it was so well-written that I have ordered hard-copy as well. The story of Willie Stark and Jack Burden (which are the same story as the narrator says) is both poignant and realistic. Seen through the cynical and poetic eyes of Burden, the Southern cronyism of Huey Long is parodied here (and honestly reminds me of recent and current American political history). The writing is absolutely spectacular - Penn Warren is the only person ever to win Pulitzers for both Fiction and Poetry and even his prose here is chock-full of vivid images and analogies. I loved all the characters: Sugarboy, Ann and Adam Stanton, the Judge, Jack's mother, Sadie...each one is perfectly crafted even when they are somewhat one-dimensional, there is still humanity in each of them. The one negative is the use of the n-word, but I suppose that Jack would have spoken this way and that back in '46 when it was written, attitudes were definitely different. That being said, Jack does seem to take some offense at how blacks are treated (he is less obliging about women in my view), despite his nihilism towards everyone and everything else. The side story of Cass was excellent as well. There is almost nothing to fault in this book and it deserves a place up with the greatest American 20th century fiction. Five stars hands-down.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lawyer

    All the King's Men: Robert Penn Warren's Spider Web This Novel was chosen as a group read by members of On the Southern Literary Trail for July 2012 and again in October,2014. "It all began, as I have said, when the Boss, sitting in the black Cadillac which sped through the night, said to me (to Me who was what Jack Burden, the student of history, had grown up to be) "There is always something." And I said, "Maybe not on the Judge." And he said, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and All the King's Men: Robert Penn Warren's Spider Web This Novel was chosen as a group read by members of On the Southern Literary Trail for July 2012 and again in October,2014. "It all began, as I have said, when the Boss, sitting in the black Cadillac which sped through the night, said to me (to Me who was what Jack Burden, the student of history, had grown up to be) "There is always something." And I said, "Maybe not on the Judge." And he said, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something." There is always something, even on the Judge. Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark, John Ireland as Jack Burden, and Adam Greenleaf as Judge Stanton from the 1949 film. The film changed the identity of Judge Irwin to Judge Stanton. A slight problem with the object of Jack's romance.> First Edition, Harcourt Brace & Jovanovich, 1946 If you're expecting a fictional recounting that serves as a short cut to T. Harry William's masterful biography of Huey Long this isn't it. But Williams does have something to say that pointedly echoes the themes Robert Penn Warren wove into a masterpiece of American politics. "I believe that some men, men of power, can influence the course of history. They appear in response to conditions, but they may alter the conditions, may give a new direction to history. In the process they may do great good or evil or both, but whatever the case they leave a different kind of world behind them.", p.ix, Preface, T. Harry Williams, Huey Long,Alfred A. Knopf, 1969. That Willie Stark is a stand in for Huey Long, Robert Penn Warren frankly admits. I was fortunate to find the Thirty-Fifth Edition of the novel, published in 1981. It contained a new, and very informative introduction by Warren. Warren did not originally envision this work as a novel, but as a tragic drama entitled "Proud Flesh." Warren ended up putting that manuscript away. He realized that he had focused on a man of power rather than those few people who are always surrounding that man of power, and in writing All the King's Men, Warren focused on the "Greek" chorus to whom he had not given proper voice in his originally conceived work. So, there we have the title, "All the King's Men," the chorus that relates the rise and fall of Willie Stark. For all great men have an inner circle, some of whom are as vague as phantoms, performing the will of the King and they will perform that will whether it be good or evil. But all the King's Men cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again should the King fall. Warren proposes the question of whether those minions are mere pawns or whether they recognize the consequences of their actions and accept responsibility for them, and if so, can they find redemption for the evil they do, even when it is couched in terms of doing good. Willie Stark, the Boss, is a practical man. So, politics is a dirty business. He tells us, "Dirt's a funny thing, come to think of it, there ain't a thing but dirt on this green God's globe except what's under water, and that's dirt too. It's dirt makes the grass grow. A diamond ain't a thing in the world but a piece of dirt that got awful hot. And God-a-Mighty picked up a handful of dirt and blew on it and made you and me and George Washington and mankind blessed in faculty and apprehension. It all depends on what you do with the dirt."> Jack Burden is a one man Greek Chorus that tells us the story of Willie Stark. And it is Jack Burden who provides the moral center of the novel. In one long narrative voice, Jack, a child of privilege, intrigues us relating the present and the past, not only Willie's but his own. Willie's rise is rather straight forward. As Williams tells us in Long's biography, Willie appears on the Louisiana scene in response to conditions of the Great Depression, which seemingly provided the fuel for Populism common to that era. Jack comes from a level of society that comprised the previous leaders of Louisiana, a class who would forever be opposed to a man of Willie Stark's origin and philosophy. He is the friend of Adam and Anne Stanton, the children of the governor preceding Stark. His mentor is Judge Irwin who advised and influenced Jack from his youth. His father, Ellis Burden, the "scholarly lawyer" is a good friend of the Judge. His mother is beautiful, poised, and confident. So, why would Ellis Burden walk out of his law office one day to become a street evangelist? But Jack's mother has no problem keeping a stream of husbands in her bed. It's enough to make a fellow a little cynical. Rebellious, too. Rebellious enough to go to State University and study history. Jack has a future. He's working on his doctorate, studying the papers of an ancestor named Cass Mastern. The papers of Mastern serve as a mirror of Jack's life. But Mastern, who betrayed a friend by having a love affair with his friend's wife, lives the rest of his life with the knowledge of that betrayal. It is Cass who writes in his journal, The world is all of one piece. He learned that the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide. It does not matter whether or not you meant to brush the web of things. Your happy foot or your gay wing may have brushed it ever so lightly, but what happens always happens and there is the spider, bearded black and with his great faceted eyes glittering like mirrors in the sun, or like God’s eye, and the fangs dripping." The long and the short of it is that our actions have consequences and we owe a responsibility for the consequences of our actions. This is a premise that Jack would rather reject. Rather, Jack grasps on to the theory of the "Great Twitch," a world in which the actions of people are no more controllable than the muscles of a frog's leg twitching in response to an electrical impulse. However it is Cass Mastern who was correct. In rejecting his ancestor's journal, Jack becomes the cynical, wisecracking news reporter assigned to cover Willie Stark's first gubernatorial election. It is Jack Burden, along with savvy political advisor Sadie Burke who tell Stark he's been duped into running to split the vote of the opposing candidate to bring about the win by yet another politician. Jack Burden and Sadie Burke telling Willie he's been had. It is that campaign that transforms not only Willie Stark into a Kingfish lookalike, but transforms Jack into Stark's most trusted fix it man. "Maybe not the Judge." Oh, yes, even the Judge. And so it is that a chain of consequences begins to be unveiled, each the result of a deliberate, undeniable action. Even the death of Willie Stark is a consequence of one of the Boss's improvident decisions. As Warren wrote, "The end of man is knowledge but there's one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it would save him." Do the ends justify the means? Can Willie Stark find redemption? Willie's death comes about, not from an assassin who believes him to be a dictator, but for a very personal reason. Nor will I even resort to a spoiler alert. I'm simply not going to tell you, because I want you to read this book. And what of Jack? I will share the final sentence, and I remind you that Jack is the narrator. "Go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time." Perhaps Jack Burden has come to terms with his ancestor, Cass Mastern. To say this is a masterpiece about American politics is true. But it goes much further than that. It is a reminder that the past is the father of the future. They are inevitably inseparable. EXTRAS! EXTRAS! Huey Long: The Man Behind Willie Stark Huey Long's "Share the Wealth Speech" Huey Long on the Difference between Democrats and Republicans The Assassination of Huey Long A Biographical Documentary of Robert Penn Warren Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men, and Huey Long WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS Soundtrack Louisana 1927 by Randy Newman Kingfish by Randy Newman Every Man a King, written and sung by Huey Long.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Robert Penn Warren's, All the Kings Men won the 1947 Pulitzer prize, and could also have won that prize in the next three years.  Is this 400 pages of poetic prose or a great epic prosaic poem? This work would make a great primer for college English lit majors, I think Warren used every literary device and may have made up some more.  And like so many master performances of art or sport, he makes it look effortless, he makes it look easy. This was like watching Joe DiMaggio glide across the outf Robert Penn Warren's, All the Kings Men won the 1947 Pulitzer prize, and could also have won that prize in the next three years.  Is this 400 pages of poetic prose or a great epic prosaic poem? This work would make a great primer for college English lit majors, I think Warren used every literary device and may have made up some more.  And like so many master performances of art or sport, he makes it look effortless, he makes it look easy. This was like watching Joe DiMaggio glide across the outfield or Ted Williams at the plate, or Led Zeppelin on stage, this was swaggering virtuosity.  Telling the fictionalized account of Huey Long, Warren goes on to create the great American novel. Though the setting is politics, the book is not really about politics, the political stage is just a vehicle by which Warren explores a multi-layered, complicated series of thematic, interwoven observations on Western Civilization, and particularly our American chapter in that saga. This is periodically correct and yet timeless. Beautifully written and absolutely brilliant.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    At first glance, Willie Stark seems like he would have been the perfect Tea Party candidate. He uses fiery rhetoric to stir up crowds by claiming to be just like them and that he’s going to bust the heads of those evil ole politicians at the state house to force them the straighten up and do things the right way. But on the other hand, Willie actually knows something about government and uses his tactics to improve the lives of poor people by taxing the wealthy and using that money to do things At first glance, Willie Stark seems like he would have been the perfect Tea Party candidate. He uses fiery rhetoric to stir up crowds by claiming to be just like them and that he’s going to bust the heads of those evil ole politicians at the state house to force them the straighten up and do things the right way. But on the other hand, Willie actually knows something about government and uses his tactics to improve the lives of poor people by taxing the wealthy and using that money to do things like improve roads and provide free health care so maybe he wouldn’t fit in with Sarah Palin after all. This classic novel tells the story of Willie Stark through the eyes of Jack Burden. Jack came from a privileged background but eventually turned his back on that life and became a cynical political newspaper reporter in an unnamed corrupt southern state. When Jack first meets Stark, he thinks of him as ’Cousin Willie from the country.’ because of his rube manner. Stark is a smart, hardworking and principled county commissioner, but he gets in over his head when he tries to award a government contract to the actual best bid and the corrupt politicians trash him for it. Then Stark is tricked into running for governor by the state political machine to split the rural vote and make sure that the party favorite wins. Stark had been getting nowhere with his carefully planned speeches that patiently explained needed changes to the tax codes and other government business, but when he finds out he’s been played for a fool, Stark finds his voice as an angry hick who is tired of being abused by the politicians. Using his new populist tactics of playing up his upbringing as a poor farm boy who taught himself law at nights and promises to kick the collective ass of the political good-ole-boy network, Stark eventually does win the governorship, and Jack joins him as his political hatchet man. Stark no longer cares about doing things the right way. He becomes a political force in the state through a combination of bullying, cajoling or bribing anyone who gets in his way. To Willie’s way of thinking, the state is full of sons-of-bitches that he either has to buy or break to get things done, and he is now fully convinced that the ends justify the means. He does actually follow through on his promises to try and help the common people of the state, but many consider him even more dangerous than the corrupt people he’s fighting. Jack has no problems with the way that Willie runs thing until the governor gets angry at the incorruptible Judge Irwin for backing a rival in an election. When Willie can’t charm or bully the Judge into falling into line, he orders Jack to dig up some dirt on the man. However, Jack has known and admired the Judge since childhood so he has reservations about the assignment. Trying to find the Judge’s dirty laundry brings back Jack’s issues with his mother and father, and the girl he loved and lost, Anne Stanton. Things get even stickier when Willie decides that the only man to run his new pet project, a huge modern hospital, is Ann’s brother and Jack’s childhood friend, Adam. I absolutely loved the way that Stark is portrayed in this book. It was inspired by Huey P. Long in Louisiana, a politician who accomplished a lot for the poor of his state but did so with highly questionable methods. Willie does indeed want to protect the common people from the ‘sons-of-bitches’ who have let the state wallow in poverty and neglect while lining their pockets, but this isn’t a simple case of power corrupting either. Willie always had a lot of ambitions for his political career, and he tried to play it straight at first because he thought that‘s how it was done. Once he saw the ugliness of reality behind the scenes, Willie seemingly adopts the same tactics without a second thought. Power didn’t change Willie, he changed to get and keep power, and he seems to relish his opportunities to take revenge on the types who screwed him over early in his career. Warren’s prose is elegant and lyrical. He brings an entire region alive with a cast that includes everyone from the high society to the poorest farmers. His descriptions are so good that you can almost feel the humidity and hear the insects at times. However, he did tend to go on a bit long for my taste when relaying Jack’s personal history and insights. I would have liked more of Willie laying on the charm or ruthlessly taking down an opponent. They say that watching government work is like watching sausage get made. Everyone wants the finished product, but no one wants to see how it‘s done. This story gives weight to this idea. It’s something that will make any reader think about whether one can get anything done in a democracy without deals being cut or threats being made. Even if the goal is accomplished, is the whole thing tainted because of how it came about? And how can a person with even the best of intentions work in a system like this without becoming corrupted?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    King of Pain Storytelling and copulation are the two chief forms of amusement in the South. They're inexpensive and easy to procure. Robert Penn Warren Robert Penn Warren had been teaching at LSU for about a year prior to the 1935 assassination of U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long (La.), nicknamed "Kingfish," the populist and crooked 42-yr-old senator and former Louisiana governor, on whom his novel is loosely based. The title comes from Long's motto, "Every Man a King," and a "Humpty Dumpty" verse. The story King of Pain Storytelling and copulation are the two chief forms of amusement in the South. They're inexpensive and easy to procure. Robert Penn Warren Robert Penn Warren had been teaching at LSU for about a year prior to the 1935 assassination of U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long (La.), nicknamed "Kingfish," the populist and crooked 42-yr-old senator and former Louisiana governor, on whom his novel is loosely based. The title comes from Long's motto, "Every Man a King," and a "Humpty Dumpty" verse. The story follows the political rise and fall of the fictional Willie Stark, who came from modest roots as a small town lawyer and made it into office as a populist before the Depression, to be elected twice as governor of a Southern state. Warren left references to location intentionally vague, even throwing in red herrings about coming in from the "beach" at a close-by vacation home (Louisiana has lakes, but no beaches; it's oceanfront: the wetlands leading into the Gulf of Mexico). Jack Burden, the novel's narrator, was a former newspaper columnist and history student before becoming Governor Stark's right hand man. He is exceedingly dispassionate as a bystander and participant in the ongoing tragedy, and remains so despite watching the tragedy unfold and suffering two epic betrayals. Maybe Penn Warren was going for the shock or sense of bewilderment a reader may feel about the narrator seemingly not being affected by occurrences that would likely devastate any normal person. This is not simply a political novel as I thought; I was surprised to learn that Warren said he didn't intend it to be one. The book is much more about: all actions having consequences, intended or not; accepting responsibility for one's actions; issues of identity, such as how a boy can be affected even as a man in his 30s upon learning the true identity of his father; and, maybe most substantially, the variety and grades of betrayal and the impact of each on the betrayed and the betrayer. As I think about it, I'm certain All the King's Men covers all 7 deadly sins, particularly the Big Five: Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy and Wrath. A quote from the novel I found most poignant as I was reading it, but not quite as much so today: “...the air so still it aches like ... your heart in the bosom when you stand on the street corner waiting for the light to change and happen to recollect how things once were and how they might have been yet if what happened had not happened.” I must admit I tuned out a couple of times when the author/narrator trailed off into 2 to 3 page abstruse ramblings on the meaning of life in relation to space and time. I don't like lectures. All in all, I enjoyed the book immensely for its political nature, its place and time and its exploration of these various themes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Werner

    Kentucky-born 20th-century American writer and major academic literary critic Robert Penn Warren is still the only writer ever to have won the Pulitzer Prize for both fiction (for this 1946 novel) and poetry. Both a graduate of, and later a teacher at, Vanderbilt Univ. in Nashville, in the 1930s he was a part of the Southern Agrarians, a circle of Southern literary intellectuals centered around that university, and was one of the contributors, along with others in the group, to its 1930 manifest Kentucky-born 20th-century American writer and major academic literary critic Robert Penn Warren is still the only writer ever to have won the Pulitzer Prize for both fiction (for this 1946 novel) and poetry. Both a graduate of, and later a teacher at, Vanderbilt Univ. in Nashville, in the 1930s he was a part of the Southern Agrarians, a circle of Southern literary intellectuals centered around that university, and was one of the contributors, along with others in the group, to its 1930 manifesto of anti-capitalist conservatism, I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (which I've never read, but hope to eventually). Back in 1971, having learned about this group and having my interest piqued from reading The Conservative Tradition in America, I chose this novel for my book report in American Literature II as a college freshman. Although more than 50 years have elapsed since then, and I don't have a copy in front of me, I still recall it vividly enough to do it justice, in the sort of informal review that we ordinary readers share with each other here. I've shelved this as "political fiction" (that is, fiction which is set in the world of politics). Set in 1930s Louisiana (he also taught for a time at Louisiana State Univ., so he was familiar with the life and culture of the state, including its politics), the book takes as its titular "King" a fictional governor of the state, Willie Stark. Aspects of Stark's personality and career are recognizably modeled on real-life Louisiana politician Huey "Kingfish" Long (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huey_Long ). However, Stark is not a carbon-copy clone of Long, and not the protagonist of the novel, though he's a major character. The actual protagonist, and maker of the central moral decisions here, is his young press agent, Jack Burden. But political programs and ideology as such aren't Warren's focus here. Rather, his major concerns are moral, philosophical, and even spiritual. To the extent that there is a message about politics here, it's in keeping with those concerns. Willie Stark began his political career as an honest idealist who wanted to serve the interests of the people of his state. The seduction of power molded him into a corrupt demagogue who's only serving himself. Warren's not as interested in evaluating Stark's political program as in evaluating what his quest for power, and his rationalizations of all the shady machinations and mistreatments of other people that are part of that quest, is doing and has done to him as a person, and what it's doing to his henchmen -and to warn us that this sort of temptation is endemic in political life. But more broadly, he's also posing the questions of what matters most in life, whether right and wrong are real moral categories, and whether it's possible for a person to alter the direction of his/her life for the better. How Jack Burden will ultimately answer those questions is what the reader wants to find out. And while Warren wasn't necessarily a professing Christian, one of his characters here is a preacher who exercises some influence on Jack, and whose message is treated positively. Racial relations aren't a focus here; they're touched on only peripherally. But Jack and some other characters at times use the n-word casually (which, sadly, did reflect realistic speech in that time and place), and there's also a passing narrative reference to black laborers as "darkies." This is obviously offensive to most readers, including me. Warren can be fairly criticized for this, and for the fact that the essay he contributed to the I'll Take My Stand collection was a defense of the noxious policies of racial segregation that prevailed in the Jim Crow South of that day. But my evaluation of the book overall recognizes positives that counterbalance the racial insensitivity. And to Warren's credit, he did rethink his attitude toward blacks, finally decisively repudiating segregation in a landmark Life magazine article in 1956, and went on to be a strong voice for racial integration and reconciliation. (In that respect, I would say that rather than rejecting his paleo-conservative beliefs, he became a more consistent exponent of their biblical roots.)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Meaning to do good, Willie Stark rises from self-educated lawyer to political bigwig and eventually governor. Along the way he loses his moral compass and develops a taste for power, resorting to bullying, bribery, blackmail - whatever it takes - to get what he wants. Willie does manage to help some of his constituents, taxing the wealthy to provide schools and hospitals for the poor. But he also betrays his wife; raises a selfish, self-absorbed son; corrupts good people; and eventually reaps the Meaning to do good, Willie Stark rises from self-educated lawyer to political bigwig and eventually governor. Along the way he loses his moral compass and develops a taste for power, resorting to bullying, bribery, blackmail - whatever it takes - to get what he wants. Willie does manage to help some of his constituents, taxing the wealthy to provide schools and hospitals for the poor. But he also betrays his wife; raises a selfish, self-absorbed son; corrupts good people; and eventually reaps the consequences of his actions. Willie's story is told by Jack Burden, a journalist who signs on to be Willie's right hand man. Thinking of himself as essentially a good guy Jack believes he's 'only doing his job' when he betrays some of his closest friends at Willie's behest. I gave the book 4 stars (rather than 5) because the philosophical rantings of some characters was tedious and incomprehensible (to me). Overall, this is a superbly written book with fascinating characters and the trajectory of a Greek tragedy. Though published in the 1940s the book seems just as relevant today in it's depiction of political machinations. Highly recommended. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    All the King's Men written in 1946 by author Robert Penn Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1947. And what a book it was. Years ago on one of my first trips to New Orleans, I was enthralled with the culture, the history and the mystique that just screamed from the the banks of the Mississippi River. And one of my most memorable moments was riding over the Huey P Long Bridge spanning Lake Ponchetrain while the bus driver regaled us all with his many stories about Huey P Long. Because yo All the King's Men written in 1946 by author Robert Penn Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1947. And what a book it was. Years ago on one of my first trips to New Orleans, I was enthralled with the culture, the history and the mystique that just screamed from the the banks of the Mississippi River. And one of my most memorable moments was riding over the Huey P Long Bridge spanning Lake Ponchetrain while the bus driver regaled us all with his many stories about Huey P Long. Because you see, Huey P Long was a populist and the flamboyant governor of the state of Louisiana in the late 1920s. And this sprawling historical fiction novel is based on his life and career in Louisiana government in the fictional character of Governor Willie Stark. But it is really the story of Jack Burden, his aide and as a former newspaper correspondent, deep into historical research. Now I have to admit, that I loved the character of Jack Burden on so many levels as he attempts to come to terms with where he is in this world. "The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether the knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it, would save him. There's the cold in your stomach, but you open the envelope, you have to open the envelope, for the end of man is to know." And the favorite saying of Governor Willie Stark was: "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didiee to the stench of the shroud. There is always something." But Jack Burden trying to come to terms with his life heads climbs into his roadster and starts driving west to the California coast for a week as he grapples with new realizations in his life. And a memorable quote: And you can go back in good spirits, for you will have learned two very great truths. First, that you cannot lose what you have never had. Second, that you are never guilty of a crime which you did not commit. So there is innocence and a new start in the West, after all. If you believe the dream, you dream when you go there."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Judith E

    I almost gave up the ghost at 60% because it’s an exhausting read and requires a lot of work. But then I couldn’t completely abandon Warren’s crazy, creative, poetic writing of rambling passages so I set it aside while I read something easy. When I returned it was a don’t-talk-to-me-speeding-train-ride to the end. In short, this is the transformative journey of politician Willie Stark and his assistant Jack Burden. Set in the 1930’s deep American South so it is disturbingly racist. The machinatio I almost gave up the ghost at 60% because it’s an exhausting read and requires a lot of work. But then I couldn’t completely abandon Warren’s crazy, creative, poetic writing of rambling passages so I set it aside while I read something easy. When I returned it was a don’t-talk-to-me-speeding-train-ride to the end. In short, this is the transformative journey of politician Willie Stark and his assistant Jack Burden. Set in the 1930’s deep American South so it is disturbingly racist. The machinations of the American political system from grass roots to powerful elected positions is how Warren presents a complicated and tragic scenario and propels an argument of free will (The Great Twitch) vs accepting responsibility for one’s planned actions. I would have missed so, so much if I hadn’t returned to this amazing work by Robert Penn Warren.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    The image I got in my head that day was the image of her face lying in the water, very smooth, with the eyes closed, under the dark greenish-purple sky, with the white gull passing over. This is probably the first fairly good review I ever wrote on Goodreads (or anywhere, of course). Seems hardly anyone has ever seen it. Ran across it tonight in an old Word doc and thought I'd repost it. The book is a classic. I first read it about 40 years ago. Having just finished my second reading (I think only The image I got in my head that day was the image of her face lying in the water, very smooth, with the eyes closed, under the dark greenish-purple sky, with the white gull passing over. This is probably the first fairly good review I ever wrote on Goodreads (or anywhere, of course). Seems hardly anyone has ever seen it. Ran across it tonight in an old Word doc and thought I'd repost it. The book is a classic. I first read it about 40 years ago. Having just finished my second reading (I think only two), I think the book is a better novel than I remembered it as, though I've always felt it was a "five-star" book. Of the two stories in the book (the story of Willie Stark, based loosely or perhaps not so loosely on the life of Huey Long, and the story of the narrator Jack Burden, based presumably on the imagination but perhaps also on some of the artistic and philosophical beliefs of the author), the former is more entertaining, and is easier to understand. However, having just a few days ago watched the Ken Burns 1985 PBS documentary on Huey Long, I am struck now that Warren's Willie Stark has nowhere near the extremes of "good" and "evil" that Long was perceived to have by his supporters and enemies. Willie Stark is a very tame Huey Long, and the real Huey Long was more politically interesting than the fictional Willie Stark is. The question that arises from Huey Long's career is, Can a good man (woman) effect great (and good) changes, and still be true to his good nature? Or does the real world in which the changes need be made ineluctably force them to be made by resorting to force, the illegal (or extra-legal), and ultimately violence? These questions are not answered in All the King's Men, and I'm not sure that they are even posed. Willie Stark, it seems to me, is brought down not by an excessive desire to change the power structures of his state (though that plays a part), but much more by a confluence of unlikely and unlucky events. The latter story I feel to be not quite as entertaining, but perhaps that's because it's a more difficult story to dig down through and unravel. I think it's also because much of this story, which one could think the author might have meant to illustrate some "truths" about life that the first story didn't touch on, requires that the reader ferret out what those truths are, whether he or she agrees that they are truths, and whether he or she finally judges that even if they are true, they are significant truths. Or perhaps it's best (and maybe more true to what Warren meant to do in the novel) to simply read Jack's story, and the conclusions he draws about life, as simply the tale of a fictional character and his search for personal truth, in which case we can judge this story by whether the character and his tale are both interesting and believable. On these criteria I would give the Jack Burden story an "A". (Even though, by the way, I wouldn't argue that Jack is a very likeable character. He has an awful lot of faults actually, but these are believable human faults.) On a personal note, I found it interesting how much of the book I didn't remember from the first time. Essentially, other than the broad sweep of the story, I remembered very little. In particular, I remembered little of the last chapter, I remembered nothing of chapter 7 (Jack Burden's flight to California, and the story of his falling in love with Anne), and I had no recollection that I had ever felt the writing in chapter 4 to be so evocative (I think now) of Faulkner. Of course when this book was published in 1946, Robert Penn Warren surely had read most, if not all, of Faulkner's fiction, being as he (Warren) was among a group of Southern writers and poets who had been making waves for several years by then. I’ll end with a quote from chapter 3. This quote to me is extremely poignant, and expresses a psychological truth which I feel very strongly; it also reminded me of Proust. It comes in a section where Jack is reminiscing about growing up in Burden’s Landing with Adam and Anne Stanton. The three of them swam in the Bay together often, and one time they were swimming in very calm waters under a darkening sky. What happened was this: I got an image in my head that never got out. We see a great many things and can remember a great many things, but that is different. We get very few of the true images in our heads of the kind I am talking about, the kind which become more and more vivid for us as if the passage of the years did not obscure their reality but, year by year, drew off another veil to expose a meaning which we had only dimly surmised at first. Very probably the last veil will not be removed, for there are not enough years, but the brightness of the image increases and our conviction increases that the brightness is meaning, or the legend of meaning, and without the image our lives would be nothing except an old piece of film rolled on a spool and thrown into a desk drawer among the unanswered letters. The image I got in my head that day was the image of her face lying in the water, very smooth, with the eyes closed, under the dark greenish-purple sky, with the white gull passing over. (Unbelievably, before I typed in this quote, I wanted to check the prefatory sentences I’d written, particularly whether the name of the town was Burden’s Landing. So I Googled “Burden’s Landing”, and the third site was burdenslanding.org, which contains this very quote, except for the last sentence. So I didn’t have to type the whole blamed thing, just cut and pasted most of it. Obviously others have been struck by it.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: To the Ends of the Earth a Sea Trilogy Next review: Selected Tales Henry James More recent review: The Poisonwood Bible Previous library review: Poems Wallace Stevens Next library review: The Age of Innocence

  15. 5 out of 5

    Camie

    First off, I would nominate this book as one highly in need of a much improved cover design. That being said, it perfectly fits the old adage about judging a book by it's ( mundane) cover. I love it when a book surprises me and the dread of reading it ( club choice) turns into excitement. The back-page blurb praises it as a Pulitzer Prize winner following the political career of Willie Stark, a fictional character loosely based on that of Huey "Kingfish" Long a post Depression Era Louisiana gove First off, I would nominate this book as one highly in need of a much improved cover design. That being said, it perfectly fits the old adage about judging a book by it's ( mundane) cover. I love it when a book surprises me and the dread of reading it ( club choice) turns into excitement. The back-page blurb praises it as a Pulitzer Prize winner following the political career of Willie Stark, a fictional character loosely based on that of Huey "Kingfish" Long a post Depression Era Louisiana governor. Stark who starts out as a refreshingly idealistic man " of the people" ultimately ends up caught in a web of the corruption often associated with power. So yes, it's a precautionary tale, but perhaps even more about the life of Jack Burden, a sort of " every man" who works for Stark in a "holding it all together " capacity and learns a lot of life lessons the hard way. Though cited on the cover as THE definitive novel about American Politics ( NYTimes) I was happy to find it is written in a descriptive "old classic" format which makes it truly an enjoyable read. If you read it remember it was published in 1946, as it is very filled with characters who have stereotypical notions of the time ( meaning racist and very sexist) including our narrator who though interesting enough, is not always easy to like. Anyway to my total surprise , I'm giving this book a five star rating and thanking whomever it was who chose this as an April Selection for On The Southern Literary Trail. Great choice !! Timely note: The 2006(audience rated 4 star) movie with Sean Penn, Jude Law, and Kate Winslet will be on Starz 4/25 and 4/26. I watched it on Amazon and quite enjoyed it since I liked the book. There is an earlier movie that is supposed to be very good ( thanks Diane B.) but that I cannot readily find.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lewis Weinstein

    ATKM’s "dead on" characterizations of political behavior are as relevant today as they were when it won a Pulitzer in 1947. Often described as the story of Willie Stark, a thinly disguised fictional stand-in for fabled Louisiana Governor Huey Long, it is really much more that of Jack Burden, Stark’s aide and friend, from whose first person POV the story is told. Alternately attracted and repulsed by the tangy smells of commitment and corruption, Jack engages our sympathy and intellect as he perso ATKM’s "dead on" characterizations of political behavior are as relevant today as they were when it won a Pulitzer in 1947. Often described as the story of Willie Stark, a thinly disguised fictional stand-in for fabled Louisiana Governor Huey Long, it is really much more that of Jack Burden, Stark’s aide and friend, from whose first person POV the story is told. Alternately attracted and repulsed by the tangy smells of commitment and corruption, Jack engages our sympathy and intellect as he personalizes the complex, unintended, and sometimes tragic consequences of his leader’s political decisions. How frustratingly difficult it is to achieve even admirable goals in the real world of a voter-driven governmental system. Sound familiar? Complementing the intriguing story line is Warren’s magnificent writing which reflects the skills and emotions of the poet he indeed was. An example ... “You meet someone at the seashore on a vacation and have a wonderful time together ... you talk with a stranger whose mind seems to whet and sharpen your own ... afterward you are sure that when you meet again, the gay companion will give you the old gaiety, the brilliant stranger will stir your mind from its torpor, the sympathetic friend will solace you with the old communion of spirit. But something happens, or almost always happens, to the gaiety, the brilliance, the communion. You remember the individual words from the old language you spoke together, but you have forgotten the grammar. You remember the steps of the dance, but the music isn’t playing anymore. So there you are.” In this political season of 2012, ATKM provides an extended opportunity for reasoned reflection on what is and is not possible, in government and in our own lives.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    This Pulitzer Prize winner was not a disappointment. It is a beautifully written master class in plot, description and character development. Set in the late 1930s, this is the story of the rise and fall of the southern politician Willy Stark as told by Jack Burden, the former reporter who now works for Stark. Both Stark and Burden are rich, complex characters and the arcs of their lives are as compelling as Greek tragedy. It’s really a wonderful book .

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I remember that when I first read All the King’s Men as a senior in college (too many years ago), I thought it was a very good political story, but I don’t think I had a full appreciation of how good or complex the book is. Now, having re-read it at a much later point in my life, I think it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It is, first of all, beautifully written, with language that often approaches poetry—not surprising given that Robert Penn Warren won major literary awards for poetry I remember that when I first read All the King’s Men as a senior in college (too many years ago), I thought it was a very good political story, but I don’t think I had a full appreciation of how good or complex the book is. Now, having re-read it at a much later point in my life, I think it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It is, first of all, beautifully written, with language that often approaches poetry—not surprising given that Robert Penn Warren won major literary awards for poetry as well as fiction, and shortly before the publication of this book was the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1944–1945). Second, the story told in the novel, which is centered around two very different characters, Jack Burden and Willie Stark, whose lives intertwine, is compelling and complex, with a non-linear timeline that at first seems confusing but ultimately works to enhance the reader’s understanding of the connections between the characters and events. Third, through the narrator, Jack Burden, Warren explores many existential questions about truth, history, responsibility, guilt, good and evil, and more. The novel is often characterized as a fictional political biography of the Huey Long-inspired character Willie Stark. But while Stark’s political career is one focus of the book, I think Jack Burden is the main character. As the narrator, I guess he has the inside edge on capturing the reader’s attention. But I found his journey in the course of the book to be fascinating, even though in many respects he is not all that likable. As a young man, Jack has no purpose and no direction; he is drifting through life with no real idea of what he wants to do. All he really knows is that he wants to distance himself from his past—from the father who abandoned him when he was six years old, from the mother who he thinks never really loved him, and from the genteel surroundings of the community in Burden’s Landing (named for his family) in which he grew up. In college, Jack is drawn to idealist philosophy: “If you are an Idealist it does not matter what you do or what goes on around you because it isn’t real anyway.” This philosophy is, of course, convenient for a young man without direction. After attending and hating law school, Jack studies history in graduate school but leaves before completing his dissertation. He then becomes a newspaper reporter and soon meets nascent backwoods politician Willie Stark. Jack admires Willie as a man of action, energy, and drive, and ultimately becomes his right-hand man and sometime fixer. Jack’s idealist philosophy serves him well in this role, but he feels conflicted by certain tasks that Willie asks him to perform, especially when he is asked to dig up dirt that has the potential to injure people he cares about. But as a trained historian and a journalist, Jack is also drawn to knowledge and truth. So even though one part of him doesn’t want to dig up the dirt and he suspects he won’t like it if he’s successful, he can’t resist. “I knew that I had to know the truth. For the truth is a terrible thing. You dabble your foot in it and it is nothing. But you walk a little farther and you feel it pull you like an undertow or a whirlpool. First there is the slow pull so steady and gradual you scarcely notice it, then the acceleration, then the dizzy whirl and plunge to blackness. For there is a blackness of truth, too.” Ultimately, learning the truth unlocks some secrets of Jack’s past and allows him to come to terms with the things he had been running away from. Jack is able to change his perspective about several important people in his past and begin to build a future. Other characters are not so fortunate. Willie Stark becomes a victim of his ambition, and Jack’s boyhood friend Adam Stanton, who also learns the truth, can’t handle it. As Jack tells Adam’s sister (and Jack’s future wife), Anne, Adam “‘is a romantic, and he has a picture of the world in his head, and when the world doesn’t conform in any respect to the picture, he wants to throw the world away. Even if that means throwing out the baby with the bath. Which,’ I added, ‘it always does mean.’” Early in the book, in a fine bit of foreshadowing, Warren has Jack ruminate about the relationship between knowledge and death: “The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can’t know. He can’t know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can’t know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn’t got and which if he had it, would save him.” That’s a question that, according to Judeo-Christian tradition, had its origins in the Garden of Eden. And it’s one of the big questions that Jack has to wrestle with as he considers what the consequences of his actions will be for himself and for those around him, and how much personal responsibility he will bear for those consequences. All the King’s Men is a book that warrants multiple readings. I have only scratched the surface of it here. For one thing, I haven’t done justice at all to the Willie Stark character. But suffice it to say, this book easily gets a five-star rating from me, and I highly recommend it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    J

    This is a poetic tragedy of Greek proportions set in the Deep South of the United States. It is written with such lyrical quality that it attains a mystical charm. Jack Burden is one of fiction's best shadowy narrators, and Warren's voice here is on par with the giants of world literature. This is a poetic tragedy of Greek proportions set in the Deep South of the United States. It is written with such lyrical quality that it attains a mystical charm. Jack Burden is one of fiction's best shadowy narrators, and Warren's voice here is on par with the giants of world literature.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Weinz

    I finished this book on a plane. I was on a plane coming home from somewhere that I didn't belong and as we coasted onto the tarmac I felt a little like Jack Burden. He was never really comfortable in the shoes that he wore but was constantly striving to find the truth in things. He was looking for the truth while consistently doing the right even when it was hardest. Not to say that I am this all knowing altruistic seeker of truth in all things, quite the opposite, but coming from somewhere I d I finished this book on a plane. I was on a plane coming home from somewhere that I didn't belong and as we coasted onto the tarmac I felt a little like Jack Burden. He was never really comfortable in the shoes that he wore but was constantly striving to find the truth in things. He was looking for the truth while consistently doing the right even when it was hardest. Not to say that I am this all knowing altruistic seeker of truth in all things, quite the opposite, but coming from somewhere I didn't fit and into where I did I felt a connection with this narrator. I came to know and love Jack for his weaknesses and his strengths. Penn Warren created the single most honest, true and beautiful characters complete with faults and stupidity; I loved him. Unlike Burden, my own trip west was not to distance myself from what I couldn't bear but rather face my own "great twitch" head on and I felt the cleansing that his flight out west must have felt like. There is good and evil and I am aware some people think there is no good and evil but Penn Warren's contrast between Stark and Adam Stanton is a beautiful example of such. It seemed like so many of the characters had their own opposite. Each character had it's own alter ego, good/evil twin within another character as well as a little original sin thrown in there for shits and giggles. The female characters were a little to easily categorized though. All the archetypes were present. The devoted wife, the seductress, the angel, the smart ass. They were well developed but just in need of a little more reality. Brilliant, poetic, fatalistic, riveting and to top of my favorites.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kellie

    I go through a lot of anxiety when I decide to quit a book in the middle of it. I really did give this one a chance. I really like the leader of my book club, who chose this book, however, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I never read such a bunch of babble before in my life. If all the babble was pulled out of this book, it would probably be 100 pages. As opposed to it’s 437. This quote is an example… “If there weren’t any other people there wouldn’t be any you because what you do, which is wha I go through a lot of anxiety when I decide to quit a book in the middle of it. I really did give this one a chance. I really like the leader of my book club, who chose this book, however, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I never read such a bunch of babble before in my life. If all the babble was pulled out of this book, it would probably be 100 pages. As opposed to it’s 437. This quote is an example… “If there weren’t any other people there wouldn’t be any you because what you do, which is what you are, only has meaning in relation to other people. That is a very comforting thought when you are in the car in the rain at night alone, for then you aren’t you, and not being you or anything, you can really lie back and get some rest.” Huh? Half the time I couldn’t tell where I was in this book. Is he talking about the present? The past? The future? Did this happen already? No idea. I just wish he would tell the story. The story of a mafia type politician. The Governor of a Southern state in the 1930’s. The narrator was something like the press secretary of “the boss”. But the author takes the reader off on so many tangents, I couldn’t keep anything straight, let alone have a clue about the actual plot. I was always asking the question, what does this have to do with the storyline? Will I find out later? The answer to that question is no because I’m closing the book on page 157.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Ramshaw

    Very conflicted between 4 and 5 stars. Terrific story, memorable characters, smooth writing. Poetic, dark, meaningful. Reminds me (oddly enough) of D.H. Lawrence and Hermann Hesse.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    All the King’s Men is often promoted as a novel about politics, occasionally even the quintessential novel of American politics. While I did enjoy the portrait of Willie Stark as an archetype political boss, more interesting, to me, is the struggle of the narrator, Jack Burden, to overcome his nihilistic doubts in the face of a world governed by power. Jack claims to overcome his nihilism (“the Great Twitch”) by coming to an understanding of the morality of his own life (the personal and inter-p All the King’s Men is often promoted as a novel about politics, occasionally even the quintessential novel of American politics. While I did enjoy the portrait of Willie Stark as an archetype political boss, more interesting, to me, is the struggle of the narrator, Jack Burden, to overcome his nihilistic doubts in the face of a world governed by power. Jack claims to overcome his nihilism (“the Great Twitch”) by coming to an understanding of the morality of his own life (the personal and inter-personal) in relation to the ethical valuations of history (on the stage of the world). So I read the larger narrative of the book in the light of Jack’s search for meaning, rather than seeing Jack as merely a narrator to the story of Willie Stark. From this perspective I think All the King’s Men tells a compelling story of Stark as a politician who, despite by all outward appearances of being driven merely by a quest for power, can in fact believe in the righteousness of his actions. He accomplishes this through an elaborate scheme of means-end reasoning and a vision of purpose that captivates or even short-circuits his own moral calculus. Willie Stark constructs a narrative of meaning through his campaign for a hospital that will serve all people, regardless of income, and is not mired in the exigencies of political reality that becomes for him a trump card in any consideration of the morality of his actions. The ethically pious and occasionally self-righteous Doctor Adam Stanton serves as a foil to Stark, with their lives ultimately meeting in a tragic end as though destined by their inability to grasp the ethical possibilities of their world that the narrator, Jack Burden, eventually realizes. Adam’s attempt to live ethically through nonparticipation with evil and political power is sacrificed with the realization of his father’s ethical shortcomings; he then steps into the world of power by agreeing to oversee the construction of Willie Stark’s hospital (creating odd parallel between the two in that the hospital serves for both of them as the symbolic touchstone for an ethical life). Yet this critical step, away from a sanctified idealism into the practical world of compromise leads eventually to his tragic confrontation with Willie Stark. In the end, his defining action is not aimed at any practical end but is rather either an emotionally-driven strike against the objectification of his own (and his sister’s) moral compromise. The reader is left to ponder whether this outcome is this simply the natural result of his step away from a “kingdom of ends” in agreeing to join Stark’s hospital or a product of his inability to cope with the fallen nature of humanity. That’s what I got out of it anyway. For a more critical view highlighting literary shortcomings and racial and gender issues, read “All the King’s Men—A Case of Misreading?” by Joyce Carol Oats in the New York Times Book Review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Ok......What did i think?? I wish I had read this book a loooooooooooongggggg time ago....... but maybe it was time to read it now. I think every American , whether Democrat, Republican, Independent, or I don't give a shit party, should read it..... It's a very modern topical novel to read now about how corruption can ruin a person,because we have to be right about everything........ instead of trying to work together for the better welfare of "everyone" in this country. It's a book that makes yo Ok......What did i think?? I wish I had read this book a loooooooooooongggggg time ago....... but maybe it was time to read it now. I think every American , whether Democrat, Republican, Independent, or I don't give a shit party, should read it..... It's a very modern topical novel to read now about how corruption can ruin a person,because we have to be right about everything........ instead of trying to work together for the better welfare of "everyone" in this country. It's a book that makes you realize not one way of thinking is correct. That being closed minded is the wrong path to take, that being a politician is not easy,and it's not necessarily rewarding,and it changes you into a person that maybe you don't really want to be. So many people say and act a certain way because they are afraid of what others think, but may act differently when left to their own devices..... to me that's what this novel points out.....at times the details were tedious, but then those details played a major role in the plot later.....as the plot thickened. I came away from this novel relieved it was finally over, but then again sad to see it end. I see myself reading it again someday. I also found myself laughing outloud quite often at the humor,and the way southern people act..... cause this is a southern story,but it's sentiments hit all of us...... That is why I consider this , up to this point in life, of what I have read thus far, the greatest American political novel that I've ever read. Bravo, Robert! I wish you were still alive so I could attend your booksigning, and shake your hand....cause, dude....you rock! Read it!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Constantinos Capetanakis

    "There isn't ever anything to say to somebody who has found out the truth about himself, whether it is good or bad". Before the above line there lie some 650 pages of small-print, which shows that RPW had plenty to say about politics, virtue and crime and the defects of each and love of course. This is a no-named southern state in 1939 and there is corruption, betrayal, ideals, regrets and far too many secrets. It is indeed over-plotted at points, for no apparent or at least persuasive reason, B "There isn't ever anything to say to somebody who has found out the truth about himself, whether it is good or bad". Before the above line there lie some 650 pages of small-print, which shows that RPW had plenty to say about politics, virtue and crime and the defects of each and love of course. This is a no-named southern state in 1939 and there is corruption, betrayal, ideals, regrets and far too many secrets. It is indeed over-plotted at points, for no apparent or at least persuasive reason, BUT it is superbly written. Imagine you have a top-notch driver, a real virtuoso, who drives along wherever the road takes him. Whilst he does have a destination, he also has plenty of time, so he follows no specific route. The road takes him to sublime places, dark forests, seaside little towns and coves, but also to mundane landscapes and indifferent granite hills. At no time does our driver lack driving skill, neither does he ever stop looking and being filled with wander of what he sees. Like a journey, some places are beautiful others not so much, but just around the corner something new and wonderful catches you by surprise. That's the book, our driver and this journey. The language and prose are alive and amazingly sharp; it reminded me at places of hard-boiled novels but also of sad poems. RPW was also an acclaimed poet and All the King's Men can also be viewed as a sad, truly sad story, told like a verse but looking like a novel. It should be read much more outside of the US and should be in print in more languages. A long read, which could benefit from a more courageous editing, but easy-flowing and the end impression is rewarding.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steven Fisher

    The Friend of Your Youth is the only friend you will ever have, for he does not really see you. He sees in his mind a face that does not exist anymore. The Friend of Your Youth is your friend because he does not see you anymore.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    My second time through this book was via the audible format with a little bit of use of the e-book. At this point it is hard to remember for me what actually reading a book printed on a page was like. When I experience a book for the second time in a different format, I commonly find that I am not remembering much of the first experience. In the case of this book I had a fairly visceral recollection of one of the most important aspects of the book that occurs near the end that prove to me that I My second time through this book was via the audible format with a little bit of use of the e-book. At this point it is hard to remember for me what actually reading a book printed on a page was like. When I experience a book for the second time in a different format, I commonly find that I am not remembering much of the first experience. In the case of this book I had a fairly visceral recollection of one of the most important aspects of the book that occurs near the end that prove to me that I did actually read this book before. But the book is really a deep dive into the personality and life of a particular person, a person who I did not find to be particularly likable or notable. This book has the qualities of a superb writer in that it includes innumerable good paragraphs and bits of writing. On the other hand I did not find the story itself particularly captivating in spite of the high quality of the writing. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I like politics. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I have been involved with politics for a long time at a lot of different levels. Mostly my heart is with third party politics. This book has a special interest to me although I have never read it. The title is very familiar to me but I can’t say exactly why that is. I have come to believe that anyone who is successful in politics and has been elected is probably someone who is intellectually dishonest. After all, can you imagine someone being elected if s/he was honest about her/his beliefs? Politics is about double talk and bull shit and cronies and money and deals with the devil. But a politician would never say any of that. The goal is to be elected and then to stay in office. Willie Stark is a master of dirty, power politics. Call me a pessimist about politics. So I start All the King’s Men with a big chip on my shoulder and a “show me” attitude. Who is this Willie Stark, the Boss? And, who is Jack Burden, the man who is the “I” in the book, the narrator? Robert Penn Warren tells us but it takes over 500 pages. I enjoyed almost all of those pages. It has been a while since I have enjoyed reading a book as much as this one. There are several different stories that go together to create this book. I enjoyed looking at the individual pieces of the puzzle and trying to find how they fit together. But this was a puzzle with a lot of pieces, more than I could always remember. So I used SparkNotes at the end of each chapter to help me look back at what I had already read: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/kingsmen/ . Yes, you may castigate me for cheating but there must be a reason ‘they’ made these notes and this might be one reason: to help my not-as-sharp-as-it-used-to-be brain out! Yes, that is it! I am implementing Willie’s philosophy: taking something bad and making something good out of it. Thanks Willie! This book makes me think about my dislike of achieving a good end via a bad means. It’s not just what you do but how you do it that counts. I have told myself that all of my adult life. I am looking inside myself to see if All the King’s Men has changed my mind even a little bit about that principle. Does this work? Politics is evil but it can do good things. No, I still think that the end does not justify the means. Here is a quiz after you have finished All the King’s Men. Actually the book asks you this one. Willie Stark was a great man. True or False? I have a hard time thinking that this book was published the same year I was born: 1946. It seems much more current even with the references to the 1920s and 1930s. Well, yes there are the spittoons and the telegrams and no DNA but the characters seem very real and up to date. This book gets an easy four stars from me. The book went slowly for me for a while at the start but it was not long before I was looking forward to reading more the next time. I liked all the building blocks that made up this book. Lots of good writing and things to think about.

  28. 4 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    If you have read this book already then I feel safe in saying that we probably haven't read the same book. In my attempt to fill voids in my literary history I picked this book up. It is one that I have always meant to read but just never got around to it. Inadvertently, I picked up a copy of the "Restored Edition" which is the book that the author actually wrote and submitted to his publisher for publication. The original 1946 edition of this book is 464 pages long while the book I just finishe If you have read this book already then I feel safe in saying that we probably haven't read the same book. In my attempt to fill voids in my literary history I picked this book up. It is one that I have always meant to read but just never got around to it. Inadvertently, I picked up a copy of the "Restored Edition" which is the book that the author actually wrote and submitted to his publisher for publication. The original 1946 edition of this book is 464 pages long while the book I just finished is 609 pages. At the end, the book also contains an original first chapter as well as an Editorial Afterward describing how this book was assembled and the process the original editors engaged in with the author to produce the 1946 publication. So what I read was the uncut, unedited version of Robert Penn Warren's masterpiece which is ironic because as I was reading the book I thought how much the book suffered from lack of editing. I think the story of this book is fairly well known. It is a fiction loosely based on the life of Huey Long of Louisiana in the mid-1930's. It is the story of a populist politician and his rise to prominence in a corrupt political system and those around him that help and hinder the progress of his career. The story is also about the narrator, Jack Burden, who is an out of work reporter that goes to work for the protagonist, Willie Talos (Willie Stark was the name used in the original publication). To be accurate the story is more about Burden than about Talos but that is a matter for debate among readers. However, what struck me was another element of the story which I found to be as impressive and noteworthy as any of the characters and that was the writing of the author. I have never read a book written quite like this. The closest I can recall any author whose writing reached this level of fascination with me is Mark Helprin with his surrealistic novel A Winter's Tale. initially, I was really annoyed with the writing. The author through his narrator goes into descriptive detail about completely insignificant things. This detailing can go on for a few sentences or paragraphs, or pages and in language so florid and generous that if it were sugar it could probably send you into a diabetic coma. The first chapter was the worst and as you might suspect I did not take advantage of the opportunity to read the original first chapter at the end of the book. The author seems to allow the reader to enter the brain of Jack Burden as he sees and thinks things and as he lets his mind meander across random thoughts and memories and perceptions. What does this have to do with advancing the plot? Nothing, but in retrospect it did flesh out the character of Jack Burden but I thought that could have been accomplished in fewer words and more directly. I was not surprised to learn that the original editors managed to cut nearly 150 pages from the author's manuscript. The author's writing was so excessive that it became quite noticeable and, to me, became as significant as any character in the story. Is that a good thing? I don't think so. An author's words like an artist's brush strokes should disappear and the picture they have either written or painted should should shine forth as a whole. I was frequently distracted by the beauty of the writing whose excess seem to diminish the further into the story I got but was no less masterful. I did get fully engaged in the story and the characters but I also found myself stopping to appreciate the author's skill. While I started off being annoyed at the writing I eventually came to admire it and the story and both made an impact on this reader. If you haven't read this book you should but I recommend finding an original version. Enjoy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike Hart

    Read this passage: A woman only laughs that way a few times in her life. A woman only laughs that way when something has touched her way down in the very quick of her being and the happiness just wells out as natural as breath and the first jonquils and mountain brooks. When a woman laughs that way it always does something to you. It does not matter what kind of a face she has got either. You hear that laugh and feel that you have grasped a clean and beautiful truth. You feel that way because tha Read this passage: A woman only laughs that way a few times in her life. A woman only laughs that way when something has touched her way down in the very quick of her being and the happiness just wells out as natural as breath and the first jonquils and mountain brooks. When a woman laughs that way it always does something to you. It does not matter what kind of a face she has got either. You hear that laugh and feel that you have grasped a clean and beautiful truth. You feel that way because that laugh is a revelation. It is a great impersonal sincerity. It is a spray of dewy blossom from the great central stalk of All Being, and the woman’s name and address hasn’t got a damn thing to do with it. Therefore, that laugh cannot be faked. If a woman could learn to fake it she would make Nell Gwyn and Pompadour look like a couple of Campfire Girls wearing bifocals and ground-gripper shoes and with bands on their teeth. She could set all society by the ears. For all any man really wants is to hear a woman laugh like that. Does the novel read that well in its entirety? Of course not. But the undulations of prose make sections like this so much more powerful. We read for entertainment. We read for escape. We read to better understand ourselves. And, sometimes, we read a book, and it changes us. People will comment heavily on the political nature of All the King's Men. It is, after all, a book about politics. But it is also a book about love, about loss, and about being a man. It is a book that made me realize how much I miss hearing that laugh. And now it's time to go and find that laugh once more.

  30. 5 out of 5

    David Allen Hines

    I believe it is impossible to understand American politics without having read All the King's Men. And as an inveterate reader who has read thousands of books, I remain convinced All the King's Men is the greatest American novel. Loosely based on the story of legendary Lousiana Governor Huey P. "Kingfish" Long, this novel tells the story of the rise and fall of a southern politician in the 1930s. But the novel's character of Governor Willie Stark is far more developed, fascinating and complex tha I believe it is impossible to understand American politics without having read All the King's Men. And as an inveterate reader who has read thousands of books, I remain convinced All the King's Men is the greatest American novel. Loosely based on the story of legendary Lousiana Governor Huey P. "Kingfish" Long, this novel tells the story of the rise and fall of a southern politician in the 1930s. But the novel's character of Governor Willie Stark is far more developed, fascinating and complex than even the legendary Kingfish was. The genius of this book is it is not directly about Willie Stark, but is rather the memoir of Jack Burden, an elite old money former newspaper writer whose aimless life finds himself in the personal employ of the governor, who has grown from an idealistic polticial neophyte into a powerful demagouge. The writing of the novel itself is lyrical and masterful; only another novel of the 1930s, Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel can begin to compare. While the book is the story of Jack Burden and Wille Stark, the novel's real central theme is expressed in one of it's own phrases: "Maybe a man has to sell his soul to get the power to do good." Willie Stark finds that being honest in politics gets him nowhere, and like Long, he becomes a champion of the common poor person and he seeks to bend the powers that be to his will. He taxes big business to help the poor, building roads, improving schools and other public services. When the powers that be fight back he beats them down in impeachment and tells a huge gathered throng, "Your will is my strength... your need is my justice" and the common people back him absolutely despite his strong-arming, bribery, coercion, blackmail and bullying. Jack Burden, an historian, uses his historical research skills to aid Wille, who says every man has a demon..."Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the diddie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something." But what Burden finds in the case of Judge Irwin, a local old elite, changes his life forever and sets up Governor Stark's ultimate demise. In the end, Governor Stark cannot win. He champions the people through brutality, but when he seeks redemption after his son is horribly injured in a football game, casting off his mistress and ensuring that his new public hospital for the poor is contracted free of graft and corruption, a demon of his own making guns him down, and Jack Burden is left facing for the first time in his life responsibilities for his own actions. Don't read Huey Long too much into this story. While Huey's story is one of the great dramas of American politics whose reverberations are still with us today, this story of Willie Stark and Jack Burden if anything is even more mesmerizing, impactful, illustrating and haunting. As a prolific reader and as someone in government and politics now for almost three decades, I still state without hesitation this is the greatest American novel and it impossible to fully understand politics in America without reading All the Kings Men. A must read.

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