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All the king's men by Robert Penn Warren

All the king's men (1946)

by Robert Penn Warren

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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(6) I think I thought this was 'All the President's Men' when I picked it up off the shelf of a used bookstore and I didn't read the blurb very carefully. American political novel; popular film, etc. Anyway - this is all the KING's men and it is about Willie Stark, a country boy who ultimately becomes the Governor of Louisiana, on a rising tide of a populist platform and political blackmail. It is told by one of his henchmen of sorts, Jimmy Burden, journalist and would be historian turned errand-boy for Stark. It is as much about his life as Stark's - his past, his childhood friend and love - Adam and Anne Stanton, and his complicated relationship with his mother. All of these seemingly disparate players intersect in what really is a tragic novel. It is widely believed to be based on the life of Huey Long - Governor of Lousianna in the late 30's.

The author Robert Penn Warren is apparently a poet, this a rare piece of prose (ultimately winning the Pulitzer Prize) for him. His poetry roots are evident in the writing. It is written in what I think is called the 'modernist' style - much stream of consciousness, free association-type of narrative. But it is not particularly difficult to follow, though difficult to get into. I don't think I really liked the book until at least 1/2 way in. Warren is most effective when telling a discrete story from the past - the 'Cass Masterson' reenactment, the story of Jimmy and Anne's magical summer when they fell in love. The present day action felt watered down - Jimmy seemed so detached from everything it almost felt like a dreamscape.

Anyway, this novel drips with atmosphere. You can feel the ennui, the heat, the cigarette smoke, the sweat. You are never quite sure of the motivations of the characters and some of their actions are unpredictable. The dialogue is often repetitive especially in scenes of great emotion. So realism as opposed to a dramatization - it is what is both the power and the Achilles heel of the novel. Achilles heel because it often made it difficult to read and made the characters hard to sympathize with. I can't believe there is anyone who didn't rather loathe Anne Stanton by the end. Loathe them all really.

Very memorable. powerful. dark. tragic. tough and not always enjoyable to read, but in the end I am glad I did and it will stay with me. Apparently the star-studded remake of the old movie in 2006 was a flop - but I might just try and find it.. . ( )
  jhowell | Feb 7, 2016 |
One of my favorite books of all time. And, one of the most important works of fiction of the 20th Century. This book has it all - it makes a person think, and the story moves well (though not always in a linear fashion). The main character struggles with the need to take responsibility for the things he has done that have impacted the lives of others. Aide to a dictator-like politician of questionable character (supposedly loosely based on Huey Long, the one-time "dictator"/governor of Louisiana), he also struggles with the need for honesty and being honest with oneself. "...all times are one time, and all those dead in the past never lived before our definition gives them life, and out of the shadow their eyes implore us. That is what all of us historical researchers believe. And we love truth." Several critics have commented on how everything in the novel revolves around guilt... ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
All the King's Men portrays the dramatic political rise and governorship of Willie Stark, a cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s. 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.
  KunmingERC | Aug 10, 2015 |
Beautiful writing, universal story ( )
  sleahey | Jul 23, 2015 |
America’s greatest political novel. ( )
  DavidPaulKuhn | Jul 9, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Warren, Robert Pennprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Koskinen, JuhaniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde.

--La Divina Commedia, Purgatorio, III
To Justine and David Mitchell Clay
First words

To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new. Or was new, that day we went up it.
It was like the second when you come home late at night and see the yellow envelope of the telegram sticking out from under your door and you lean and pick it up, but don't open it yet, not for a second. While you stand there in the hall, with the envelope in your hand, you feel like there's an eye on you, a great big eye looking straight at you from miles and dark and through walls and houses and through your coat and vest and hide and sees you huddled up way inside, in the dark which is you, inside yourself, like a clammy, sad little foetus you carry around inside yourself. The eye knows what's in the envelope, and it is watching you to see you when you open it and know it, too. But the clammy, sad little foetus which is you way down in the dark which is you too lifts up its sad little face and its eyes are blind, and it shivers cold inside you for it doesn't want to know what is in that envelope. It wants to lie in the dark and not know, and be warm in its not-knowing. 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 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.
It was not so much any one example, any one event, which I recollected which was important, but the flow, the texture of the events, for meaning is never in the event but in the motion through event.  Otherwise we could isolate an instant in the event and say that this is the event itself.  The meaning.  But we cannot do that.  For it is the motion which is important.
So there are two you's, the one you yourself create by loving and the one the beloved creates by loving you.  The farther those 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.
The creation of man whom God in His foreknowledge knew doomed to sin was the awful index of God's omnipotence.  For it would have been a thing of trifling and contemptible ease for Perfection to create mere perfection.  To do so would, to speak truth, be not creation but extension.  Separateness is identity and the only way for God to create, truly create, man was to make him separate from God Himself,and to be separate from God is to be sinful.  The creation of evil is therefore the index of God's glory and His power.
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The rise and fall of

a demagogue, based somewhat

on a real statesman.


Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156004801, Paperback)

This landmark book is a loosely fictionalized account of Governor Huey Long of Louisiana, one of the nation's most astounding politicians. All the King's Men tells the story of Willie Stark, a southern-fried politician who builds support by appealing to the common man and playing dirty politics with the best of the back-room deal-makers. Though Stark quickly sheds his idealism, his right-hand man, Jack Burden -- who narrates the story -- retains it and proves to be a thorn in the new governor's side. Stark becomes a successful leader, but at a very high price, one that eventually costs him his life. The award-winning book is a play of politics, society and personal affairs, all wrapped in the cloak of history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:02 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Set in the '30s, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel traces the rise and fall of demagogue Willie Stark, a fictional character who resembles the real-life Huey "Kingfish" Long of Louisiana. Stark begins his political career as an idealistic man of the people but soon becomes corrupted by success and caught between dreams of service and an insatiable lust for power. The model for 1996's best-selling novel, Primary Colors, and as relevant today as it was fifty years ago, All the King's Men is one of the classics of American literature.… (more)

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