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All the King's Men (1946)

by Robert Penn Warren

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7,2561281,245 (4.11)391
Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. HTML:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this classic book is generally regarded as the finest novel ever written on American politics. It describes the career of Willie Stark, a back-country lawyer whose idealism is overcome by his lust for power.

1940s (203)
AP Lit (277)

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English (126)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (128)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
This is a book from my bucket list.

It's always a bit mind-boggling to read a book from a hundred years ago and recognize that nothing has really changed except fashion. It happened when I read [b:Arrowsmith|11389|Arrowsmith|Sinclair Lewis|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1328006651l/11389._SY75_.jpg|1446230] and realized that nothing has changed in the world of pharmaceuticals and physicians. All the King's Men lays out the idea that power and money is central to politics, and corrupts all politicians, no matter humble and full of good will they are in the beginning. Human nature doesn't change one bit. It's incredibly depressing. ( )
  rabbit-stew | Dec 31, 2023 |
This is impressive, and it's clear why it won the Pulitzer for fiction. The prose flows beautifully, and the banter and schemes and relationships are captivating and infuriating ( )
  KallieGrace | Nov 29, 2023 |
650 pages of poetry. I'm sure it is the masterpiece it is said to be, but for me it was a real slog. ( )
  nogomu | Oct 19, 2023 |
As good as I remember ( )
  emmby | Oct 4, 2023 |
A serious, ambitious, somewhat overwritten classic political novel. The first five hundred pages pass in a blur as Warren follows the rise to power of Willie Stark and the moral conflicts of Jack Burden, his right-hand man. The last few chapters devolve into operatic melodrama - over-the-top tragedy, whiplash-inducing plot developments, poetic passages in which our intrepid narrator tries to make sense of it all.

I'm getting ready to read Faulkner again and am constantly reminded of the "Burden" of history in the South, of the desire for goodness in a world mired in sin. The original sin of our country was slavery - the South was Eve, the beautiful sensual wife who brought the fruit of knowledge to the lips of the Union. We were cast out of the Garden with the Civil War - our own innocence and ideals were stained and we began the long process of living with each other, a fallen people in a vast land who have little in common.

Southern writers understand that nothing is pure, that an attempt to keep up appearances only causes the poison under the surface to roil more violently.

Near the end of All the King's Men, Jack's supposed father says that "the creation of evil is therefore the index of God's glory and His power." This is the paradox of the world that Willie Stark knew in his deepest instinctual fiber - that we are constantly being made to sin against ourselves and each other, but that this sin can also lead to redemption. ( )
  jonbrammer | Jul 1, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men" is magnificently vital reading, a book so charged with dramatic tension it almost crackles with blue sparks, a book so drenched with fierce emotion, narrative pace and poetic imagery that its stature as a "readin' book," as some of its characters would call it, dwarfs that of most current publications. Here, my lords and ladies, is no book to curl up with in a hammock, but a book to read until 3 o'clock in the morning, a book to read on trains and subways, while waiting for street cars and appointments, while riding elevators or elephants.

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Warren, Robert Pennprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Emerson, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome 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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Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. HTML:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this classic book is generally regarded as the finest novel ever written on American politics. It describes the career of Willie Stark, a back-country lawyer whose idealism is overcome by his lust for power.


No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary
The rise and fall of

a demagogue, based somewhat

on a real statesman.


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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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