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Next Up: All The King’s Men

All The King’s Men is one of those novels that has always lurked in the background of my reading list.

I’ve heard great things about it. I’ve known it as a political novel that’s highly regarded, and I’ve always wanted to read it.

Now’s that time! Honestly, the majority of my familiarity with this book comes from the Academy Award winning 1949 film.

Here are a few quick facts about All The King’s Men and its author, Robert Penn Warren.

  • All The King’s Men was for published in 1946.
  • Robert Penn Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for the novel in 1947.
  • In addition to appearing on the Time list, the novel ranks 36 on the Modern Library list.
  • The title came from the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
  • The main character in the novel, Willie Stark, is based on Huey Long, who was the controversial Governor of Louisiana from 1928-1932.
  • The novel was recreated as a film in 1949 and 2006.
  • The 2006 version featured an all-star cast, with Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, and James Gandolfini.
  • The 1949 film won three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
  • Robert Penn Warren received his undergrad degree from Vanderbilt and has a building on campus named after him—the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.
  • He passed away in 1989, at the age of 85, from complications from bone cancer.

As much as I despise politicians, I still look forward to reading this book. I’m interested to see how Warren exposes the “dark underbelly” of backwoods, southern politics.

And I’m especially interested in digging into the story of Huey Long, the shady politician who was the inspiration for this novel.

Everything I’ve read about All The King’s Men tells me this should be a great novel.

Have you read it? Any thoughts?

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18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Personally I have started and stopped reading this novel more times than I can count. RPW (<- a DFW homage FTW!) links up a monstrous amount of words to form single sentences. Maybe this is an indication that I have a two year old's attention span.

    Like

    May 30, 2013
    • It does seem wordy and overly descriptive in places. Love the story so far but the pacing seems a little off.

      Like

      May 30, 2013
  2. vrbridge #

    I read this book for AP literature in high school. I was the only person in the class who couldn’t put it down, but that’s not saying much for high school seniors. I loved it. I particularly enjoyed the narrator’s (Jack Burden) point of view. He captured Willie Stark’s story as an outsider looking upon a mystery of sorts. And Jack’s story is interesting as well. I really hope you like it!

    Like

    May 30, 2013
    • Great to hear. I like the story so far. Warren’s style is a little wordy though.

      Like

      May 30, 2013
  3. Elijah shifted on the courthouse steps because he could see her watching from the corner of his eye. The coffee cup in his hand shook just the least little bit, and he needed to aim carefully lest the tabacco juice should stain his linen trousers. There will be three kinds of regular hell to pay, he thought to himself. That old hen can’t leave me be.

    He went back to reading the Charleston Gazette. what’s this, he said, scratching his buttock. that yankee wants me to give him some kind of *spoiler?* He grinned and thought about the stories from his great granddaddy – those Yankees never did know when to stop.

    “I’ll tell him what I thought of the ending, all right.” he looked up at the sky and mopped his forehead.

    “In due time.” He silently prayed “Lord, deliver me from the prying eyes of that old woman. and Yankees that go out and ask, ask, for spoilers. they need to learn some sense.”

    and passed gas, a slow silent fart, the kind that lay there in the sultry southern air and fertilized the soil for ten miles around.

    “In Due time”

    Like

    May 30, 2013
  4. I love this novel and ended up writing about it for one of my classes during my Master’s degree. I suspect that you will like it. Pay attention to the theme of the web.

    Like

    May 30, 2013
  5. I am with Greg on this one. I tried twice, but the sentence structure wore me down. I loved the 1949 film. I can also certainly appreciate the mastery of the writing as demonstrated above.

    Like

    May 30, 2013
  6. Sean #

    You have to remember that Robert Penn Warren was a poet who happened to write a novel much more than a novelist who wrote poems. The story has some breathtaking passages, but it also has some passages that you feel like the significance is just out of reach, beyond your understanding. The book is slow in places, but there are some stunning passages, like when the narrator is traveling out west, that I think are really amazingly well written, and the last quarter of the book is great.

    Like

    May 30, 2013
  7. I read it so long ago, I only have two vague recollections: 1) I liked it. 2) As a teenager, I think it gave me first real taste of how the world really works.

    Oh, and I was also reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead around the same time. I liked both of those books then, too. Don’t think I’d like them so much now. And I’ve only had the urge to re-read ATKM.

    Like

    May 30, 2013
  8. I haven’t read it, but now I’m putting it on my list. Can’t wait to hear what you thought. I have to be in the right mood for a political book.

    Like

    May 30, 2013
  9. This is really a tempting book but maybe also the film could be an idea? Many thanks for your interesting information. Bye Martina

    Like

    May 31, 2013
  10. MARK WHELAN'S LITERARY BLOG #

    I have seen the 2006 film version, enjoyed it, and like most great films, it leads to the novel. I have not read it yet, but will probably read it in the future. It has great resonance with what is happening in the world of politics today, and in particular, as I write this from Cape Town, South Africa, in the ongoing saga of Jacob Zuma and his relationship with the Guphta’s.

    Like

    May 31, 2013
  11. There’s a great Slate Audio Book Club podcast on this one – strong praise, as well as critique.

    Like

    May 31, 2013
  12. I did not enjoy this book in High School. I’ve never been a fan of stream of consciousness. I will probably re-read it some day as I want to re-visit all the boos I read in HS to see if they’re better with age.

    Like

    June 3, 2013
  13. Honestly, I am a bit of a book snob. I prefer minimalist literature and find that I don’t digest books well unless they are written by minimalist authors. Unfortunately, Warren does not fall into that company.

    Like

    June 4, 2013

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