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All the King's Men Paperback – September 3, 2002
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"To read it in this new edition is to be struck again by its raw power, its urgency and relevance."--New Orleans Times-Picayune
"The original editors adjusted the novel to the tastes and styles of the time, but now we can read it as it was written. The result is a more complicated and emotionally charged--and longer--story."--Chicago Tribune
From the Back Cover
Winner of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize, All the King's Men is one of the most famous and widely read works in American literature, and as relevant today as it was fifty years ago. Now it has been fully restored and reintroduced by literary scholar Noel Polk, textual editor of the works of William Faulkner. Polk presents the novel as it was originally written, revealing even greater energy, excitement, complexity, and subtlety of character in this landmark of letters.
"[Polk] should be commended for this restored edition of Warren's great novel. . . . Deeply imagined, beautifully written, [All the King's Men] is both a reckoning with the deepest forces of life and an edge-of-your seat page-turner."--The Raleigh News and Observer
"To read [All the King's Men] in this new edition is to be struck again by its raw power, its urgency and relevance."--New Orleans Times-Picayune
"The publication of a new, corrected edition of All the King's Men is welcome news for all who care about American literature." -- Joseph Blotner, author of Robert Penn Warren: A Biography
Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), America's first Poet Laureate, won three Pulitzer Prizes and virtually every other major award given to U.S. writers.
Noel Polk is a professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi. He lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
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That central conceit, though, isn't really clear until you get about halfway through with the story. The first part of the story feels very much like a standard issue dramatic story about yes, politics and corruption. We learn the story of Willie Stark, how he made it from a bumpkin, to a young political appointee fighting a shady, kickback-laden county contract, to a stooge goaded into running for Governor by people using him for their own purposes, to a morally questionable Governor himself. That part of the novel is interesting and easily digestible enough, but the real power of it comes from the later, more philosophical part that shifts Stark's story into the background and brings Jack's story up front.
The storyline wrangling and plot development is masterful, but where the real beauty of this book is are the words. Robert Penn Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel, but he also won one for poetry, and you can tell. Picking out a highlight quote was torture...I read this on the Kindle and digitally underlined about half the book because I was so in love with the language. It's a page turner, but not in a suspenseful kind of way. You just want to keep reading it to keep basking in the glory of the writing. I was sad to put it down when it was over.
Often referred to as America's greatest political novel, ATKM is much more than such an animal. In fact, I hardly read it that way at all. Sure, it is essentially set in the world of politics, but for me this was a story with a lot more humanity in it than I'd expected going in. I've so often heard the emphasis put on Willie Talos (Stark in the original version) that I've just assumed this was a novel about him and his fall, but it's Jack Burden who is the real story here and it's through his eyes and philosophies that Warren relates the tales. I could read Burden's dialog all day, and he's a competent philosopher whose perspectives change and grow with age and experience. Throw in the mesmerizing story within a story of Cass Mastern, and there's enough to keep a reader thinking for a long time.
Reading his prose is a constant reminder that Warren was primarily a poet. He writes with a mesmerizing grace and clarity that proves beautiful and meaningful through the entire read. It is not difficult to see how this became one of America's great novels and it goes without saying that it is well worth reading. The only question is which version? That one is up to you.
Okay, if I could take two books with me to a desert island, the first book would be All The King's Men. The second book would also be All The King's Men, in case I lost the first book. I think it's that good, but that's just my opinion and it doesn't count for much. Some people hate it; they say it's long and that it rambles and waxes poetic and has lots of philosophy in it. They're right. Some people love it for the same reasons. But there is this about it: It is full to the brim and overflowing with life. It tells a fictional story of people that lived over 75 years ago - and it could just as well be talking about people that are alive today. You will find yourself in this book and you will know yourself better if you finish it. What more can you ask?