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All the King's Men Paperback – September 3, 2002
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"The Lost Girls of Devon" by Barbara O'Neal
From the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids comes a story of four generations of women grappling with family betrayals and long-buried secrets. | Learn more
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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.
A Harvest Book
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010
- Lexile Measure : 1060L
- Item Weight : 1.35 pounds
- Paperback : 656 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0156012952
- ISBN-13 : 978-0156012959
- Product Dimensions : 5.31 x 1.25 x 8 inches
- Reading level : 14 and up
- Publisher : Mariner Books; First Edition (September 3, 2002)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #14,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
Peripherally, ALL THE KING’S MEN tells the story of the charismatic and morally-questionable Governor of Louisiana and US Senator, Huey Long “The Kingfish”. His dramatic rise and sudden demise were familiar to readers in the 1940’s but by now most have forgotten (or never heard of) Governor Long. This book doesn’t detail much about The Boss’s policies or controversies, so I thought potential readers may be interested in a bit of backstory: Huey Long was a socialist populist, promoting the role of government in helping the poor through redistribution and public works. He was reviled by old-guard politicians of both political parties, the blue-blooded elites, and the corporate interests he wanted to tax (mainly oil companies). He managed to make plenty of enemies during his politicking, employed pay-for-play politics, and was accused of dictator-like abuses of power in Louisiana. During his time in the US Senate, Long was described as “the hillbilly hero … [who] wore silks suits and pink ties, womanized openly, swilled whiskey in the finest bars, swaggered his way around Washington, and breathed defiance into the teeth of his critics” (Historian David Kennedy). Long was a critic of the New Deal, claiming it didn’t go far enough in redistributing power and wealth from Wall Street (Long’s favorite bogeyman) to the poor. President Roosevelt considered Long a major threat, accusing him of election fraud, voter intimidation, and tax evasion. This drama was coming to a head when Long was assassinated.
However, while the story in ALL THE KING’S MEN revolves around the political career of Willie Stark (Huey Long), the book is not really about him at all, but about the personal growth and awakening of his right-hand-man, Jack Burden. Indeed, the entire book is spent inside the head of Jack Burden as he searches for The-Point-Of-It-All while working as the get-it-done man for The Boss. As you read this book you’ll discover that Jack Burden’s head is an interesting and somewhat neurotic place. He has a generally perverse, almost morbid view of the world. He notices and remembers things like how a person’s skin covers their skull and tends to see the most compromising past and darkest potential in everyone. He is also passively arrogant, almost psychotically unempathetic, and basically jaded by the human experience. Still, his psychological journey is convincing and somehow inspiring, and there is no shortage of profound philosophy here, even if it tends to be on the more pessimistic side of the spectrum.
If that sounds less than pleasant, don’t worry, because Robert Penn Warren’s lyrical prose is absolutely masterful, being breathtakingly beautiful and often hilariously witty, making ALL THE KING’S MEN an enjoyable page-turner that you can read for no other reason than experiencing how the words are put together. A less-skilled wordsmith trying to tell the same story is the same manner would have failed epically, but this book is confusingly excellent and a must-read.
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.