By: Robert Penn Warren
Harcourt Brace and Company, 1946
Well, I did finally get through one book (Pulitzer book, that is. I've read five or six books related to the history of American libraries in the last month...). Thanks to the modern miracle of free online audiobooks that can be checked out through various libraries, I was able to listen to All the King's Men while working. Warren's book, not to be confused with Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's 1974 investigation into Watergate - All the President's Men, is the story of the political rise and fall of the fictional governor Willie Stark, loosely based on Huey Long, former governor and U.S. Senator from Louisiana.
Warren creates an interesting story that definitely brought to mind images of the rampant political corruption in Louisiana in the first half of the 1900s (and arguably even later) that I learned about in history class. He also show, I believe, his incredible literary skills by simply keeping his story straight. Warren makes extensive use of the "flashback" literary tool to the point that the reader tends to lose all sense of past and present. While I'm sure this is effective when reading the actual book, it caused me some problems as I listened. I often had trouble remembering where we were in time, especially after pausing to go home for the night.
For this reason I definitely recommend reading the actual printed book. Something else that helped me to follow along generally was the fact that I had watched the Academy award-winning movie adaptation recently. While the movie leaves out multiple story lines and deviates from the plot of the book, seeing the movie helped me to envision what was going on in the book and anticipate the time-jumping. Warren did claim that he did not intend for this book to be a political story, but I feel that it and the movie are both important commentaries on how power can corrupt. If you have a chance, read the book and/or watch the movie.
The image above is Huey P. Long.
Again, I will continue to take a "break" from reading until the beginning of December. I am currently listening to another book and will blog about it when I get a chance.