Thursday, November 05, 2009

All the King's Men - Winner, Fiction, 1947

All the King's Men
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.


Emily said...

Yay, she's reading!

I've never seen the movie--I would probably want to before I read this book. :)

AK said...

This is for Mary Ann who e-mailed me, but, for some reason, I keep getting my response returned...

I work for a university and attend a different university, so I have access to 2 academic libraries and a public library, which helps a lot. Different libraries have subscriptions for online books. Some online have the text versions and some have audio. Two of my libraries have subscriptions to
NetLibrary. I just look up the book I want in the library's catalog and see if an e-audiobook is available. Unfortunately, I forgot that All the Kings Men was not available on NetLibrary - I got it from my public library in CD
version. I looked on the Harris County PL website and they do have it in CD format - do you think that would work for her? Are you in a suburb of Houston? If so, I think they should let you have access to that library. It won't help for this particular book, but they do have a subscription to NetLibrary. That could be helpful in the future and might offer more
options. One more thing you can do, if you are looking for an audio book that your library doesn't have online or in CD format, is to check with your library's Interlibrary Loan office. Some don't deal with audio books, ut it doesn't hurt to check! They can get things from other libraries that ou wouldn't have access to. I hope this is helpful!

Rebecca Reid said...

I get the two books you mention confused in my mind. This one sounds interesting, but not next on my list -- and not in audio!!

RC said...

I watched the Sean Penn version of this movie - the story is interesting enough in the movie, but there is something definitly lacking that I am sure is more cohesive in the book because something about the movie is semi painful.

AK said...

I didn't even realize that there was a more recent version of the movie! I would be interested to see how it differs from the 1949 version that won 3 Oscars.

Anonymous said...

I love your summaries Allison!

We haven't seen the 1949 version of the movie, but we should put that on our list since we are watching classics (specifically Oscar contenders) from the 30s, 40s & 50s.