Friday, March 02, 2007

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

I decided to read some classic American political novels a few days ago and began with All the King's Men.

Wow! Wow! Nobody ever told me that such writing existed!

For instance, when the narrator, a reporter named Jack Burden, first meets Willie Stark, a smalltown guy who knows nothing about anything, yet:

"The editor told me to find out," I said, "and why he wants me to find out only God knows. Maybe it is because it is news."

That seemed to be enough to satisfy him. So I didn't tell him that beyond my boss the managing director there was a great high world of reasons but to a fellow like me down in the ditch it was a world of flickering diaphanous spirit wings and faint angel voices that I didn't always savvy and stellar influences.
Jack Burden sure does write nice. It's because he's a historian, or at least someone who almost finished a Ph.D. in history:

And he told me to dig it [a scandal] out, dig it up, the dead cat with patches of fur still clinging to the tight, swollen, dove-gray hide. It was a proper job for me, for, as I have said, I was once a student of history. A student of history does not care what he digs out of the ash pile, the midden, the sublunary dung heap, which is the human past. He doesn't care whether it is the dead pussy or the Kohinoor diamond.

See this comment from the Internet Movie Database on the 1949 movie version for cogent remarks from 2000.

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Anonymous Ursula Stange said...

Hi Steve, this book was on my ten-best-list through most of my twenties. (I was very interested in how politics worked...) Glad to be reminded of it.

11:35 PM  

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