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All the King's Men

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  39,469 ratings  ·  1,546 reviews
Winner of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize, All the King's Men is one of the most famous and widely read works in American fiction. Its original publication by Harcourt catapulted author Robert Penn Warren to fame and made the novel a bestseller for many seasons. Set in the 1930s, it traces the rise and fall of demagogue Willie Stark, a fictional Southern politician who resembles t ...more
Paperback, 438 pages
Published November 28th 1982 by Harcourt (first published 1946)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 05, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jeffrey by: On the Southern Literary Trail
Shelves: southern
"Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud."

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Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren is the only person to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction as well as poetry. He won the prize for fiction in 1946 for this very book. If you are lucky enough to have a great aunt who reads, and bought a lot of books in the 1940s, you might take a gander at her books some time and see if she has a first edition, first printing of this book in
...more
Steve Sckenda
“Is you is, or is you ain’t my constituency?”
(O Brother Where Art Thou? Coen Brothers’ film, 2000)

Do corrupt and greedy humans beget corrupt and greedy politicians? Do we get the leaders we deserve? Poet Robert Penn Warren received the Pulitzer Prize for his 1946 masterpiece about a corrupt governor of an unnamed Southern state (resembling Louisiana) during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, but Warren poses difficult questions about the nature of human corruption and the nature of evil that
...more
Mike
All the King's Men: Robert Penn Warren's Spider Web

This Novel was chosen as a group read by members of On the Southern Literary Trail for July 2012 and again in October,2014.

"It all began, as I have said, when the Boss, sitting in the black Cadillac which sped through the night, said to me (to Me who was what Jack Burden, the student of history, had grown up to be) "There is always something."
And I said, "Maybe not on the Judge."
And he said, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and h
...more
Heather
Compelling, overstuffed, overplotted, sexist, labyrinthine, poetic, atmospheric. To me this book's status as The Great American Political Novel seems like a terrific bitter joke, because the author's vision of "politics" is comprised entirely of blackmail, physical intimidation, pork-barreling, rabble-rousing, nepotism, bribery, rigged elections, and hilariously contrived "family values" photo shoots. (I love the scene where a photographer and two aides attempt to wrestle a comatose, foul-smelli ...more
Kemper
At first glance, Willie Stark seems like he would have been the perfect Tea Party candidate. He uses fiery rhetoric to stir up crowds by claiming to be just like them and that he’s going to bust the heads of those evil ole politicians at the state house to force them the straighten up and do things the right way. But on the other hand, Willie actually knows something about government and uses his tactics to improve the lives of poor people by taxing the wealthy and using that money to do things ...more
Weinz
Oct 14, 2009 Weinz rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Weinz by: Bernie
Shelves: favorites
I finished this book on a plane. I was on a plane coming home from somewhere that I didn't belong and as we coasted onto the tarmac I felt a little like Jack Burden. He was never really comfortable in the shoes that he wore but was constantly striving to find the truth in things. He was looking for the truth while consistently doing the right even when it was hardest. Not to say that I am this all knowing altruistic seeker of truth in all things, quite the opposite, but coming from somewhere I d ...more
Gary
Ok......What did i think?? I wish I had read this book a loooooooooooongggggg time ago....... but maybe it was time to read it now. I think every American , whether Democrat, Republican, Independent, or I don't give a shit party, should read it..... It's a very modern topical novel to read now about how corruption can ruin a person,because we have to be right about everything........ instead of trying to work together for the better welfare of

"everyone" in this country.


It's a book that makes yo
...more
Larry Bassett
I like politics. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I have been involved with politics for a long time at a lot of different levels. Mostly my heart is with third party politics. This book has a special interest to me although I have never read it. The title is very familiar to me but I can’t say exactly why that is.

I have come to believe that anyone who is successful in politics and has been elected is probably someone who is intellectually dishonest. After all, can you imagine some
...more
Mike Hart
Read this passage:

A woman only laughs that way a few times in her life. A woman only laughs that way when something has touched her way down in the very quick of her being and the happiness just wells out as natural as breath and the first jonquils and mountain brooks. When a woman laughs that way it always does something to you. It does not matter what kind of a face she has got either. You hear that laugh and feel that you have grasped a clean and beautiful truth. You feel that way because tha
...more
Lyn
Robert Penn Warren's, All the Kings Men won the 1947 Pulitzer prize, and could also have won that prize in the next three years.

Is this 400 pages of poetic prose or a great epic prosaic poem? This work would make a great primer for college English lit majors, I think Warren used every literary device and may have made up some more.

And like so many master performances of art or sport, he makes it look effortless, he makes it look easy. This was like watching Joe DiMaggio glide across the outfie
...more
Andrew
All the King’s Men is often promoted as a novel about politics, occasionally even the quintessential novel of American politics. While I did enjoy the portrait of Willie Stark as an archetype political boss, more interesting, to me, is the struggle of the narrator, Jack Burden, to overcome his nihilistic doubts in the face of a world governed by power. Jack claims to overcome his nihilism (“the Great Twitch”) by coming to an understanding of the morality of his own life (the personal and inter-p ...more
Lewis Weinstein
ATKM’s "dead on" characterizations of political behavior are as relevant today as they were when it won a Pulitzer in 1947. Often described as the story of Willie Stark, a thinly disguised fictional stand-in for fabled Louisiana Governor Huey Long, it is really much more that of Jack Burden, Stark’s aide and friend, from whose first person POV the story is told.

Alternately attracted and repulsed by the tangy smells of commitment and corruption, Jack engages our sympathy and intellect as he perso
...more
Jonfaith
Jack Burden is one of my favorite characters. He hovers as a reflection of what could've been, yet his finality terrifies me. The scenes detailing Burden smoking in the dark and the winds arriving from the Canadian north are amazing. Warren eyes both Faulkner and Gibbon. His study of power echoes the Bard, though his poetic flourishes are native-born. He eyes his betters and replicates to placate Carson and Marsa Bill. All The Kings Men is regarded as the best example of the political novel. I'm ...more
Mister Jones
Jan 26, 2008 Mister Jones rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mister Jones by: My Southern Literature Teacher
For my money, I think this is the greatest book in Southern Literature exceeding Faulkner. All the King's Men is much more than the usual purported centrality of Willie Stark's political motives and final demise, and the usual shallow analogies to Huey Long; if anything, the novel's narrator, Jack Bundren, is a cynical person whose life has unraveled. I think the one scene with Jack's father will always stay vivid as the epitome of Southern Grotesque. It is a multi-layer novel--with clarity and ...more
Brinda
This book was unlike anything I have ever read before and I doubt I will read many of its caliber ever again. It is an epic, biblical, human yet quintessentially American saga, disguised in the bizarre circumstances surrounding a particular brand of local Southern politics. In Willie Stark, Penn Warren has created the ultimate American antihero -- describing to the tee the populist circus the campaign trail becomes, with Willie playing off the parasitic needs of potential voters and staffers and ...more
Matt
All the King’s Men is one of my favorite books, and I find it hard to write about my favorite books. When you are swept away by something – a book, a movie, a girl – all objectivity tends to disappear. Instead of pointed analysis, cold-eyed criticism, and thoughtful chin-stroking, there is gushing and platitudes and hyperbole.

In fact, instead of writing a review, I prefer to strip naked and run around the block screaming Robert Penn Warren’s many virtues.

Okay, I’m back.

There are a lot of great
...more
Kathy
Wow, this is a fantastic book! The story and the characters are first-rate, but it is the language that really got me. Sentence after sentence of verbiage that is so evocative, so perfect, you just want to savor it, to make it last, running its sweetness over your tongue and your teeth and just keeping the taste of it around as long as possible.

I knew for sure that this was going to be a rare and wonderful read when Jack Burden, the narrator, described his own nose as a hooked, askew, cartilagin
...more
Josh
Don’t get too caught up in the belief that this book is, as the back of my copy suggests, “The definitive novel about American politics”. Oh, it’s “definitive” alright, and it’s both “American” and “politics”, but those words limit rather than describe the places this novel takes you.

First an admission on my part- there were three motivations which led me to tackle this 600 page beast: 1) It was selected as one of the monthly group reads within the Goodreads group “On the Southern Literary Trail
...more
Joe
“Politics is a matter of choices, and a man doesn't set up the choices himself. And there is always a price to make a choice. You know that. You've made a choice, and you know how much it cost you. There is always a price.”

This quote really is the thesis of this book. Choices matter. I think this is an extremely important American book that should be read by everybody. It is as essential to the American experience as "The Great Gatsby." In fact, it reminded me of that book in many regards: The
...more
Kellie
I go through a lot of anxiety when I decide to quit a book in the middle of it. I really did give this one a chance. I really like the leader of my book club, who chose this book, however, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I never read such a bunch of babble before in my life. If all the babble was pulled out of this book, it would probably be 100 pages. As opposed to it’s 437. This quote is an example… “If there weren’t any other people there wouldn’t be any you because what you do, which is wha ...more
Momof3-in an Ash and Cael sandwich
For Banned Book Week!
I think 3.5 stars.
Look, I'm not the brightest bulb okay, I know this, you know this. I remember in high school my history teacher made us watch The Wizard of Oz and write about how it was a metaphor for populism or something, I didn't get it. I still don't, all I thought was he was ruining a fantastic movie by reading too much into it. My point? It's entirely possible I have completely missed the point of the book. I got out of it what I got out of it.
The writing: I did lik
...more
Teresa
I first read this in Oct '06 and just re-read it for a discussion that was held in conjunction with this year's Louisiana Book Festival. It's amazing what one forgets in just 2 years, but what I didn't forget was Warren's lyrical way with words and structure, and the questioning, many times sardonic voice of his narrator, Jack Burden. It was a pleasure to read it again.

It took me so long to read this book in the first place because I thought it was going to be 'just' a fictionalized account of H
...more
Nicholas
One of the best books about the south. It is labeled as a political novel, but it is truly more. The way it is written is great with the flashbacks and insight into the characters past. Though it is long winded with description at times, I think the characters are fleshed out and the ending leaves you satisfied. Highly recommend.
Franky
Warren’s All the King’s Men is deeply political in story, yet it also very insightful in its point of view, examining one man’s role and perspective towards the monumental rise and fall of a political figure. As much as the plot is devoted to Willie Stark, it is more so linked to narrator Jack Burden, his ideologies about the world of politics, campaigning and playing hard ball and dirty politics, being Willie’s right hand man, and his coming to terms with the tragic consequences that unfold lat ...more
Douglas Perry
Great books don't seem to live on anymore, at least not in the same, swaggering way they did before information overload hit us all. But I refuse to be completely sucked into the stream, the obsession with what's next, so every year or so I return to my favorite comfort reading, Robert Penn Warren's 1946 masterpiece, "All the King's Men."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is about the corrupt, spellbinding politician Willie Stark, who makes goodness out of badness because "there isn't anything el
...more
Ted
I first read this about 40 years ago. Having just finished my second reading (I think only two), I think the book is a better novel than I remembered it as, though I've always felt it was a "five-star" book.

Of the two stories in the book (the story of Willie Stark, based loosely or perhaps not so loosely on the life of Huey Long, and the story of the narrator Jack Burden, based presumably on the imagination but perhaps also on some of the artistic and philosophical beliefs of the author), the fo
...more
Coy
May 04, 2008 Coy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Coy by: Angela
I can understand why people call this a classic. It sort of reminds me of the Great Gatsby, one of my favorite novels. I can also hear the narration at the end. It's deep, nostalgic, matter of fact and meloncholy-- like saying goodbye. That reminds me of A River Runs Through It. After all is said and done, however, I can't say that All the Kings Men, to me, was as good as a River Runs Through It or Gatsby.

This I write much to the dismay of my girlfriend, who not only loves All the King's Men, b
...more
Ewurama
I read All the King’s Men several months ago after hearing from someone how much he and his book club had enjoyed the book. It had been sitting on my shelf for some time, and that recommendation was all the motivation I needed to finally pick up the book.

All the King’s Men is often referred to as a great novel of American politics—what a misnomer! Let’s not even focus on the “great” part; let’s talk first about “politics.” It’s not a book about politics; it’s a book about a man—and not the man
...more
Nate
This is one of my favorite novels - really, the book that helped me define what a novel even is. There's a real breadth to the action of this novel and characters that are real in ways I hadn't come across in a novel before. I found myself equally drawn to the quiet lyrical moments of this and the more declarative sections of action and character manipulation.

The overall plot - political intrigue in Louisiana politics - is so secondary to my enjoyment that I almost forget that is the setting. To
...more
Thing Two
Jack Burden is a political reporter who comes to work for Willie Stark, eventually becoming his right-hand man. Burden's life is interwoven with Stark's as the later quickly rises from an idealist rural lawyer to Governor of Louisiana, but as the nursery rhyme goes, when they fall from the wall All the King's Men can't put Humpty together again.

This book won a Pulitzer in 1947, and the movie version produced in 1949 won three Oscar's, including one for Best-Picture. Loved it!
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Robert Penn Warren was an American poet, novelist, and literary critic, and was one of the founders of New Criticism. He was also a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry. He won the Pulitzer in 1947 for his novel All the King's Men (1946) and won his subsequent Pulitzer Prizes for poetry in 1957 and then ...more
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“The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it, would save him.” 1159 likes
“[F]or when you get in love you are made all over again. The person who loves you has picked you out of the great mass of uncreated clay which is humanity to make something out of, and the poor lumpish clay which is you wants to find out what it has been made into. But at the same time, you, in the act of loving somebody, become real, cease to be a part of the continuum of the uncreated clay and get the breath of life in you and rise up. So you create yourself by creating another person, who, however, has also created you, picked up the you-chunk of clay out of the mass. So there are two you's, the one you create by loving and the one the beloved creates by loving you. The farther those two you's are apart the more the world grinds and grudges on its axis. But if you loved and were loved perfectly then there wouldn't be any difference between the two you's or any distance between them. They would coincide perfectly, there would be perfect focus, as when a stereoscope gets the twin images on the card into perfect alignment.” 95 likes
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