Robert Penn Warren began this novel shortly after the assassination of U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long (LA), t"a Kingfish Papa... know(s) which bait to choose"
Robert Penn Warren began this novel shortly after the assassination of U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long (LA), the popular, populist 42-yr-old senator and former Louisiana governor, nicknamed the Kingfish. Warren had been teaching at LSU for a year when Long died. Warren acknowledged that the novel is loosely based on the Kingfish, and the name apparently comes from Long's motto, "Every Man a King."
The novel covers the political rise and fall of the fictional Willie Stark, who came from modest roots as a small town lawyer and made it into office as a populist before the Depression to be elected twice as governor of a Southern state. Warren left references to location intentionally vague and even talked about coming in from the beach at a close-by vacation home (Louisiana has no beaches, only wetlands leading into the Gulf of Mexico).
Jack Burden, the novel's narrator, was a former newspaper columnist and history student before taking the position of Governor Stark's right hand man. As a narrator and participant in the ongoing tragedy, he is exceedingly dispassionate even as he witnesses the tragedy unfold and should suffer mightily from two betrayals. Maybe RP Warren was going for the shock or sense of bewilderment a reader may feel about the narrator seemingly not initially affected by occurrences that would likely devastate any normal person.
This is not simply a political novel as I thought (and Warren said he didn't intend it to be one). It is more about all actions having consequences, intended or not; it's about accepting responsibility for one's actions; it's about how a boy can be affected by the identity of his father; about many and various forms betrayal can take and how each form can affect both the one betrayed and the betrayer. ALL THE KING'S MEN nicely covers all the seven deadlies, particularly the Big Five of pride, greed, envy, lust and wrath.
Two quotes from the novel that I think best hit on the various themes of this classic:
"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.”
“...the air so still it aches like ... like your heart in the bosom when you stand on the street corner waiting for the light to change and happen to recollect how things once were and how they might have been yet if what happened had not happened.”
I have to admit that I sort of tuned out a couple of times when the author/narrator trailed off into 5-or-so-minute abstruse ramblings. I've had a sinus headache this week and didn't feel like concentrating too much on the meaning of life in relation to space and time.
That said, I enjoyed the book immensely for its political nature, its place and time and its exploration of these various themes.
PS: The quote in the heading of this review is from Junior Wells' "Kingfish Blues." ...more
A skillfully turbulent novel that wields a wallop in relatively short order (224 pp.). Chuck P wrote this as a male counter to the plethorNO, NO YA-YA
A skillfully turbulent novel that wields a wallop in relatively short order (224 pp.). Chuck P wrote this as a male counter to the plethora of novels on best seller shelves in the early 1990s in which women get together for a social gathering such as The Joy Luck Club, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and How to Make an American Quilt.
The first person narrator is struggling with insomnia and finds relief in impersonating a patient or survivor of a terminal illness and attending several support groups. He then meets Tyler Durden, a cinema projectionist, waiter and anarchist, who the narrator describes as "funny and forceful and independent, and men look up to him and expect him to change their world." He moves in with Tyler after an explosive device destroys his apartment.
Together, they start a Fight Club where white collar guys get together on the weekend to pummel one another then show up at work on Mondays with the black and blues with a few teeth loose. The basic idea is:
"I see in the fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived... and I see squandering... an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives, we've been all raised by television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won't and we're slowly learning that fact, and we're very very pissed off.”
But underlying this rage against the Man, is a concept familiar in 12-step circles:
“Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything. ...” "The lower you fall, the higher you fly." And, "only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit."
Things quickly evolve (or devolve) into a more exclusive club of the most loyal Fight Club members in Tyler Durden's anarchic "Project Mayhem." I won't spoil the rest if you are like me when buying this book, and have not read the book or seen the movie.
After I purchased this book months ago, I couldn't get past the first chapter. Yet thereafter, I kept running into references to this book as brillianAfter I purchased this book months ago, I couldn't get past the first chapter. Yet thereafter, I kept running into references to this book as brilliantly humorous and decided to give it up to 75 pages. I'm elated to say I continued and finished one of the funniest literary novel I've ever read or listened to. I loved it.
It's hard to describe the novel or Ignatius adequately enough to explain the hilarity, as Walker Percy says in his foreword to this novel for which John Kennedy Toole (a tortured soul) was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize 12 years after his suicide in 1969 at the age of 31.
My best stab at a description of Ignatius is a brilliant bigoted buffoon in New Orleans (the Big Easy), and to give some quotes, though they are much funnier in context:
“Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.”
Ignatius: “I suspect that beneath your offensively and vulgarly effeminate façade there may be a soul of sorts. Have you read widely in Boethius?"
N.O. Denizen: "Who? Oh, heavens no. I never even read newspapers."
Ignatius: "Then you must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age," Ignatius said solemnly. "Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too. For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books."
Denizen: "You're fantastic."
Ignatius: "I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he's found himself. His morality is rather rigid, also. I rather respect Batman.”
Mother Reilly: “It smells terrible in here.'
Ignatius: "Well, what do you expect? The human body, when confined, produces certain odors which we tend to forget in this age of deodorants and other perversions. Actually, I find the atmosphere of this room rather comforting. Schiller needed the scent of apples rotting in his desk in order to write. I, too, have my needs. You may remember that Mark Twain preferred to lie supinely in bed while composing those rather dated and boring efforts which contemporary scholars try to prove meaningful. Veneration of Mark Twain is one of the roots of our current intellectual stalemate.”
When I purchased this, I only knew I love the poetry of Rilke and that I had read many positive reviews of this compilation of his letters to a youngWhen I purchased this, I only knew I love the poetry of Rilke and that I had read many positive reviews of this compilation of his letters to a young poet.
I had no idea that this is a true chest of treasures. I purchased the Kindle version to go along with listening to this audiobook (the narration of which is outstanding). I kept placing bookmarks on the audible version and then highlighted the text in Kindle. This is quite a futile endeavor because, as I found, well over half deserves special emphasis.
I will share only my favorite quote, after saying that this book of letters, and particularly this translation into English, is worth a credit in my opinion for its encouragement of creativity and a love of life and for the testimonials from the great artists over the past decades who have been deeply and positively affected by these letters.
"... try, like the first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid at first those forms which are too familiar and habitual: they are the hardest, for you need great maturity and strength to produce something of your own in a domain where good and sometimes brilliant examples have been handed down to us in abundance. For this reason, flee general subjects and take refuge in those offered by your own day-to-day life; depict your sadnesses and desires, passing thoughts and faith in some kind of beauty--depict all this with intense, quiet, humble sincerity and make use of whatever you find about you to express yourself, the images from your dreams and the things in your memory. If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches, for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place."
Connelly still has the magic touch with Harry Bosch. To be sure, Connelly takes some shortcuts and makes a couple of turns of story that seem perhapsConnelly still has the magic touch with Harry Bosch. To be sure, Connelly takes some shortcuts and makes a couple of turns of story that seem perhaps implausible. Yet, Bosch is such an intriguing, cool and quick-witted character, who is flawed enough that he seems true and that you care what happens.
The Bosch books are like an addictive TV series, or like comfort or soul food; no matter how the story is wrapped, you'll revel in it as you binge, not stopping (if you can help it) 'til you're done.
The latest Harry Bosch novel, THE CROSSING, is considerably better than The Burning Room, the prior book in the series. Here, Bosch, a retired LAPD detective, steps in to take on a job as PI to help his half-brother Mickey Haller (the "Lincoln Lawyer" for criminal defendants) defend a client against a murder charge. After an initial review of the "murder book," Bosch takes the job, but very reluctantly because he doesn't want to offend his former comrades in the force and his principles by "crossing" over to the other side. Ultimately though, Bosch self-rationalizes that if the client didn't commit the murder, he wants to bring to justice the murderer, who must still be on the loose.
As always, Connelly keeps the current of electric suspense flowing for most of the book, and even throws in a little over-the-hill romance to boot. A guilty pleasure....more
Working on a lifetime goal of reading all the classics and at least one novel by each renowned author on a l
One of the Nicest Old Ladies I Ever Met
Working on a lifetime goal of reading all the classics and at least one novel by each renowned author on a list I've accumulated, I've repeatedly avoided Henry James. I finally chose Washington Square, primarily because it's James' shortest novel.
This is the unhappy story of a rich, controlling, widowed father and his only child, a daughter whom the dad considers unattractive, unintelligent and uninteresting to potential suitors. So when a young man asks his daughter to marry within a few weeks of meeting her at a society party in Washington Square, NYC, daddy suspects monetary motives. After some investigation, the father forbids the marriage, else he'll disinherit the daughter.
To say any more would ruin for you a story that, despite its pretty turns of prose, is both passionless and soporific. In any event, the characters are so brittle that I couldn't care much about what happened to them.
I no longer think William Faulkner was being unkind when he described James as "one of the nicest old ladies I ever met." Though I do believe President Teddy Roosevelt was overly cruel in labeling Henry James as "a little emasculated mass of inanity."...more
It's hard not to be entertained AND enlightened by a Michael Lewis book. His books exploring subjects likePurgation of Elves and the Cycle of Contempt
It's hard not to be entertained AND enlightened by a Michael Lewis book. His books exploring subjects like Major League Baseball, the NFL left tackle, the stock market and financial shorting are to non-fiction, somewhat like Apple was to personal computing. He has the creative ability to explain in clear and simple terms subjects that are complex or seem otherwise mundane. As Jobs said, "the way we’re running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple. Really simple,” noting the Da Vinci quote on Apple's first brochure: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." As Isaacson's Jobs biography explained, what Jobs meant was that you have to work really hard and creatively on the difficult things to make them simple enough for potential customers to enjoy and understand.
Lewis writes with clarity and wit, using his unique creative abilities to render subjects compelling to the average reader. It's only a half-joke to say that if Lewis set his mind to fully understanding organic chemistry, he could deliver a book explaining it to the masses, or to proclaim that Lewis could deliver a best-seller about telephone books
I read BOOMERANG a few years back, lost it in a move and bought the audio version early this year after Greek citizens soundly rejected the terms of a proposed 2d bailout agreement. While published in 2011, the book is still a timely, excellent aid to understanding the basic root causes of the debacles in Greece, Iceland and Ireland, Germany's role in European collapse, as well as giving a view here at home via an abbreviated examination of California's economic and political climate.
To give a sampling of quotes from the book to show Lewis' ability to offer the intriguing with wit:
One problem encountered by “Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the country, ...when, in 2004, it set about erecting its giant smelting plant... [was] the so-called hidden people—or, to put it more plainly, elves—in whom some large number of Icelanders, steeped long and thoroughly in their rich folkloric culture, sincerely believe. Before Alcoa could build its smelter it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it. It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free...."
Lewis notes the Germans' obsession with human excrement, or scheiße (pronounced "scheisse"), as a way to explain that country's role in the global debt collapse:
“Germans longed to be near [scheiße], but not in it. This, as it turns out, is an excellent description of their role in the current financial crisis.”
"The first thing Gutenberg sought to publish, after the Bible, was a laxative timetable he called a 'Purgation-Calendar.' Then there is the astonishing number of anal German folk sayings. 'As the fish lives in water, so does the [scheiße] stick to the asshole!,' to select but one of the seemingly endless examples.” Another is *you are just as dirty as toilet paper!*
“Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying... 'What great people!' They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing....”
"The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as 'arduous' is as early as  for men and  for women.... when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions...." Over 600 Greek professions were able to get so classified: "hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on."
“The Irish people and their country are like lovers whose passion is heightened by their suspicion that they will probably wind up leaving each other.”
"California had organized itself, not accidentally, into highly partisan legislative districts. It elected highly partisan people to office and then required these people to reach a two-thirds majority to enact any new tax or meddle with big spending decisions. On the off chance that they found some common ground, it could be pulled out from under them by voters through the initiative process. Throw in term limits—no elected official now serves in California government long enough to fully understand it—and you have a recipe for generating maximum contempt for elected officials. Politicians are elected to get things done and are prevented by the system from doing it, leading the people to grow even more disgusted with them. 'The vicious cycle of contempt,' as Mark Paul calls it. California state government was designed mainly to maximize the likelihood that voters will continue to despise the people they elect.'"
I highly recommend this book for both delight and enlightenment....more
The title is from a song by Blue Oyster Cult, the band so famously parodied in a Sat. Night Live skit in which hippie Will Ferrell pNEEDS MORE COWBELL
The title is from a song by Blue Oyster Cult, the band so famously parodied in a Sat. Night Live skit in which hippie Will Ferrell plays cowbell in a band studio session for "Don't Fear the Reaper."
In the book, the killer is a BOC fan, sends notes with BOC lyrics and most chapters begin with a line of lyrics from a BOC song.
I thought CAREER OF EVIL was a bit too predictable. Whereas the first was intricately plotted, dazzling with a surprise ending, and the second likewise intriguing and on a grander scale than most mystery/PI novels, this novel seemed too forced (e.g., a heavy reliance on adverbs in dialog ["she responded mechanically"]), not as well-planned and possibly pushed to publication (15 months since the Silkworm), resulting in an ending telegraphed from a long way out [I think she would have been more beguiling and subtle in inserting the clues had she had more time for editing and revisions]. As a consequence, the book lacked an impending sense of doom and the heart-thumping suspense of the first 2. For obvious reasons, I won't discuss the ending or the tells here.
Even with 15 months though, the book was suspenseful, at times thrilling and its love angle sharper than the first 2. Yet, I'm willing to wait 2 years or 3 for Cormoran Strike #4 if that means it will have the pizzazz of THE CUCKOO'S CALLING, the artistic flair of THE SILKWORM or otherwise show the pure creative genius that JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith has shown through her career....more