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All the King's Men

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  52,143 ratings  ·  2,347 reviews
More than just a classic political novel, Warren’s tale of power and corruption in the Depression-era South is a sustained meditation on the unforeseen consequences of every human act, the vexing connectedness of all people and the possibility—it’s not much of one—of goodness in a sinful world. Willie Stark, Warren’s lightly disguised version of Huey Long, the onetime Loui ...more
Paperback, 2nd Harvest edition, 439 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Harcourt Brace (first published 1946)
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4.09  · 
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 ·  52,143 ratings  ·  2,347 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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."

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
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-novels
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
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: Freshman serendipity at a college bookstore
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
Michael Finocchiaro
This was a wonderful book. I listened to it on Audible, but it was so well-written that I have ordered hard-copy as well. The story of Willie Stark and Jack Burden (which are the same story as the narrator says) is both poignant and realistic. Seen through the cynical and poetic eyes of Burden, the Southern cronyism of Huey Long is parodied here (and honestly reminds me of recent and current American political history). The writing is absolutely spectacular - Penn Warren is the only person ever ...more
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
King of Pain

Storytelling and copulation are the two chief forms of amusement in the South. They're inexpensive and easy to procure.
Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren had been teaching at LSU for about a year prior to the 1935 assassination of U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long (La.), nicknamed "Kingfish," the populist and crooked 42-yr-old senator and former Louisiana governor, on whom his novel is loosely based. The title comes from Long's motto, "Every Man a King," and a "Humpty Dumpty" verse.

The story
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it

Meaning to do good, Willie Stark rises from self-educated lawyer to political bigwig and eventually governor. Along the way he loses his moral compass and develops a taste for power, resorting to bullying, bribery, blackmail - whatever it takes - to get what he wants.

Willie does manage to help some of his constituents, taxing the wealthy to provide schools and hospitals for the poor. But he also betrays his wife; raises a selfish, self-absorbed son; corrupts good people; and eventually reaps the
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First off, I would nominate this book as one highly in need of a much improved cover design. That being said, it perfectly fits the old adage about judging a book by it's ( mundane) cover. I love it when a book surprises me and the dread of reading it ( club choice) turns into excitement. The back-page blurb praises it as a Pulitzer Prize winner following the political career of Willie Stark, a fictional character loosely based on that of Huey "Kingfish" Long a post Depression Era Louisiana gove ...more
The image I got in my head that day was the image of her face lying in the water, very smooth, with the eyes closed, under the dark greenish-purple sky, with the white gull passing over.

This is probably the first fairly good review I ever wrote on Goodreads (or anywhere, of course). Seems hardly anyone has ever seen it. Ran across it tonight in an old Word doc and thought I'd repost it. The book is a classic.

I first read it about 40 years ago. Having just finished my second reading (I think only
Lewis Weinstein
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-general
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
Sep 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 02, 2007 added it
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
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 outf
Mike Hart
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mister Jones
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-lit
"Red" Warren was a friend of my doctoral advisor Leonard Unger, I think from the Vanderbilt connection before they were U Minnesota colleagues in the 50's, along with Saul Bellow and Allen Tate. Of course, Warren was known for the most famous poetry introduction ever written, Brooks and Warren, and Leonard's reading of poems built on it with an added soupçon of Catskill wit. After B&W came Brower's fine Fields of Light, which lay behind my Amherst College lit intro. The Amherst approach cont ...more
Ivana Books Are Magic
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
All the King’s Men opens sharply, throwing the reader into the midst of things. Jack Burden, a young ex-reporter/ writer, a guy who walked out on his PhD, finds himself in the service of Willie, a raising political force. Willie, whose background doesn’t promise a successful politician, but who is ready to fight against the odds. Jack is there by Willie’s side, not because of the money, not because of the power, not because of anything like that. Why is Jack there? Jack isn’t sure himself. It is ...more
I have had this book lying around forever and only just now got to it, owing to my 2019 resolution. It started off pretty electric--the dialogue is taut and the foreshadowing is masterful. This book is very much in the sweet spot of influence, where its pungency and style are clearly echoed in the many other great and influential books that followed in its wake and emulated its affects. The writing is both belletristic and masterful--RPW is the only person to have won the Pulitzer in writing and ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who believe what politicians tell them
This one guy starts as a champion of the people and turns into a corrupt demagogue. It's a gripping story and a terrific book - sortof a political noir - but you're like come on, that would never really happen.

"Listen here, there ain't anything worth doing a man can do and keep his dignity."
Sep 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Gloria by: book club
Well written.
...but like I needed another reason to be cynical and depressed over politics right now.
Look out world, I have a new favorite book.
All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren may be long, but it is worth every word. This book begins as the story of Willie Stark, a politician who enters politics as an idealist but ends up becoming the very thing he fought against. Yet, this isn't so much Willie's story as the story of the narrator, Jack Burden, Willie's right hand man. Jack strives to be a cold-hearted cynic but he is driven by a moral idealism.
The writing style of this book is beaut

This book grabbed me by the collar and pulled me in when I picked it up at the bookstore and I couldn't breathe until I finished it.

This is exactly what American politics, in the essential or fundamental sense, are about. Innocense gets you into the game, experience gets you further, ruthlessness gets you ahead.

Its narrated with zest and sarcasm and this particular version is great because it throws in all of Warren's original extras- references, allusions, extra plot points, details, etc. More
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
It is clear why this political novel based on the career of Huey Long is a classic. The colloquial voice of the narrator was perfect and utterly engaging. The characters were brilliantly nuanced. And the language, the similes and turn of phrase were fantastic.
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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
“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.” 1188 likes
“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar's gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.” 242 likes
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