Robert Penn Warren – All the King’s Men

AlltheKing_0I first started interacting with Penn Warren’s book was back about a century ago when I lived in Sycamore, IL when I was a delivery driver for Pizza Hut. I had a lot of time in the car at the time and I wanted to use my time to the best of my ability and that was when I started my brief but wonderous love affair with audio books. I listened to a couple of the pulitzers that way Junot Diaz, Philip Roth, Michael Shaara, and a little of Shirly Ann Grau. I also started probably the first 2 hours of All the King’s Men on audio book but gave it up because the writing was too poetic to follow while driving pizza around in the snow. So, all of that said, I put Warren’s book down for several months and have picked at it a couple of times since then in between some of the more compelling reads. I do not read very many books the length of Warren’s. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I am a shockingly slow reader especially for this task and this lifestyle, and so to embark upon a long novel is like torture to me. I love reading and I love the fact of having finished a book. So I tend to read short terse fiction and poetry because I can grasp them in the time most people would take to read a longer work. For this project I have set about reading some of the longest books I have ever read and I am coming to find out reading long books is a lot more fun than short books and you can live in them longer and the writer writes that way for that reason that he can introduce more things than shorter fiction. I love following characters for this long. Jack Burden is a fantastic character. Willie Stark is a fantastic character, and I loved watching them rise, change, fall, come back, and live in the synapses of my mind. So, as a consequence of my slow-reading speed, I have made the trade off of slow pace but extremely high retension. Drew and I are constantly having conversations about these books that go similarly to – I will say, ‘oh man i loved this part of this book,’ and Drew will get this glassy look in his eye, mostly from the whiskey but somewhat for the remembering a passage from a book he read a few months ago, and I recite the rest of the selection from memory and Drew will say, ‘yeah’ and trail off in a foggy memory a said novel. So, though there was an expanse between the starting and the finishing of this novel, I can maintain a solid narrative of it because of my retension. That was mostly why we decided to blog about our reads because Drew’s speed benefits him in the reading, but my retension benefits me in the writing about them. I will not forget these novels, as Drew might, but I wanted a bookmark so to speak of the events and my initial reactions. The more I dwell on any novel, the more I come to like it in retrospect, so I start to color the lines in a little and reflect postively on a book I initially hated, so if I didn’t mark down that I was ambivilent then we get to the end, sit down to write about all of our experiences and find that I loved all of the books equally which isn’t fair to anyone. So with all of that business attended to, I shall dig into writing about this novel.

I loved it. There, that is all you need to know. I love this book like I have read it a million times. I loved this book. There was nothing not to be totally and utterly enthralled in. Warren’s voice is clear and distinct. He writes powerfully about the human condition, and tells you something about the world and time. He walks you through his world of seedy characters and corruption with the slightly marred hand of Jack Burden and makes you love every minute of it. You hate and love, you cry and you laugh, and you smile that little wry smile when you know when something is going to happen but you can’t wait for it anyway. You will fall in love with Jack and Anne like you never have before. There are parts of Warren’s writing that is the most honest true to life and actually teenage conversation that he had to have lifted it from his life because it is too real. The love story is too real. He is masterful in his retelling of teenage love and how the world and yourself ruin it, but it was going to be ruined anyways and its going to hurt but thats ok. The rest of the novel could have been drivel anyways, and I would love it for the love story. I will say for all time that that love story is the greatest ever put to paper. FOR ALL TIME, until I have to retract this in order to crown another which would be ok with me because I would have read a masterpiece, Jack Burden and Anne Stanton is the greatest love story of all time. There I said it, now I’ll take all comers. Enjoy this book. Go read it now and love it. Then come back and tell me about it, because I’ll be ready.


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