08 July 2009

All the Kings Men, the first 100 Pages

So Warren is still writing some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read. Take for instance this phrase from a meeting in which time moved inexorably:
...the clock in the corner, a big grandfather's clock, offered us the slow, small, individual pellets of time.
Yet in addition to the continued splendor of Warren's writing, we're getting plot development. I've yet to see the recently-made movie based on the book, but it's easy to understand how the inspiration came about. It's a classic story told from the present in the vein of Forrest Gump. The first chapter (72 pages) outlines the "now" of the story. Willie Talos, governor, is in the middle of a fight to nominate a senator. One of his long-time backers has switched sides, and Talos takes the narrator, Jack Burden, to convince the Judge to come back, or else. It's really the dirty side of politics. After the encounter, Jack says that eventually everything "The Boss" (Talos) wanted was accomplished. He found the dirt on the Judge, the only father-figure he ever had. But before we get to that (assuming we eventually do), he takes us back to the beginning of Talos' career.

But the most intriguing part of it all is how Jack manages to make both himself and The Boss into imminently loathsome characters. Generally, one does not come across such odious protagonists, and yet ten pages into the second chapter and I've forgotten (or at least pushed to the back of my mind) the reprehensible actions of the two in chapter one.

What I am still trying to figure out is whether these characters are easy to forgive because back-stabbing is such an ingrained part of American politics, or if it's because of the way that Warren writes. Nevertheless, the story is becoming fascinating, and the writing remains superb. I'll keep updating as I keep reading. If you've read the book, let me hear your say in the comments!

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