24 July 2009

All the King's Men, review

Well hello there blog. Fancy meeting you here. I've recently started running, something I despise. Yet, i am forcing myself to do it three times a week. It's about time I started doing that with this blog, something I do not despise. So I figured I'd get back with a quick review of Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men.

As I have blubbered before, the prose was gorgeous. I have only rarely come across such simply beautiful writing as this. But, the story should not be overshadowed. What sets out to ostensibly be the story of the politician Willie Talos becomes the story of his man Jack Burden. What a character Burden becomes. For the majority of the book, I thought he was the most despicable protagonist I had ever found myself reading about. Yet in the end, when we find that he tried to give the Judge a way out, I found myself feeling sympathetic for Jack. Finally, he was a character with whom I could empathize!

The assassination of Willie took me by surprise, but it retrospect, it shouldn't have. Talos was a man far too ambitious, one who seemed from the beginning doomed to fall back to the earth, brought down not by the sun but rather by his own hubris. Despite the hubris, however, Talos became something more than just a slime ball. Certainly, Talos embodied everything that is deplorable about politics: mud slinging, blackmail, cronyism, etc.

But he had ambitions for the greater good. Ambitions that were surprisingly relevant even today: better roads, better use of money in an economic depression, and free health care for all residents. He used his sleeze towards the greater good, but it was destined to come back for him. The paralyzing of his son was really the fatal blow to Talos, and the gunshots of Adam Stanton were merely Willie's death made real.

Warren's slow change of characters through the book made for excellent reading. Nothing seemed to be in stasis, and constantly evolving characters helps any book be good. I can safely recommend this book to anyone really. It strikes me, as cliched as this sounds, as the nearest I've ever come to the "great American novel." Is it the best American novel? Certainly not. But it encompasses so much of what has made the United States the nation that it is: backwater dealings of seemingly little import that shape the states and country as a whole.

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