Thursday, September 14, 2006

Book Review: "All the King's Men"

I'm not entirely sure how it came about that I hadn't ever read Robert Penn Warren's masterpiece novel All the King's Men (1946), which is of course loosely based on the life of Louisiana's "Kingfish," Huey Long. For a long time it was one of those books that I knew I'd get to someday, but that day just had't arrived yet. A nice copy came through the store the other day and I picked it up to read ... and then just that very evening I saw the t.v. ad for the new film adaptation that's coming out shortly with Sean Penn as Willie Stark. I'd like to think that the trailer hadn't slipped into my subconscious and prompted me to grab the book, but I'm not sure that's the case.

Either way, I really enjoyed this book, and can't help but think it is, in fact, one of the best, if not the single best, American political novel. Beautifully written, with a narrative flavor distinctly its own, All the King's Men is a tale of politics at its worst, and of one man's struggle to come to grips with his role in a political arena which at once repulses him and ensnares him. Also, this book is the model for Joe Klein's Primary Colors (1996), which mirrors many of the themes in All the King's Men.

I'm sure that this will be a book I come back to many times, and I recommend it highly.

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