Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men
A Reader's Companion
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 08/03/2018
Robert Penn Warren is one of the best-known and most consequential Kentucky writers of the twentieth century and the only American writer to have won three Pulitzers in two different genres. All the King's Men, generally considered one of the finest novels ever written on American politics, transcends sensationalism and topicality to stand as art. It was a bestseller, won the Pulitzer Prize, and became an Academy Award–winning movie. Depicting the rise and fall of a dictatorial southern politician—modeled on Huey Long of Louisiana—the timeless story and memorable characters raise questions about the importance of history, moral conflicts in public policy, and idealism in government.
In Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men: A Reader's Companion, author Jonathan S. Cullick considers the themes of this famous novel within the context of America's current political climate. He addresses the novel's continuing relevance and interviews a cross-section of elected and appointed officials, as well as journalists, in Kentucky to explore how Warren's novel has influenced their work and approach to politics.
By focusing on what Warren's novel has to say about power, populism, ethics, and the force of rhetoric, Cullick encourages readers to think about their own identities and responsibilities as American citizens. This volume promises to be not only an indispensable companion to All the King's Men but it also provides context and a new diverse set of perspectives from which to understand this seminal novel.
Introduction: "Tell Me a Story"
1. The Life of Robert Penn Warren: "Do You Still Consider Yourself a Southern Writer?"
2. An Overview of All the King's Men: "The Awful Responsibility of Time"
3. All the King's Men in Political and Popular Culture: "This Race Is Starting to Remind Us of a Novel"
4. The Timelessness of All the King's Men: "Willie Stark Was Not Huey Long"
5. Impressions of All the King's Men: "A Tale for All Seasons of Politics"
6. How the Story Works: The Role of "You"
7. The Rhetoric of the Populist Demagogue: "He Could T-t-talk so Good"
8. The Pandering Populist: "Don't Try to Improve Their Minds"
9. The King's Man: "Who Do I Work For?"
10. Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together: "A Felt Need Will Be Satisfied"
Epilogue. "To Love So Well the World": Remembering Robert Penn Warren
Appendix: Questions for Discussion
Jonathan Cullick's guide represents more than a reader's companion to what is arguably America's greatest political novel. Though published seventy years ago, All the King's Men remains a timely contribution to the nation's ongoing dialogue about the friction between democratic ideals and human failings. Cullick offers thoughtful readers a starting point for discussing the viewpoints that both unite and divide us. Bipartisan and balanced, the questions he raises are as fresh and relevant today as they were in the late 1930s during the rise of fascism and the excesses of untempered populism and demagoguery. The role of a free press also has particular significance. This book reinvigorates a much-needed national conversation about the future of democracy.~Richard Taylor, author of Sue Mundy: A Novel of the Civil War and Three Kentucky Tragedies
While Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men stands tall among the great American novels, in our time in the early twenty-first century—in our current political moment, especially—it is the greatest of American novels, resonating with astounding parallels and discomforting insights. Few novels have traveled so well across time to speak to us with such ardor and urgency. In his masterful reading of the novel, Jonathan Cullick, a scholar both of literature and rhetoric, incorporates the perspectives of contemporary Kentucky statesmen and stateswomen, journalists, and higher education administrators to show the novel's broad impact. Cullick offers further proof that this land we call Kentucky is a wellspring of writers whose work is as relevant at home as it is to America and the planet.~Morris A. Grubbs, editor of Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories and co-editor of Every Leaf a Mirror: A Jim Wayne Miller Reader
In a work of enlightening analysis, Cullick directs the reader in a rediscovery of the magnitude and importance of Warren's All the King's Men... an apt compendium for discussion of today's 'Willie Starks' and all of their demagoguery, polarization, and ethical morass.~Bill Goodman, Executive Director, Kentucky Humanities
This slim volume fulfills its purpose of helping readers navigate All the King's Men. It is a testament to both the importance of the public intellectual service that humanities faculty perform and the invaluable roel that university presses play in the intellectual health of the states in which they operate.~Anne E. Marshall, The Journal of Southern History