My Pulitzer goal has really suffered this year. This is only the first book I’ve read from that list in 2014. I need to pick up the pace if I am to make my goal of reading 12 of them this year.
All The Kings Men contains some of the best character development I’ve read. The path of self discovery taken by the book’s narrator, Jack Burden, is compelling and resonated with me in a way I don’t think it would have had I read this at a younger age. Truth be told, I kind of ended up with a crush on Jack Burden.
As Burden tells his story you come to know those around him as complex people, more of their “warts” than their good characteristics and it would be very tempting just to paint all of these characters as “bad people” if you were to just give the prose a cursory read. But Warren’s prose doesn’t really allow for a cursory read, at least it didn’t for me. I became curious about the motivations and thought processes of these characters. Willie Stark is fascinating, both Adam and Anne Stanton intriguing. Even some of the more peripheral players like Lucy Stark, Tiny Duffy and Sadie Burke were people whose motivations and actions lead to hours of thought.
And really, this is what happened for me. I thought about this story a great deal, during the day as I went about other tasks I would think about these characters and try to imagine why they would take the actions that they did, say the things they did. Because this story was filled with some many layered people I became emotionally connected to it. This story once again affirmed my belief that there aren’t many truly “bad” people in the world. Most of us are just people, doing the best we can, and we make mistakes. Some of them ugly.
This story also sent me down two “rabbit holes” Because it is believed that Willie Stark is based on Huey Long , I spent a lot of time reading about him. And then as I was reading about Warren himself I learned that he also won the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry, and therefore spent time reading his poems. But then, that is not really a complaint, the “rabbit holes” are one of the most enjoyable things about reading afterall :)