Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All the King's Men, pt 1

My eyebrows hurt from frowning so much while I read this book. Half the time I don't understand what has happened, is happening, or will happen, and the other half I don't understand why what I understand to be happening needs to happen in this story. So I've decided, to aid myself and any others who have trouble with this book, to summarize, in story form. I shall include in bold, to the best of my ability, the words Robert Penn Warren uses that I don't know and had to look up. And the parts I didn't understand or forgot, I will make up.

Part One
Why hello. I am your supposedly-college-educated narrator who still has terrible grammar, Jack Burden. I am opening this story in the back of a 1930s nightclub owned by Slade, then introduce you to Sadie so quickly that you think it's the same person until suddenly about fifty pages later I use the pronoun "she" in Sadie's description and then the entire mental image you've concocted of him (now her) is obliterated, she not being Slade and all.

I work for a governor who I call "The Boss" for most of the story. Back when he was simply Willie Stark, he was somewhat naive and married a school teacher named Lucy. She was also naive. I met Willie when he was running for governor and I was covering the story as a reporter. Sadie, who is reminiscent of that girl on The Hudsucker Proxy who pretends to be a Muncie girl, very dramatically calls Willie a sap and tells him he's being played, and that he'll never be a governor. Willie gets drunk and for a few pages I describe the way Sadie stands over Willie's unconscious body and stares down at him.

Willie goes to law school and gets learned up real good, then comes back with gubernatorial flare to win the office. I quit my job and Sadie, who's working for Willie, tells me to come work for "The Boss." I do, even though he's a sap. But he's a more powerful sap now.

He's very intimidating, and whenever you see three asterisks (***) between paragraphs the time shifts, so sometimes it's 1939 and sometimes it's 1933 and once it was 1914, but one often feels like he is being flushed down a chronological toilet and all the dates are swirling around as you drown in wordy water.

I knew Anne and Adam Stanton back when I was a child. I say about 50 times that Adam won't go fishing with me anymore, and I used to love Anne, though she wasn't very pretty. I married Lois, who was prettier than Anne, but I haven't explained yet what happened to her. Maybe in part two. In part one, however, I have dinner with Anne several times, and Adam is a fancy schmancy surgeon with oleaginous hair (as most people had in the 30s).

Willie, after becoming somewhat successful, has an affair with a girl on skates in Chicago, and upon finding out, Sadie cries into my chest and laments about having the small pox when she was young which left pock marks in her face. Apparently she thinks Willie owes her something, and just two-timed her. I'm not very good with women, so I just awkwardly pat her on the back and tell her to get over it. I should've said something like, "I ain't noticed Mr. Willie askin' fer ta marry ya," but not all books written during the 30s and 40s can be as poignant as Gone with the Wind.

Before I worked for the Boss and was a journalist, I was a grad student studying history. For about 75 pages I read my ancestor Cass Mastern's journal about having an affair with a woman named Annabelle, whose husband, Duncan Trice, shot himself. Then Cass leaves Annabelle and frees all his slaves, then dies during the Civil War. I am left pondering this all and the reader is left wondering, "What the crap does this have to do with anything?"

End part one.


Christy said...

First of all, I love you, Heather Krauss.

Second of all, I greatly enjoyed this.

Third of all, gubernatorial is one of my favorite words.

I'm looking forward to part II.

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