I found this novel to be one of the most amazing literary experiences I've ever had. I concur with another review, there's nothing I can add to what has been said of this wonderful novel. I will compliment Michael Emerson here, as have others. His reading was compelling, draws the listener into the story, and brings the images to life. If I were to recommend only one audiobook to a friend, this would be it.
Yes, this is a classic political novel, but it is so much more than that. It is about the South and America in the early 20th century, coming of age and life in general. A good book and a good audio production.
65 y/o father of two sons. Married 25 yrs. Audible member for 8 yrs. I can hardly read books with my eyes any more. I love reviewing.
Robert Penn Warren was something of a god among men during his career. He was both a novelist and a poet, and he was literally great at both. This is his masterpiece. It is the story of Huey Long, the governor of Louisiana during the 1930s, and a PR man named Jack Burden. Long is given the name Willie Stark. The actual governor's election slogan was "Every man a king," which might give you something of an idea of what a master of political rhetoric he was. He was a mercurial man, a mighty politician, loved by many and scorned by many for the corruption of his administration. The twin stories of Jack and Willie are brilliantly intertwined. Michael Emerson is a truly wonderful narrator. His ability to convey all the characters of this rich story is remarkable. His Southern accents are perfect. His portrayal of Willie as a man of profound gifts is just magnificent: we are lucky to be able to listen to such a performance.
The stories of Willie Stark and Jack Burden are a bit too long (sorry for the pun), and a sub-plot involving the history of Cass Mastern et al is really a distraction. Jack's mother is a perfect southern archetype: from the hills of Arkansas to New Orleans society by way of both her fragile beauty and her steely wiles with men, Jack shows us a picture of his mother that is poignant and startling. Warren creates a panoply of actors who are fully ranged from low-life slimy craven Southern politicians to the intellectual and incorruptible Judge Irwin, to the triangular relationship among Jack, and Adam and Anne Stanton. This book is really way too wonderful to depict it with credibility in a brief review; I could go on for pages, but I'll spare you. The two most important women in Willie's life, his wife Lucy and his white-hot political assistant Sadie Burke: both of them are in their own ways tormented by Willie's gigantic appetites. Warren's gifts are so many that it's arbitrary to list just a few. His ability to show us what politics really was like at the time, so full of human ambition, frailty, corruption, double- and triple-dealing; it is like having a front row seat to one of the greatest dramas of the twentieth century. Many Northerners know little about the real South; listening to Warren's work and Emerson's amazing performance provides us with the absolute best in learning by being entertained. You have to commit a number of hours to this book, but it is one of the most worthwhile commitments you can make. I can't imagine any Audible reader not loving this book. Really.
This is one of the best books I have ever listened to or read about politics. It is gripping from the first word to the end. It would have made the last election even more interesting. The nuances with which the writer illustrated the story made it very powerful and insightful into human nature at it's core.
This is a fabulous novel of life and love even more than it is of politics or the south or an era.
Apparently some feel that the language and morals in the book is offensive; I strenuously disagree. This is moral artistry of the highest order, with a richness of portrait and reflection on its themes that is superb and subtle.
Wonderfully written, excellently narrated, this is a great book that is greatly underrated.
There's a reason Robert Penn Warren was named Poet Laureate. This is the great American novel. As a Louisiana native, the story made a lasting impression on me. I'll never think about my home state again without remembering Willie Stark & Jack Burden. Top notch production and narration bring out the beauty and rhythm of the language.
This is a great book, a classic of American literature. I have read it before, but this audio version adds a whole new dimension. The reader captures the book perfectly, bringing extraordinary life and color to Warren's poetic words.
“Be awesome! Be a book nut!” — Dr. Seuss
This is a story told on many many levels. First, it is the story of the rise and fall of Willy Stark - country bumkin turned political king pin. Then it is the story of Jack Burden who is carrying a "burden" of sorts.
The story is told in retrospect from a Jack Burden that is at peace with his life but this has not always been the case. I think that in Jack's younger days he struggled to know the truth about things, as if by knowing the truth he could control the world or at least understand it better. He digs up a lot of knowledge but all this knowledge becomes too much for Jack, and he checks out. He becomes detached and drinks to escape. Its as if he's had enough of the world and feels that maybe the way to cope is not by finding truth but by not participating in life. The cruel joke is that by not participating, Jack is participating in some way. Nobody can escape the world and the world is often not pretty. In the end when all is laid bare, when people and empires are destroyed, Jack finally comes to terms with the world and his place in it.
I am trying to encapsulate a huge masterpiece into a tiny review, so I am not giving this story the justice it deserves. It is a Faustian tale that has become one of my favorites. I think that Warren is a great southern writer.
I enjoyed this audio performance - the narrator is excellent here.
This is a good book. Perhaps a great book. But the reader has to be in the proper frame of mind before taking it on. Author Robert Penn Warren was a poet. A Southern poet. A Pulitzer Prize winning Southern Poet Laureate. And as a Pulitzer Prize winning Southern Poet Laureate, he has a particularly Southern way of telling a story. Any Southerner will understand. There are no short cuts for a true Southern story teller. You just have to sit back, relax, maybe pour yourself a cool glass of sweat tea and breathe out… breath in… breath out… There. Now you're ready. No. Wait. Let me turn on the porch fan. It can get a bit sticky up here on the porch in the late afternoon. Better? Good. Now we can begin. Hold it. What's that dog gotten into now? Oh. Never mind. The dog's right here, asleep under the chair. Must be a opossum under the porch again. We can worry 'bout that later. Now where was I? Oh yes. The book review…
Now imagine 500 pages of that. Yes, it's long, long-winded and sometimes it seems to take forever to get anywhere. But there is a good story here, full of politics, sex, intrigue, murder and a big, heapin' helpin' of Southern culture thrown in for good measure. Sensitive readers should be aware that the "N-word" is casually tossed about in the dialog of many characters throughout the book—Not for the purpose of supporting any racist agenda—but simply to accurately portray how many Southerners talked and thought at the time and place of the story. (Early 1920's-'30's Louisiana.)
So there you have it. This is a book for the literate, those interested in artful prose, Southern history, Southern sensibilities. It is a book that has and will undoubtedly stand the test of time. The themes and issues contained are themes and issues that human beings will always face. Lust, greed, sex, power, religion, influence, manipulation. Ultimately, it's a tale about the human condition, told in a slow, easy manner by a consummate Southern story teller. Enjoy.
Oh, and darlin'? My tea could use a little refresher. Thank you kindly.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
Nowadays the idea that there could be a backstory building up behind the main story is so commonplace that we hardly notice it. But there was a time when that was a relatively new idea. Willie Stark is such a towering figure in this story that it can be easy to overlook that there are other plotlines going on. What Warren does with the narrator in this book is so masterful and subtle that it takes a while to appreciate. Then again, if all you want is a fictionalized biography of Huey Long, you can enjoy it that way too.