Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Your mystery, your mystery: nay, dispatch.

Before I started reading All the King's Men, I didn't really know much about it.  I knew it had won the Pulitzer Prize, I knew the movie won Best Picture, and I knew it was loosely based on Huey Long, former Governor of Louisiana.  Even someone with my limited knowleddge of the book is aware of these things, so the fact the book takes place in Louisiana isn't a mystery.  However, it seems with every page, author Robert Penn Warren is trying to avoid admitting the fact, book takes place in Louisiana.

I'm not sure why this would be the case.  There are no shortage of novels based on real people, that are not set in fictional lands.  Robert Graves did not set I, Claudius in 'a footwear-shaped country on Europe's Southern coast,' he set it in Rome.  Perhaps he thought by admitting it took place in Louisiana, he'd be admitting it was based on Huey Long.  Long would have been dead at the time of this book's publication (he was assassinated in 1935), so I don't think he would have needed to be worried in that regard.  But he tries to hide it nonetheless. 

Throughout the first two-thirds of the book, Louisiana hasn't been mentioned once.  The book's narrator, Jack Burden, attended "State University," he refers to the state's largest city simply as 'the big city' and to the State's capitol as 'the Capitol'; never mentioning either by name.  When he referred to the Governor's position, Burden has said 'he's Governor of my home state.' A more general statement, one cannot make.

I suppose it doesn't really matter, in fact I know it doesn't matter, I just find it a little odd.  So often I feel like Warren is being purposely vague, for no apparent reason.  Perhaps it just sounds odd to ears that grew up in a city crossed by two rivers in one of the ten Provinces.  Of course this is all irrelevant to the book.  It's an excellent read, and one I must get back to right now.


  1. While reading this book, I found it difficult to know the location the author was speaking of because of the use of general terms you referenced, Capitol, Largest City in the State... I found it slightly frustrating not knowing where in particular the book was taking place. I also did enjoy the book and it was an eye opening read.

  2. This book is turning into one of my favorites so far; I'm really enjoying it. And, it helped with my problem of reading in bed. Last night, I think because I was so engrossed, I was able to read in bed for over two hours!

    I feel like a child who just rode his two-wheeled bike farther than ever before!