Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Current book: All the King's Men
Pages read: 1 - 70

Willie Stark, the governor of Iowa (I assume, because they keep talking about Mason City), is visiting his father at the former's childhood home. Our narrator, a journalist who works for Willie and goes by the name of Jack Burden, is accompanying him, along with Mrs. Stark and a couple of other flunkies. It's apparent from the description of Willie and his home town that he was raised as a simple country boy, and, now that he's gotten into politics, has become a fat cat who does whatever it takes to get what he wants. (I already kind of hate him. Actually, not just kind of. I already hate him.) After using his old, broken-down father and his father's old, broken-down dog for some photo ops, Willie takes Jack over to the house of a judge whom Burden used to know. That judge, as it turns out, has just endorsed a candidate for office of whom Governor Stark does not approve. Willie proceeds to argue with the judge about his choice.

That's as far as I got, which, honestly, doesn't seem very far for having read 70 pages, but there's a lot of description going on. Snippets of both Stark's and Burden's childhoods are sneaking into the narrative, as well as an account of their first meeting, years ago when Stark wasn't yet a politician. Warren's made a good, though perhaps not particularly risky, choice by tipping his audience off to the fact that Stark's political life has corrupted him. Now, instead of waiting in suspense to see if he'll give in, we're waiting in suspense to see what exactly his downfall will be. I wonder, too, if Warren's going to go beyond just the governorship and take Stark to the presidency. It seems fairly likely, based on the title , but it's probably not necessary for the portrait of corruption it seems we're heading towards; could go either way.

This book makes me wish I knew more about Watergate. It was written long before Watergate ever occurred, but I still feel like it's the most relevant modern political scandal I can think of. Warren was probably thinking about the general disaster that was 1920s politics in Chicago and elsewhere when he wrote the novel, but it resonates more for the modern reader when applied to recent scandals. Anyway, Watergate - I mean, I've got the basic gist of it, that Richard Nixon authorized illegal search and seizure of Democratic party records in order to improve his political position. But I know there's more to it than that, and that I'm missing information. More than the details, though, I wish I had a better idea of how Watergate affected the political climate of the U.S. at the time. What did it feel like to have the president disgraced? What did it feel like to know that the highest office in the land was one of the most corrupt? Sure, I was alive during the Clinton impeachment, but frankly, it was a kangaroo court that had nothing to do with actual corruption on Clinton's part, and it didn't seem like it undermined American political confidence much. I only assume that Watergate did, and that it really had an impact on everyday life. I could be wrong, though - maybe half the population ignored it, as they mostly seem to do these days. Well, that or scream crazy slogans and deny evolution. Apathy or insanity - it's hard to say which is worse. I've digressed, so I'll exit. More scandal coming soon.

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