Bluegrass Brother: Robert Penn Warren

I wanted to use Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow, as recommended by Sherry, but have only just started it (I love it so far, though)! 

So, as I was recently re-reading All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren for a requested book club kit (two books club requested it actually?!  A trend…?), I came upon this quote: “No Kentucky author come close to being as distinguished as Robert Penn Warren.”  I also learned that Warren is the only writer to be awarded multiple Pulitzers, in two different genres!  So I decided he would be an excellent choice to represent his beautiful state of Kentucky

Mail Pouch Tobacco barn in Kentucky

Photo by Brent and Marilynn

Since I’ll be reviewing All the King’s Men this Sunday, I’ll just delight you with pictures and a few words of wisdom from the novel…

“And what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good and bad and the good comes out of bad and the bad out of good, and the devil take the hindmost…”

“It was not so much any one example, any one event, which I recollected which was important, but the flow, the texture of events, for meaning is never in the event but in the motion through event.”

“I had not understood then what I think I have now come to understand: that we can keep the past only by having the future, for they are forever tied together.”

Kentucky sunset

Photo by kevindooley

 “For the truth is a terrible thing.  You dabble your foot in it and it is nothing.  But you walk a little farther and you feel it pull you like an undertow or a whirlpool.  First there is the slow pull so steady and gradual you scarcely notice it, then the acceleration, then the dizzy whirl and plunge into darkness.  For there is a blackness of truth, too.  They say it is a terrible thing to fall into the Grace of God.  I am prepared to believe that.”

“…by the time we understand the pattern we are in, the definition we are making for ourselves, it is too late to break out of the box.  We can only live in terms of the definition, like the prisoner in the cage in which he cannot lie or stand or sit, hung up in justice to be viewed by the populace.  To break out of it, we must make a new self.  But how can the self make a new self when the selfness which it is, is the only substance from which the new self can be made?”

eastern kentucky sky

Photo by activefree

“Politics is action and all action is but a flaw in the perfection of inaction, which is peace, just as all being is but a flaw in the perfection of nonbeing.  Which is God.  for if God is perfection and the only perfection is in nonbeing, then God is nonbeing.  Then God is nothing…”

“For Life is a fire burning along a piece of string — or is it a fuse to a powder keg which we call God? — and the string is what we don’t know, our Ignorance, and the trail of ash, which, if a gust of wind does not come, keeps the structure of the string, is History, man’s Knowledge, but it is dead, and when the fire has burned up all the string, then man’s Knowledge will be equal to God’s Knowledge and there won’t be any fire, which is Life.”

If you’re thinking, “Gee, I didn’t realize this novel was about God and religion — I thought it was about politics and human nature,” well you’re right!  The book club for whom I’m creating the kit is doing a series on “Christian Classics” so I think God must’ve been on my mind…  🙂

Curious about what states we’ve done so far and which ones are on deck?

Photo by marxchivist

First, from Melanie Jones:

  • Alabama: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (check out my To Kill A Mockingbird Sample Kit!)
  • Michigan: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides
  • Alaska: The Man Who Swam With Beavers by Nancy Lord
  • Arizona: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  • North Dakota: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  • Vermont: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • Hawaii: Heads by Harry by Lois-ann Yamanaka
  • Georgia: Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones
  • And I went out on my own for…

  • Florida: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston
  • Minnesota: In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien
  • Wisconsin: When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton
  • Louisiana: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells (Jones’ pick) and The Awakening by Kate Chopin (my pick)
  • Colorado: Plainsong by Kent Haruf
  • Maryland: Anything by Anne Tyler
  • Georgia: Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • Ohio: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Arkansas: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Virginia: John Grisham
  • Idaho: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  • North Carolina: Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
  • Tennesee: Run by Ann Patchett
  • New Jersey: Anything by Janet Ivanovich
  • Texas: Anything by Elmer Kelton
  • Connecticut: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  • Montana: The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie
  • Utah: Edward Abbey
  • South Carolina: Pat Conroy
  • Iowa: Wallace Stegner
  • Pennsylvania: John Updike and James Michener
  • Missouri: Mark Twain
  • New Hampshire: Robert Frost
  • Wondering where your state is? Coming soon… In the meantime, weigh in on future picks!

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    5 Responses to Bluegrass Brother: Robert Penn Warren

    1. One of my all-time favorite novels. I look forward to reading your review.

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