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Robert Penn Warren was one of the twentieth centurys outstanding men of letters He found great success as a novelist a poet a critic and a scholar and enjoyed a career showered with acclaim He won two Pulitzer Prizes was Poet Laureate of the United States and was presented with a Congressional Medal of Freedom He founded the Southern Review and was an important contributor to the New Criticism of 1930s and 40s Born in 1905 Warren showed his exceptional intelligence from an early age he attended college at Vanderbilt University where he befriended some of the most important contemporary figures in Southern literature including Allan Tate and John Crowe Ransom and where he won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England During a stay in Italy Warren wrote a verse drama called Proud Flesh which dealt with themes of political power and moral corruption As a professor at Louisiana State University Warren had observed the rise of Louisiana political boss Huey Long who embodied in many ways the ideas Warren tried to work into Proud Flesh Unsatisfied with the result Warren began to rework his elaborate drama into a novel set in the contemporary South and based in part on the person of Huey Long The result was All the Kings Men Warrens best and most acclaimed book First published in 1946 All the Kings Men is one of the best literary documents dealing with the American South during the Great Depression The novel won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a movie that won an Academy Award in 1949 All the Kings Men focuses on the lives of Willie Stark an upstart farm boy who rises through sheer force of will to become Governor of an unnamed Southern state during the 1930s and Jack Burden the novels narrator a cynical scion of the states political aristocracy who uses his abilities as a historical researcher to help Willie blackmail
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