Robert Penn Warren in True Life: The Politician, by Andrew Young

by Daniel N. White
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
December 22, 2010

John Edwards in Springfield, MO

Image by marlana via Flickr

There’s two good ways of looking at Andrew Young’s new book on John Edwards. First way is that it is a National Enquirer sort of trashy cashin dishing out all the inside dirt on John Edwards and his sex life, mostly at the expense of his saintly cancer infected and now dead wife Elizabeth. All that is there, sure. I suspect that most of the reviewing press looks at this book this way, and that academia, if they pay it any attention, will as well. The other way of looking at it is that the book is Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men in real life form, a political right-hand man’s story of his life in politics with a talented and charismatic and powerful politician, from his rise to his fall. That’s how I see it, and I see a great deal of value to this book because of that. Whatever the tabloid aspects are to this story, it is a most valuable truthful account of the inside of American politics and of the people in it. It also is a cautionary tale for us all, but not in the usual sense of “This could happen to you–beware!” of most cautionary tales. It has a more disturbing one than that, I’m afraid.

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