November 12, 2012

Ayn Rand and Kim Kardashian

If that title does not drive blog traffic, then I'm just gonna quit!

I started Atlas Shrugged again yesterday. It has been 25 years or so, people are talking about it, the movie's out -- and the lovely bride bought it on Kindle®.

I had internalized/accepted the idea that her prose was -- if not bad -- not quite up to snuff. My first reaction was how very good it is. It does not appeal to today's Balph Eubanks because of its moral clarity, but to suggest that it lacks subtlety suggests you missed it. Bonus Balph quote:

"Lillian, my angel," Balph Eubank drawled, "did I tell you that I'm dedicating my new novel to you?" "Why, thank you, darling." "What is the name of your new novel?" asked the wealthy woman." "The Heart Is a Milkman."

The early years with Francisco and Dagny are sweet and powerful. I know they cannot squeeze 1080 pages into even three films, but I was stuck at their omission and their importance in the plot line. I'm hoping for at least some flashbacks in Part III. Among the things I missed: Francisco's ancestor Sebastian "shrugging" from Spain and rebuilding in the new world. What an excellent rhythm from the past and foreshadowing.

I highlighted a dozen quotes in the first seven chapters. I'll share a few as I progress. But today's comes with a bonus Kim Kardashian segue:

Francisco smiled; it was a smile of radiant mockery. Watching them, Dagny thought suddenly of the difference between Francisco and her brother Jim. Both of them smiled derisively. But Francisco seemed to laugh at things because he saw something much greater. Jim laughed as if he wanted to let nothing remain great.

People are struck by economic and political arguments from AS, yet I contend that the preceding quote may be its beating heart.

I snobbishly and rationally avoid celebrity news. I care little for what these people do or think or how they live. I may or may not enjoy their art (cf. Joss Whedon). I hear about the Kardashians all the time but I really don't know for what they are famous. Nor has anyone ever explained it to me.

So I clicked an Insty link today: Reasons Why You Shouldn't Like Kim Kardashian. At last! The answer to my questions. I expected at least some nonsensical celebrity-limousine-progressive nonsense.

No. There are -- in this collection -- zero reasons not to like Ms. Kardashian. Nada, nothing, zip. I don't know that that is an exhaustive list and there might be quite a few very good reasons. But I clicked through six or eight and saw nothing (well, not nothing -- I saw quite a bit of Ms. K and she is not without her charms). But "this Halloween costume doesn't look cute on her" (it does, BTW) and "she's too into fashion" (umm, she is in the fashion business) and "she's even on credit cards" (okay) and "she only cares about herself!" (Ms. Rand, caller on line one -- she said it's an emergency...)

So, disabuse me, but is Kim Kardashian our generation's Randian hero? Like Hank Rearden, she seems to have multiple business ventures. She seems successful and dedicated. She's neither on welfare nor on my TV every night saying that others should be. Like Rearden, she takes care of her family:

"Shall I tell you the rest of the words?"

"Go ahead."

"You stood here and watched the storm with the greatest pride one can ever feel -- because you are able to have summer flowers and half-naked women in your house on a night like this, in demonstration of your victory over that storm. And if it weren't for you, most of those who are here would be left helpless at the mercy of that wind in the middle of some such plain."

"How did you know that?" In time with his question, Rearden realized that it was not his thoughts this man had named, but his most hidden, most personal emotion; and that he, who would never confess his emotions to anyone, had confessed it in his question. He saw the faintest flicker in Francisco's eyes, as of a smile or a check mark.


Rand, Ayn (2005-04-21). Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (pp. 146-147). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

'Atlas Shrugged' QOTD Posted by John Kranz at November 12, 2012 9:28 AM

Good for you JK! If this post nets you traffic, we'll call it the gateway post to our more libertarian future.
"They" want to know how to appeal to today's youts, start here boys, start here.

Posted by: Terri at November 12, 2012 11:11 AM

I can't tell you how pleased I am! I look forward to your more literary interpretations juxtaposed with my mostly philosophical ones.

Your last excerpt was a favorite of mine, and I thought I had quoted it but my earliest quotes come from Chapter 6 and this was not among them.

And that quote serves as segue to a story from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that I hope to post later.

Posted by: johngalt at November 12, 2012 11:38 AM

And your analogy is apt. My default stance toward the Kardashians had been disinterest tinged with contempt. The contempt came from what, at a glance, seemed like unearned fame. Your 10 reasons to dislike her link is changing my opinion. I especially like her for reason 7: she's "selfish." And their #1 reason? She didn't build that!

Posted by: johngalt at November 12, 2012 11:48 AM

You forced me to cough up tomorrow's. I think you or brother EY did post this. I don't intend to check that my quotes are unique on this site. If I steal one of yours, consider it homage:

"Society is suffering for lack of business opportunities at the moment, so we've got the right to seize such opportunities as exist. Right is whatever's good for society."

"He didn't dig that ore single-handed, did he?" cried Philip suddenly, his voice shrill. "He had to employ hundreds of workers. They did it. Why does he think he's so good?"

Rand, Ayn (2005-04-21). Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (pp. 135-136). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

Posted by: jk at November 12, 2012 12:03 PM

Mondo heh! I did not make it all the way to #1 before posting; you can deduct blogging points if you wish.

But #1 is indeed straight out of Atlas:

Correct us if we're wrong but having a clothing line, clothing store, and being a spokesperson for an array of products doesn't really seem like it takes much talent to perfect; specially when you have a team of individuals to assist you.

Specially if you had an editor (now that's just mean...)

No, it's tremendously easy to [have] a clothing line, clothing store, and [be] a spokesperson for an array of products. I know that's why I do it!

Posted by: jk at November 12, 2012 1:23 PM | What do you think? [5]