December 2, 2012

Review Corner

The John Galt speech was awesome. No, it's not short. But even Rand fans joke about its length, and I've heard some say it is a somehow superfluous summation of the rest of the book. I disagree. It underscores and focuses the philosophical points of the book. It strikes me that in many interviews with Rand -- who wrote a bunch of non-fiction -- she refers most frequently to Atlas Shrugged and to the speech.

She found, in fiction, the best vehicle to advance her beliefs.

This is my second trip through Atlas. First was in my early twenties and it awakened me from the muddled platitudinous thinking Rand opposes. I went on and read everything I could find of hers. I'm funny I read by authors. I did not dig up magazine interviews or Objectivist publications, but if she wrote it and it was released in paperback, I read it. Brian Dougherty has a chapter in "Radicals for Capitalism" called "It all started with Ayn Rand." I hate to participate in a cliché, but yes she was my gateway drug into the liberty movement.

The 2012 election, and two great books by authors influenced by Rand, Yaron Brook's Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand's Ideas Can End Big Government and John Allison's The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure: Why Pure Capitalism is the World Economyís Only Hope, set me up to reconsider a more fundamental approach to liberty. I looked forward to reconsidering Rand's ideas but was surprised at how much I enjoyed her prose. The book is frequently derided, but that is unfair.

I was at the home of a long-time friend last night and mentioned I had just reread it. I knew my host had read it in high school and he surprised me by saying he had reread it two years ago. He's not certain about the philosophy (political moderate, I'd bet he voted for Obama twice) but says "it's a very good book" and that he recommends it all the time. He's got the part one of the movie sitting on his DVR but hasn't got around to watching. How unusual to find somebody borderline ambivalent about Atlas Shrugged.

I'm not. I give it five stars of course. And a final quote:

"Don't be astonished, Miss Taggart," said Dr. Akston, smiling, "and donít make the mistake of thinking that these three pupils of mine are some sort of superhuman creatures. They're something much greater and more astounding than that: they're normal men-- a thing the world has never seen-- and their feat is that they managed to survive as such.

Rand, Ayn (2005-04-21). Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (p. 786). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.


Posted by John Kranz at December 2, 2012 11:34 AM

Wow, all this praise for a book that has been called "trash" and "filth" and, in one account I read, was thrown out the window by one person and run over with a lawn mower by another after landing on the ground.

Appreciate the quote. I've always told folks that Rand's characters represent an ideal for men to aspire to. I guess it's not a contradiction, but I've certainly been making the mistake she warns against.

Posted by: johngalt at December 2, 2012 8:31 PM

I dug Don Luskin's book for that. John Allison, TJ Rodgers and Bill Gates may not be schlubs, but they're real people. And Luskin challenges us to live up to ideals.

Posted by: Jk at December 2, 2012 8:49 PM

Two things:

1) Does that quote contain (dare I say it?) a contradiction? If the world has never seen it, is it normal? I have read the book seven times yet that thought never occurred...

2) I had a girlfriend some years back, had her own successful business but not really an intellectual type; I asked her if she had read Atlas Shrugged and she said yeah, really liked it. "What did you like about it?" said I.

"The heroic sex."

(Yes, that is an exact quote. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Posted by: Ellis Wyatt at December 3, 2012 6:12 PM

At the risk of taking your ex's side, I like her review. Almost everyone remarks on the sex. The most frequent complaint about the movies was "the sex scenes weren't steamy enough."

It is not 50 Shades of Grey in frequency or explicitness but it is celebrated as rational, expressive, and -- yup -- herioc.

Posted by: jk at December 4, 2012 10:16 AM

Rest assured, brother, I took her side as well!

Posted by: Ellis Wyatt at December 4, 2012 3:10 PM

jk answered 2) so I'll answer 1).

No, not a contradiction.

It is correct that "normal" means "like the majority" but Rand is reknowned for her intentional use of specific words to get her points across, sometimes even appearing to be the least ideal word. I suspect she used the word "normal" for two purposes: One was to say that the ability to accomplish astounding things is naturally present in the makeup of man, due to his ability to reason. The other was to classify the men who abandon their faculty of reason as "abnormal."

Posted by: johngalt at December 4, 2012 3:12 PM

An aside - A well-known truism is that "sex sells." cf. "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders"

So sex should be an ideal vehicle for selling Objectivism to the masses, shouldn't it?

Posted by: johngalt at December 5, 2012 12:32 AM

I think it is a bigger deal than a sales pitch. Putting that in the context of a more prudish, post war America, I think it is a rather startling celebration of human sexuality.

Eleven years before Updike's "Couples," Rand makes an extramarital affair, shall we say, "heroic?"

Posted by: jk at December 5, 2012 10:14 AM | What do you think? [8]