This is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world and did. Was he a destroyer or the greatest of liberators?
Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies, but against those who needed him most, and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world’s motor — and the motive power of every man? You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the characters in this story.
Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life — from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy — to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction — to the philosopher who becomes a pirate — to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph — to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad — to the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels.
You must be prepared, when you read this novel, to check every premise at the root of your convictions.
This is a mystery story, not about the murder — and rebirth — of man’s spirit. It is a philosophical revolution, told in the form of an action thriller of violent events, a ruthlessly brilliant plot structure and an irresistible suspense. Do you say this is impossible? Well, that is the first of your premises to check.
Polemical novels, such as The Fountainhead (1943), of primarily known Russian-born American writer Ayn Rand, originally Alisa Rosenbaum, espouse the doctrines of objectivism and political libertarianism.
Alisa Rosenbaum entered into a prosperous Jewish family before Russian revolution. When the Bolsheviks requisitioned the pharmacy that Fronz Rosenbaum, her father, owned, the family fled to the Crimea. Alisa returned to the city, renamed Leningrad, to attend the university, but relatives already settled in America and in 1926 offered her the chance of joining them. With money from the sale of jewelry of her mother, Alisa bought a ticket to New York. On arrival at Ellis Island, she changed into Ayn (after a name of some Finnish author, probably "Aino") Rand (a supposed abbreviation of her Russian surname). She moved swiftly to Hollywood, where she learned English, worked in the RKO wardrobe department and as an extra, and wrote through the night on screenplays and novels. Because her original visa as a visitor expired, she also married a "beautiful" bit-part actor, called Frank O'Connor.
Rand sold her first screenplay in 1932, but nobody bought We the Living (1936), her first novel and a melodrama, set in Russia. Her first real success was The Fountainhead (rejected by more than ten publishers before publication in 1943).
She started a new philosophy, known as objectivism, opposed to state interference of all kinds, and her follow-up novel Atlas Shrugged (1957) describes a group who attempt to escape conspiracy of mediocrity of America. Objectivism has been an influence on various other movements such as Libertarianism, and Rand's vocal support for Laissez-faire Capitalism and the free market has earned her a distinct spot among American philosophers, and philosophers in general.
Ayn Rand makes my eyes hurt. She does this, not by the length of her six hundred thousand word diatribe, but rather by the frequency with which she causes me to roll them. Do you want to know what I’ve learned after spending nearly two months reading Ayn Rand’s crap? Here’s a brief rundown, Breakfast of Champions style.
Socialists are scary. Socialists are frightening creatures who lurk in corners, waiting to pounce on you. They are unpredictable, they have curvature of the spine, and they often foam at the mouth.
This is a socialist:
Capitalists, on the other hand, are calm and rational beings who never lose their tempers. You can always trust a capitalist. And they are super easy to spot, too—just look for the hummingbirds who sew their clothes for them.
This is a capitalist:
Ayn Rand’s characters come in only two flavors, and which kind you get depends solely on the extent to which they embody her philosophical ideals. The capitalists (the “good guys”) are the moral heroes of the story, the ones who fight back against economic regulation. This regulation is seen as unwanted intervention, the government essentially trespassing on one’s property rights by means of unfair (unfair to the capitalists, I might point out) legislation. The “bad guys” are, of course, represented by the socialists—the ones passing the legislation, although Rand does a good job of throwing anyone else into this category who, while not active participants in passing these laws, may not be totally opposed to them, either.
The problem with all of this is the fact that her characters are not at all believable. They are robots who mechanically spew forth her inane drivel or, if they are of the other flavor, behave in a manner so utterly ridiculous as to demonstrate the rationality of the capitalist over the vicious, gun-toting socialist who’s come to rob your house, rape your Ma, and shoot your Pa. Rand is so egregious in the maltreatment of her antithetic characters that it’s almost laughable. Beyond that, the narrative itself is monotonous and repetitive. This is not exactly a beach read.
But even if I were to put all of that aside, I still wouldn’t be able to get over the fact that Rand’s argument here is to put an end to social collectivism of every form. That means: no social security, no unemployment insurance, no federally funded health care, no public roads, no public housing, no public education, no income taxes, no property taxes—does this not sound insane?! I get the whole “ooh” and “aah” aspect of libertarian freedoms, but I’m betting there wouldn’t be a lot of volunteers willing to relinquish their adequately funded public services on the basis of a free market economy. And ultimately, this is the fundamental principle on which Rand and I disagree. Although I do believe, and strongly, that the government should have no authority to interfere in the private lives of its citizens, do I think the government should also abstain from interfering in the regulation of the economy? Hellz, no! I want those corporate mother fuckers taxed and if that means Ima start foaming at the mouth, then so be it.
Ultimately, this novel is more absurdist fiction than dystopian fiction. Rand takes an all-in-or-all-out approach to problem solving; there can be no moral ambiguity—either you’re with her or you’re not, and I’m not. But what does she care? Rand is an unabashed admirer of the wealthy industrialist and it is for him that she bats her eyes and licks her lips, not for me.
This book really makes you take a good hard look at yourself and your behavior, which is why I think a lot of people don't like this book. It's a lecture and most people don't like to get lectured. I loved it. It gave me a good swift kick in the ass. While I've never been a "looter," I have made several irrational decisions in my life, which this 1000+ page lecture has helped me to stop doing. It teaches you to think with your mind, rather than your heart. It doesn't make you an uncaring person. You still feel with your heart, but you think with your mind. Use your mind instead of expecting to get the rewards of others who do all the thinking. If everyone did this, the world would be perfect - that is the idea behind Ayn's story. Of course, this will never happen. Ayn knew that. She just wrote a story about her ideal world. A lot of authors do that. No need to get pissed off at her because of it.
Yes, the book is wordy, but her words are genius in my opinion. I loved the long radio speech. Skip it if you are hating the book or better yet, stop reading it. Go out and smell the flowers instead. Is the story black and white? Definitely. Authors have different styles - people complain. If every author wrote in the same style, people would complain.
I can't tell you how many co-workers I've met who complain about how the CEO is making so much money and they should get some of that money. Well, go to college, get a business degree and work you're way up the corporate ladder if you want the CEO's salary. Don't sit around and expect those kinds of rewards because you work in accounts payable. You know what it takes, so do it and shut up. If it wasn't for the person who created this company, you wouldn't even have a job. I'm an administrative assistant making less money than the people complaing about wanting more money. It just makes me sick. But the people in Ayn's story didn't work for money. They loved their jobs. And she wasn't saying you had to be a rich, corporate big shot to hold the world up. There were teachers and stay at home moms in her little world in the mountains.
Ayn has extremely valuable points and if you are someone who is constantly looking for something to criticize in every book, then don't read it. If you can't handle looking at your imperfections, don't read it. If you have an open mind and are willing to learn something from every book and experience you have and grow as a person, then you will benefit from reading this book.
Ayn Rand's characters are almost completely defined by the extent to which they embrace her beliefs. A good guy by definition is someone who agrees with her; a bad guy someone who dares to have a different point of view. For all the lip-service Rand pays to individualism, she brooks no dissent from her heroes; none of her so-called individualists ever expresses a point of view significantly different from hers.
To illustrate the gulf between Rand's characters and human reality, consider this behavior. When Dagny Taggart meets Hank Rearden, she dutifully becomes his property, for no other reason than that he's the most Randian male around. When John Galt arrives, ownership of the prize female transfers from Rearden to Galt, because Galt is the more Randian of the two. Does it ever occur to Hank to be resentful or jealous? Does Taggart experience loyalty or regret? Might Taggart love Rearden despite his lesser Randness? No, those are all things that human beings might feel.
(In a related departure from reality, sex in Randland is more or less indistinguishable from rape. Foreplay? Romance? Capitalists don't have time for that commie nonsense.)
The real focus of Atlas Shrugged is to extoll Rand's philosophy. (Not to debate it, since no one in Randland with any any intelligence or competence could have a different point of view.) About Rand's philosophy I'll just make two points (which I'm not going to bother providing evidence for at the moment).
The first is that, like most social Darwinists, Rand fell short in her understanding of natural selection. Her philosophy was largely based on the false belief that nature invariably favors individual selfishness. In reality, evolution has made homo sapiens a social animal; cooperation and compassion are very human traits. More importantly, even if cold selfishness were man's nature in the wild, it would not necessarily follow that that would be the best way for us to behave in our semi-civilized modern condition.
The second point is that, contrary to Rand's belief, pure laissez-faire capitalism never works; it invariably leads to exploitation of the poor and middle class and to environmental catastrophe. The best economic system that has ever been devised -- so far -- is a mixture of capitalism and socialism.
The best way to understand Rand's message in this book is to simply close it, and beat yourself over the head with it as hard as possible. This is essentially what Rand does throughout it's ridiculous length. I see no reason that a book with a strong lesson can't also have decent character development, natural dialog, and a believable plot. Of course, I also think that you can establish a theme with subtlety, and trust that your reader will figure it out. Ayn Rand writes as if the elements of fiction get in the way of her message, and that reader's skull's are extraordinarily thick and require a firm beating over the head to absorb the theme. Countless philosophers have said the same thing better (and quicker).
I realize that I offend many atheists, agnostics and free thinkers by writing this, but as one myself, I have to say that a passionate love of Ayn Rand is not required for membership in that particular club. Save yourself a headache, and pick up the much shorter Anthem. It's just as overdone, but weighing it at ounces rather than pounds, it'll leave a smaller dent in your head.
Oh, and if you're only reading it to answer the question on geeky bumper sticker "Who is John Galt?" He's the hero and a symbol of the capitalism in it's conflict over what Rand saw as the oppressive and ultimately destructive forces of large government type societies (you, know. . .socialism, fascism, etc.). It's usually stuck on the butt end of a car to express general disenchantment with big government, and a lack of heroes. Now you know, so go read something worthwhile, and if you insist on reading Ayn Rand, hit her non-fiction. Stripped of an attempt at storytelling, she doesn't do half bad.
As Ayn Rand's immortal opus, Atlas Shrugged, stands as a tome to a philosophy that is relevant today as it was in her time. Basically, the major moral theme is that there are two types of people in the world: the Creators and the Leeches.
The Creators are the innovators who use the power of their will and intelligence to better humanity. The first person to create fire is often referenced as the paradigm for these people. In the book, each of the major protagonists also represent Creators improving the human condition with their force of will.
The Leeches (my word) are the people who create nothing, but thrive off feeding on the Creators. In Rand's view, they are the bureaucrats, politicos, regulators, etc. Throughout human history she tells us, these people have benefited through no ingenuity of their own, but merely from piggybacking on - and often fettering - the success of the Creators.
Where the conflict in this book arises is when the Creators decide they have had enough and revolt. I won't spoil the book by describing specifics, but let's just say it causes quite the societal drama. For Leeches can't feed where there's no blood.
All that is fairly significant and involved and worth the read to begin with, but where this book really stimulates me is in the fact that it is still relevant. Today we have Creators and we have Leeches. Some titans of industry and technology move our culture forward and others hold it back to their own benefit. I work in Silicon Valley and I see this all the time. That's why in many ways I consider this voluminous novel to be as important to a business education as Art of War.
To cite other readers' posts, you don't have to agree with what Rand is extolling, but I think you'd be foolish to try and deny the existence of this struggle since it is ingrained in humanity. Yes, Ayn does get long winded and arrogant in parts as she draws the battle lines, but I don't think an author could have crafted such a powerful conflict without copious quantities of ego to accentuate the differences.
Would you like to hear the only joke I've ever written? Q: "How many Objectivists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" A: (Pause, then disdainfully) "Uh...one!" And thus it is that so many of us have such a complicated relationship with the work of Ayn Rand; unabashed admirers at the age of 19, unabashedly horrified by 25, after hanging out with some actual Objectivists and witnessing what a--holes they actually are, and also realizing that Rand and her cronies were one of the guiltiest parties when it came to the 1950s "Red Scare" here in America. Here in Rand's second massive manifesto-slash-novel, we follow the stories of a number of Titans of the Industrial Age -- the big, powerful white males who built the railroad industry, the big, powerful white males who built the electrical utility companies -- as well as a thinly-veiled Roosevelt New Deal administration whose every attempt to regulate these Titans, according to Rand, is tantamount evil-wise to killing and eating babies, even when it's child labor laws they are ironically passing. Ultimately it's easy to see in novels like this one why Rand is so perfect for late teenagers, but why she elicits eye rolls by one's mid-twenties; because Objectivism is all about BEING RIGHT, and DROPPING OUT IF OTHERS CAN'T UNDERSTAND THAT, and LET 'EM ALL GO TO HELL AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED, without ever taking into account the unending amount of compromise and cooperation and sometimes sheer altruism that actually makes the world work. Recommended, but with a caveat; that you read it before you're old enough to know better.
This book, as much as I detest it, is actually rather useful. Those who have read it tend to be those whom I most especially desire to avoid. Because those who have read it are invariably proud of the fact--ostentatiously so--it is even easier for me to keep my life free and clear of delusional egomaniacs. Thank you Ayn Rand.
Absolutely terrible. Imagine an analogous situation: A white supremacist writes a book in which all the white characters are great and all the black characters are awful. If you were to read that book and as a result buy into white supremacy; that would make you an utter utter fool.
And yet, Rand writes a book where anyone who is a raging capitalist is a veritable super-hero and anyone who pauses for half a second to consider that maybe such a system is sub-optimal is a sniveling lunatic - and lo, the mindless prols think it's a masterpiece and a template for how the world should be run. The most annoying book I have ever read.
I was visiting an old friend for the past few days, and she showed me this cover of Atlas Shrugged I made for her when we lived in Ukraine:
It was a necessary repair, but it pretty much proves I should be a cover designer. _____________________________________________
I think Francisco D’Aconia is absolutely a dream boat. This book’s like blah blah blah engineering, blah blah blah John Galt, blah blah blah no altruistic act, blah bla- HE-llo, Francisco D’Aconia, you growl and a half. Also, there’s a pirate. So, what’s everyone complaining about?
Okay, it’s not that I don’t get what everyone’s complaining about. I get that Rand is kind of loony tunes of the Glenn Beck variety, and some people (maybe?) use her to justify being assholes, but I just don’t like to throw the bathwater out with that baby. Warning: I think, to make my point, I have to refer to Dostoyevsky a lot, which I seem to always do because he really is some kind of touchstone to me. The point I’m trying to make with all this blabbering is that the debate over Atlas Shrugged brings out something that I might hate more than anything else (more than weddings and kitty litter even). It makes people say that ideas are dangerous. People on all sides of the spectrum do this about different stuff, and whatever the argument, I don’t like it. If an idea is wrong, say it’s wrong. But genocide doesn’t happen because people put forward too many ideas. It happens because people put forward too few ideas.
Anyway, back to the book:
First, story. The third part of this book is super weird. It’s definitely not the actual ending of the book, I’ve decided, but more of a choose-your-own-adventure suggestion. It’s kind of fun that way because any end that you, the reader, come up with will be better than the one Rand suggested. My favorite part of her ending is how John Galt gives the most boring speech possible, and it lasts for about a bazillion pages, and you have to skip it or die. Then, at the end, Rand’s like, “The entire world was listening, ears glued to the radios, because Galt’s speech was the most brilliant thing they had ever heard.” No. Nope. Nice try, liar. So, that’s super lame, I agree, and you should just skip the third part.
But people don’t get as mad about the epilogue in Crime and Punishment. Why? That’s the same situation, where it kills all fun, and you have to ignore that it happened. Is it just because it’s shorter, and it’s called “Epilogue”? Maybe that’s enough. But, on the other hand, maybe people didn’t read all the way to the end of Crime and Punishment. Maybe, because it was written by a crazy Russian man, not a crazy Russian woman, people think they’ll sound deep if they say they like it.
Second, writing. People complain about Rand’s writing, and I always think, “When was the last time you wrote a 1000 page book in a second language and pulled off a reasonably page-turning storyline?” The woman spoke Russian for crying out loud! It most certainly would have been a better choice for her to have written the books in Russian and had them translated, but, I mean, most native English speakers couldn’t be that entertaining. It’s at least A for effort. I’m not going to make excuses for the unpronounceable names she chooses for her characters, but I’ll just say Dostoyevsky again and leave it at that.
I know it made a huge difference in my reading of this book that I was living in a Soviet bloc apartment in Lozovaya, Ukraine at the time and had forgotten a little bit how to speak English. I’m sure a lot of weird phrasing didn’t sound weird to me because it makes sense in Russian. But, also, I feel like I’ve read a lot of translations of Dostoyevsky and other Russians that feel really weird in English. You know, everyone’s always having some kind of epileptic fit or whatever with Mr. D. But, we allow for the weirdness because we picture the stuff happening in Russia, where the weird stuff typically goes down anyway. I’ll tell you right now, Atlas Shrugged takes place in Russia. No joke. She might tell you they’re flying over the Rocky Mountains, or whatever, but this book is a Russian if there ever was one. Just so it’s clear, I LOVE that about it. That’s no insult, only compliment.
Third, philosophy. Maybe I told you this story already, so skip it if you already know it. When I lived in Ukraine, I had the same conversation with three or four people of the older generation who grew up in the Soviet Union. They would tell me, “Things were really wonderful in the Soviet Union, much better than they are now. We had free health care, free housing, and now we have nothing. I mean, every once in a while your neighbor would disappear, but it was completely worth it.” This was really disturbing to me, because it gave me this picture of the people around me – that they were the ones who ratted out the neighbors who wanted a different life. Sure, Rand’s vision is narrow and sometimes inhuman, but I think it is because she was really terrified of this equally narrow and, as far as I’m concerned, inhuman vision. I want a public health care option real bad, and my neighbor has some really annoying Chihuahuas, but if forced to choose between them, I’d probably still pick my neighbor.
Admittedly, the problem with this argument is that it sets up a dichotomy where our only choices are the prosperity gospel and Soilent Green. From what I know of Rand, though, she had seen her neighbors and family thrown out of Russia or killed for being rich. She was fighting something extreme by being extreme. Unfortunately, in America, this rhetoric turns into the idea that having public services = killing your neighbor. To me, this comes from people taking her arguments too seriously on both sides. Dostoyevsky has ghosts and devils coming out of every corner, and people take his stories for what they’re worth. We don’t think that liking his books makes us mystics and hating them makes us inquisitors. Why is it different with Rand?
Fourth, women. I’m not going to lie and tell you that there weren’t other badass female characters when Dagney Taggert came around. All I want to say about this is that the most valuable thing I got from this book was the idea that one person being unhappy doesn’t, and shouldn’t, make other people happy. I think, in this way, it was particularly important to me that the protagonist was a woman. I see a lot of women complain about their lives and families, but say it’s all worth it because they’ve been able to devote their lives to making their husbands or children happy. I’m paraphrasing, I guess. Anyway, that kind of hegemony really creeps me out.
When I read this book, I was just realizing that I had joined Peace Corps with a similarly misguided motivation. I wanted to go to the needy and unfortunate countries of the world and sacrifice myself to save them. It might sound more nasty than it really was when I say it like that, but I think it is a really arrogant attitude to have. We might have hot running water in America (for which I am forever grateful), but if somewhere doesn’t have that, it’s probably not because of a problem a silly, 23-year-old English major is going to solve. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Peace Corps, and it was maybe the best experience of my life so far. But I love it for the things that I got out of it, and if someone else benefited from my being in Ukraine, it was dumb luck.
I don’t know about other women, but I was raised to believe that the more selfless (read: unhappy) I was, the better off everyone else would be. I think it’s a pretty typical way that women talk themselves into staying in abusive situations – that their lives are worth less than the lives around them. This would be the Hank Rearden character in the novel. I love that Rand sets up characters who destroy this cycle of abuse. I love that her female protagonist lives completely outside of it.
So, not to undercut my noble feminist apologetics, but really Francisco’s just hawt, and I think that’s the reason I like this book. There are lots of other reasons to read Rand, but most of those get into the argument about her ideas being dangerous. I just don’t think they are, or should be. I think ignorance is dangerous, but I think it should be pretty easy to fill in the gaping holes in Rand’s logic. Yes, she conveniently ignores the very old, very young, and disabled to make a specific and extreme point. I don’t think her point is entirely without merit, though (in the sense that our lives are valuable, not in the sense of “kill the weak!”). I also think that if we give a “danger” label to every book that conveniently ignores significant portions of the population to make a point, we wouldn’t be left with much.
Anyway, read, discuss, agree, disagree. I’ll be making up some “Team John,” “Team Hank,” “Team Francisco” t-shirts later. I hear in the sequel there are werewolves.
Someone needed to tell me that Ben Shapiro and Jeremy Boreing had started a streaming platform for awful, heinous stuff like this! This is comedy gold! *** Pretentious poseur writes pseudophilosophical apologia for being a sociopath. Distasteful in the extreme.
Appealing to narcissists since 1949...unappealing to properly emotionally constituted adults since then, too.
Honestly this book isn’t even worth talking about. It’s a genre of its own called Dumb Dystopia. Here’s my old review I guess:
Recently someone told me this was their favorite novel. I believe they referred to it as 'the greatest book ever written.' I find a lot wrong with that statement. Because who cares about Ulysses, right? No, that won't do, I'm going to have to drink and rant for a moment. I refrained from commenting to the customer, because I'm sure it is typically for political reasons that people like this book and, whatever, some people swing left, some people swing right, some people suckle the golden calf of capitalism and some love thy socialist ways and who am I to judge. I'm not a politician and you should all thank me for that. I'd like to push politics aside but, frankly, I think it is solely for political reasons and edgelord posturing that this book managed to stay relevant and in print. However, I suppose you are all here to hear about the politics of this book and I would be boring you with talks of wooden character and language and overall juvenile writing abilities, so I'll save those for after. I don't want to argue politics, especially not while drinking, so lets take a moment to look at the plot (and oh what a plot it is) and see how the politics hold up within. Besides, there isn't much to analyze in this one as the writing barely goes beneath the surface. It’s basically people got sad they couldn’t profit in the specific way they decided they should so they turned the world into a dumb dystopia because their vocation only mattered to them if they could lord it over people. The people the novel praises are those who simply sit back and let the workers make money for them and then call themselves the doers. It’s weird and kind of gross.
Once upon a time there were some factory owners. These factory owners loved to preach about the pride in working for their company, and hey, maybe conditions are piss-poor and maybe you are barely scraping by to feed your growing family, but at least you can take pride in working for a great company and that should satisfy you and give you meaning (some cool existentialist thought could have been added into the book for that, but Rand misunderstood Kant so I doubt she'd be able to add anything beyond surface detail and pop-philosophy). Then one day the great evil government (the government is such a caricature and it's almost a surprise she didn't have them all wearing black hooded cloaks. And really, who voted for those guys?) passed some outlandish laws that people couldn't have a monopoly and maybe we should pay our workers. Suddenly, having pride in what they did seemed terrible. Instead of taking pride in their company and working hard to sustain the nation they so loved, like they preached to their employees, they bitched about it a bunch and then stopped working. Nice guys, right? They set up a utopia (Ayn Rand of all people should know utopia is a word for 'fake') society where competing is so cool and they say stuff like 'man, I hope someone competes with me and nearly puts me out of business', which isn't all that different from what was going on in the society they fucked off into the woods from in the most comically shameful manner possible. Meanwhile Rand says cheating on your wife is way cool and general chaos ensues.
So it goes for awhile, but then, THEN, after a overlong speech that takes all the points any reader with half a mind already put together for themselves and regurgitates it out without the metaphors and into a boring speech that repeats itself many times about the points already mentioned in the novel and then makes sure you know the stuff already mentioned in the novel through a long speech, all hell breaks loose and the main characters bust into town like the goddamn A-Team. Guns blaze, Dagny murders a few dudes and the one character who was actually worth reading about blows up the super-weapon (because that guy was awesome. Screw the rest of the characters, I want to read more about that guy. He was 'about it', like people who are apparently 'about it' say while slugging their Mountain Dews and playing video games.) All integrity of the novel was lost with the hysterically overblown rescue scene. I mean, they even got out on 'choppers' at the end. It was the worst action movie I've ever seen, and I'm not even going to go into the scene where apparently it is okay to shoot your employees in the head for going on strike. And that, my friends, is Atlas Shrugged. People seem to really like the politics, which are “if things aren't going your way just fuck off into the woods shouting ‘and fuck america too.'” Also she’s really into talking about shooting soldiers in the face.
Finally. What I really want to talk about is the book as a piece of literature, so don't get all steamed up about politics on me here, pal! Granted, there are a few pretty lines here, particularly the line about cigarettes and how all great thinkers should have that glowing ember at their fingertips while the lightbulb of thought is burning, but other than that Rand is a forgettable sci-fi novelist that has poorly aged with time. Not a line of dialogue rings true to actual speech, not a cough or a scoff can go without her graciously informing the reader that the scoff or cough shows their disapproval or discomfort and whatnot. Furthermore, she certainly can't let a metaphor slip out without explaining it; reading Ayn Rand feels like being a grown adult and sitting in a elementary reading class and having the teacher explain how books work. It's as if she has no faith in her reader as a literate, thinking human being. Worse, the characters are the sort that can only exist on the page and have such narrow-minded two-dimensional aspects that one can't possibly imagine them walking around in the real world. Of course the government is terrible in this novel, its such a caricature that nobody in their right mind would bother being submissive to it. Granted, this book is satire, but come on Rand, put some effort into your creativity.
' James, you ought to discover some day that words have an exact meaning.' This idea pops up constantly in Atlas Shrugged, that words have a specific and definite meaning, and the character always wields this like a weapon straight to the heart (James does suck as a person and character so I don't feel bad for him for his inability to easily retort. However, Rand seems fully unable to build three-dimensional characters so is it that James is garbage or Rand’s novel itself?). This idea is possibly my least favorite aspect of the book because it is comically incorrect. Though maybe my English degree is as useless as it is as finding me a job (totally useless), but from what I've gathered reading books (and Derrida) is that language is anything but exact. Language is pliable, words are an attempt at harnessing the abstract into sound, caging thought into something more tangible. If words have an exact meaning then all the poets have been doing is creating gibberish. And how can Rand go on writing her weak metaphors if she actually believes that statement.
Briefly, Ayn Rand separates people into two catagories: those that make, and the 'looters'. Interestingly “those who make” spend the whole book only making things hard for the working class who actually make the things they make money off of.
Somehow, people still rave about this book. I will say, however, that the chapter where they kill everyone by putting a steam engine through a tunnel was incredibly well done. She could have cut the rest of the novel and simply published that chapter because all the major points are present and for a brief moment the book felt worth reading. I also loved the bits about the pirate and the scene where the government takes over the mines to find them desolated. There are some great 'fight the man' moments but they are buried under a god-awful plot that puts the plot and politics before the writing and told through characters that are so two-dimensional that I can't even believe the scenes that have them walking down a street. There's some politics here I guess some people could get down with if your goal is to be a freshman year edgelord in a poly sci class, and I do understand that this is a response to the horrors of Communist Russia, but she did this so much better in Anthem (though even in that she contradicts herself often. Right after a large discussion on freedom and not letting others think for you, the man names the woman character. He just tells her, this is now your name. Which seems suspiciously not like the freedom the man was fighting for) and others have tackled the issue in a much more agreeable and artistic manner. All sarcasm and jokes aside, I simply do not think this book is well written. I could honestly not care less about the political aspects, its the literary aspects that cause the low rating. I came, I read, I shrugged. 1/5
Disclaimer: I read this while working in a factory that had no heat or AC and paid minimum wage as the salary cap. However, the office had AC, heat and tons of paid vacation. Perhaps I'm just bitter about the time I was sent home for listening to a DFW interview on Bookworm because it was 'spreading liberal propaganda in the workplace.' Disclaimer #2: 1 star is probably too harsh, but I really wanted to try writing an angry rant review for once. Sorry, I'm most likely the asshole in this situation.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs. - John Rogers
In some ways, this is a very bad book. The style is stiff and clunky, and the world-view she is trying to sell you has holes you could drive a train through. There is a nice putdown in One Fat Englishman. The main character has just been given a precis of Objectivism. He says "I bet I'm at least as selfish as you. But I don't why I need to turn that into a philosophy". Thank you, Kingsley Amis.
But on the plus side, the book is a page-turner; it does a great job of helping people brought up in a left-wing tradition to understand the right as not just deluded or evil (my friend Gen said she had the same experience after reading it); and it is good at voicing the frustration that competent and honest people feel when they are surrounded by incompetent and dishonest ones. And the romance between Dagny and Hank is emotionally very satisfying. I was so disappointed when she... hm, no spoilers. But I fear the author's desire to push her philosophical agenda got in the way of the story.
OK, let's try again. I haven't exactly changed my mind on any of the above, but, as Jordan persuasively argues, it's kind of missing the point. And, with all due respect to the other reviews here, most of them are also missing the point.
Why? Well, because we're answering the wrong question. Some people uncritically adore this book. Guys, dare I suggest that you might want to broaden your reading tastes just the tiniest amount, and see if you still feel that way? A rather larger group of reviewers can't stand Ayn Rand, and point out various obvious flaws: lack of feeling for English prose style, lack of character development, lack of realistic dialogue, interminable sermons on Objectivism, and sundry other charges. Of course. All of that's clearly true. But here's the question I find more interesting: if the book is so terrible, how come it's been such a gigantic success? It's been said that only the Bible has had a greater influence on 20th century American thought. It must have something going for it. What?
So here's my second attempt. I think the book is dishonest, but it's dazzlingly dishonest, on a grand scale, and that's what readers find fascinating. As everyone knows, the basic thesis is that people should be more selfish, and that this will in some mystical way be good for society as a whole; a boldly paradoxical idea, and, at first sight, it's complete nonsense. I can well believe that my selfishness might be good for me personally, but why on Earth should it be good for anyone else? It flies in the face of at least two thousand years of Western ethical thought, which has been largely focused on making people less selfish, not more. As has been widely pointed out, Objectivism is pretty much the antithesis of Christianity. Which does suggest the question of why many people on the American Right claim both to be Christians and at the same time supporters of Rand's ideas, but let's not get into that right now. I don't really understand how the American Right thinks, so it'll be more productive to consider my own reactions to the book, which were by no means all negative.
Okay: at risk of appalling many of my GR friends, I have to admit that I liked a good deal of Atlas Shrugged. In particular, I find Dagny a sympathetic main character. Yes, she's the Mary Sue to end all Mary Sues, but that's exactly it. Rand believes in her so completely that I can't help being swept along. I am aware that few real women are hypercompetent technical and managerial geniuses, who think nothing of working 48 hours straight and then looking drop-dead gorgeous in a designer gown. (If the movie ever does get made, though, you must admit that Angelina Jolie was a shrewd piece of casting). Even if Dagny doesn't exist, I want her to, and I've seen many worse role-models for young women. That mixture of beauty, intelligence and passion is appealing. And sure, most of the other characters are one-dimensional stereotypes, but, when you're as self-centered as Ayn Rand was, that's how you see things. It's a subjective view, and I find it interesting to look at the world through her eyes.
Now that I've admitted that I love Dagny - I must admit that I can't decide whether I want to be her or sleep with her; probably a bit of both - let's get on to analyzing Rand's big con. A large part of the book is a lavish, over-the-top, melodramatic romance. Will Dagny get her guy? She's hopelessly in love with Hank, who feels just the same way about her. But Hank's ghastly wife, Lillian, seems to be an insuperable obstacle to their happiness. Hank's got all these mistaken principles, see, which mean he has to stay with Lillian, who doesn't appreciate him one bit, rather than go off with his true love. The best scene in the book is the confrontation at the party. Hank has created his new miracle alloy, which is a thousand times stronger than steel and a cool blue-green color to boot. The very first thing he makes from is it a bracelet for Lillian. And is she grateful? Of course not! She's actually going around complaining to the other women about this ugly thing her dumb husband has given her to wear on her wrist. Why couldn't he give her a diamond bracelet like a normal guy? But Dagny, in a blazing fury, goes up to her, and in front of everyone says that she'll be so happy to swap her own diamond bracelet for Hank's unappreciated present. Honestly, if you're not on Dagny's side at this point, I fear you have no heart at all. I was certainly cheering her on, and given the general success of the novel I assume I was one of millions.
Rand has stacked the deck, but she's not exactly the first author to do so. The reasonable point she's making here is that, in romantic matters, people should often do what they want to do, rather than than what they feel they ought to do. Straightforwardly selfish behavior is better for everyone; people need love, which makes them happy, rather than pity, which ultimately makes them miserable. At least, it's true in this particular case. You're sitting there willing Hank to understand what's so blatantly obvious. And, once she's got you to buy into her idea, she switches the cards right under your nose. In just the same way, she argues, people should always act selfishly! See, if you're given something you haven't truly earned (whatever that means), it won't make you happy. Moreover, the people who are actually entitled to it will feel hurt and frustrated, just like Dagny, and in the end they'll lose their motivation. And thus, um, if you tax multi-billionaires at more than whatever the fashionable rate is, civilization will collapse. QED. I may have condensed the argument a little, but I think that's roughly it.
As already mentioned, this is nonsense, and shows that romance authors, even quite good ones, shouldn't try their hand at political philosophy. But that needn't stop you from appreciating their romances, and I certainly did. Next week, I will be reviewing Barbara Cartland's commentaries on Kant. To be continued.
The premise: Everyone is stupid except the faith and ideology I want to spread with awkward, bad writing and glorifying sociopathy with a touch of ethical thoughts to make it not look even more inhuman.
Imagine the book with a different plot instead of good capitalist vs evil socialist/communist. Let´s say Intelligent, friendly believers of one faith vs the barbaric, cannibalistic tribe members of a sect. Great, beautiful misogynist vs ugly women. Any kind of wonderful fascism-, eugenic-, master race- driven lunatics vs all other humans. Wise feminists vs bad men. Environmentalists vs evil bureaucracies. Ingenius racists vs the inferior population. The good political party vs the evil political party. Good leftists with pro Nordic model Keynesian strong social state vs evil turbo capitalistic, wait, no, that´s wrong, that doesn´t belong here.
Looks quite different, doesn´t it? One understands the sheer stupidity much better in such an ironized context and it shows the immense main problem of misusing fictional literature to implement agenda and bias in a work of fiction to manipulate so many people in real life to think that destructive ideas are great. Just because someone has had bad experiences with one group of people or a regime, as Rand had with marxism and communism, that doesn´t mean, in a simplified and stupid thought, that everything about the opposite is positive and great.
Why so many adjectives and extreme contrasts in her writing you may ask? Well, if an author is unable to explain things by showing, not telling, and being an objective and talented storyteller, there have to be many little helpers to make it understandable.
It´s impossible to read this without skimming and scanning, there is so much redundancy, info dumping, characters thinking and telling the same stupid premise again and again to themselves and others, and bad writing that it´s truly hard to stay motivated, but it´s a great exercise for learning how not to do it. As there is always said, to enjoy or produce good art, it´s important to consume the worst possible to learn by analyzing the mistakes. But if you aren´t playing around with speed reading techniques for decades, which includes daily training and consciously switching between both speed and intention of reading to understand, learn, or enjoy, it might be a waste of time to read this horrible book. I mean, what about dialogues or interacting with the world instead of endless, boring inner and outer monologues? Looks like some people never get out of pubertal defiant phase.
It´s not just one of the most dangerous and destructive books ever written, but a poorly written too. So many people saying that they got influenced by this piece of capitalist propaganda show how the misuse of literature can be instrumentalized to promote an inhuman and disturbing point of view. It gives privileged, mostly white, already rich WEIRD https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychol... young people the legitimization to feel great about being elitist, bigoted, libertarian egomaniacs that think that being an important part of the mad machinery that destroys the planet is something good, worthwhile, and to be proud of.
Not even to talk about people who truly believe that it´s destiny, the product of one´s own work to be proud of, or other demented philosophies in the mix justifying it. I have the extreme luck of being a privileged white person, but I don´t think that I deserve it or use pop psychology, fraud humanities, or even economics to vindicate something that is just the coincidence of birth.
In the contrast, I tend to feel ashamed about my first world problems, lack of motivation, procrastination, all these luxury problems, and have a strong attitude towards improving the world by spreading the knowledge about the good, proven, logical, human, alternatives to the stupidity that ruled the earth for millennia. A kind of obligation to be thankful, mindful, positive, and progressive. I don´t get it why educated, intelligent people are still falling victims to ideologies, it must have something to do with a genetic predisposition to believe, no matter how illogical it is.
I really said myself that I wanted to objectively understand why people are adoring such a piece of trash like this, if it´s at least an entertaining work of art, but it isn´t even that. It´s the worst of both worlds, a bad fictional pseudo intellectual, fringe science, wanna be philosophical, collection of garbage and something pushing and downplaying turbocapitalism, neoliberalism, neocolonialism, and the destruction of everything needed to build a fair and sustainable economic system and society while giving the perpetrators a pseudophilosophical vindication for doing so. Because they are superior. Extremism is always the same, boring concept, look at all the great historical examples with the same mentality, I live in a country with a history lesson around that you might have heard about.
When my mother gave me this book and said, "I think you will like this; I read it over a vacation in a week when I was your age," I took one look at the massive text and couldn't believe it. She also said that I reminded her of the characters....a statement to this day I take pride in.... And that is exactly what I learned from this book: that pride is most beautiful thing, and to live on this earth means that one must understand its reality, and learn to use one's mind to make it what one wants it to be. It is about truly loving life and all that it means to 'live' it. It is the reason why I understand myself as a man who belongs on earth....
It is very long (almost 1200 pages), so get ready for an epic. I won't try to say it is great literature, though if the style fits the person who is reading it, it will certainly be an amazing read. It can be long-winded and wordy at times, but what philospher isn't? My advice: stick with it through the first half of the first section: it takes it bit to get going in the book, but once it starts, it is worth it....
To the proposition that we all have inside of us the inherent values to be heros: we just need to learn the virtues that will bring those values out of us... C.S. Leary
A review so ambitious, so controversial, so staggeringly over-hyped unique that it has to be seen in order to be read. A review many minutes in the writing (and several hours in the photo finding). A review so important that one Dr. Hyperbole had this to say upon seeing it....
This is the review most people didn’t even know they wanted to read. A review of one of the most talked about and polarizing classics of the 20th century…ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand.
This review will pull no punches as it discusses all aspects of the novel and includes opinions that run the gamut from 5 stars of love to seething cauldron's of 1 star rage...and everything in between. Here is just a sampling of some of the views you can expect to find in the review experts are already calling “longer and more repetitive than the novel itself”:
“This is a book that proudly celebrates both the individual and the potential for greatness inside all of us. It is a book of new and radical ideas being passionately expressed by someone who believes deeply in them. Whether you agree or disagree whole-heartedly or belong somewhere in the middle, it's right and proper to respect the passion and conviction that Ms. Rand feels for her subject.” ---Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, FMR Governor, Imperial Outlands Region in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
“Regardless of how you feel personally about the ideas expressed in this book, it seems clear and not subject to serious debate that the philosophy of objectivism created by Rand added an entirely new voice to the landscape of philosophical, economic and political debate. Call it controversial, call it inflammatory, even call it wrong, but it is impossible to call it irrelevant. There is little question that as a book of ideas, Atlas Shrugged is a monumental book and deserves its place as one of the most important books of the 20th Century...Ain't I right there Normie.” ---Cliff Calvin, Postman, Boston, MA
At the far other end of the spectrum are those that thought Atlas Shrugged was 1200 pages of mind-numbing, bowel churning, elitist tripe. Among these detractors was one P. Griffin from Quohog, RI, who had this to say:
Unfortunately, when pressed for specifics or examples to support his opinion, Mr Griffin screamed and ran away to hide
Also not a fan was one Jules Winnfield, an independent contractor from, according to him, “The Valley of Death” who had real problems with Rand’s prose which he found clunky and very unpolished. He summed up his opinion about Rand's writing ability as follows:
Back on the positive side, you will hear from more people who found Rand’s magnus opus to be powerful and something definitely worth reading......
“Ayn Rand was born in Russia and grew up witnessing first hand the failings of collectivism as well as many of its more brutal aspects enforced in the former U.S.S.R. Therefore, her passionate embrace of the “free market” and capitalism and the idea of rewarding the individual for excellence is certainly understandable in light of her origins. It is also true that Rand’s depiction of a dystopian future in which individual achievement and have been replaced by collectivism and distribution according to need has more than just passing relevance today. Whether or not you believe her vision is skewed or biased, there is still much that her book can add to the debate on the proper role of government in the life of the individual.” ---Gabe Kotter, School teacher, James Buchanan High School, Brooklyn, NY
“In my opinion, the MOST IMPORTANT lesson that can be taken from Atlas Shrugged is the concept that Rich, successful people are not evil simply because they are wealthy and are certainly not the enemy of the poor or the disadvantaged. There are GOOD and BAD in every economic layer in society and this bias just seems extremely destructive.***I know that wealthy people are an easy target for humor but when people actually believe that being wealthy makes someone “less moral” or “less good” it starts to sound eerily similar to when people used to say about other groups “There just not like us, there different.” Sorry, I can’t buy into that. People are people and everyone is entitled to being judged for who they are.” ---Mr. Hankey (aka The Christmas Poo)
“Every person that ever gave me a job, an opportunity or the means to feed myself and provide for my family was WEALTHY by most peoples standards. Walk around your house and pick up the products that you use every day and that make your life easier and ask yourself how many of them were made by people who made a lot of money off them (my guess is most of them). The world we be a lot worse off without the inventors, the builders and the risk takers and they deserve our thanks and not our animosity....Nanu Nanu” ---Mork, Ambassador from the Planet of Ork
Of course, the negative reviews don't stop with the 1 star commentators. There were additional negative reactions raised about Atlas Shrugged and this review promises to tackle them in depth. One very controversial subject deals with attacks on Ayn Rands views on sexuality which are certainly on display in the novel. Comments about the sexual relationships described in the story being “odd” or “freaky” are not uncommon and some go so far as to accuse Rand of having a “rape fantasy fetish.” A. Powers from Great Britain, who was unable to divulge his exact occupation actually attacked Rand personally with this very blunt reaction to Atlas Shrugged’s sexual content.
A second, less controversial view but one that is probably far more relevant to a true analysis of this work is Rand’s consistent use of blatant and obvious “straw men” to support her argument. Many people have argued that for someone so passionate about her beliefs who is absolutely convinced of the rightness of her convictions, she sure felt the need to stock the book with a lot of easily dispatched "straw man” characters.
As I Amin from Uganda put it: “This was probably my biggest problem with the book. If [Rand] is so sure that her arguments are valid and correct, then why doesn’t she have the Rand characters (i.e., those espousing her opinions) debate against the best arguments that the ‘other side’ has to offer. Instead she has peopled her expository novel with ‘over the top’ caricatures of the socialist system so that they can easily tear them down. This does nothing but preach to the converted and has all the persuasive power of a political attack ad.”
Or, put another way, “I think there is a compelling debate in there somewhere. Unfortunately, Rand, Dum Dum that she is, decided to load the other side’s quiver with nothing but wet noodles and so comes off looking scared of a true debate.” --Gazoo, Intergalactic Talking Head
Another cause of very negative reactions stems from the incredible amount of repetition and redundancy used by Rand in the stating of her opinions. State your opinion once and that is laudable. If it is overly complex, maybe you repeat it a second, even a third time. However, in a 1200 page novel when you have to listen to the EXACT SAME POINT made 10, 20 or even 30 times, you can cause your audience to become very irate and disenchanted. One disgruntled reader stopped reading the novel halfway through and said simply........
Finally, you will here from those who found both positive and negative qualities in Rand’s novel. Many found the prose less than noteworthy but were very taken by the plot. Others liked the characters but had issues with the world-building (or lack thereof) in Rand’s tale. Still others liked the passion of Rand's convictions but found her message lost in a myriad of meandering speeches. . . . All of these issues and much more will be tackled in this comprehensive, detailed review of Rand’s controversial classic. While not to be released until mid-summer 2012, early buzz is already calling this review “A review of Atlas Shrugged.” We only hope we can live up to those expectations. Until then.........
Press 1 if you would like to wait on hold for 3 hours and 45 minutes for a representative. Press 2 if you would like to listen to a recording of our website. Press 3 if you are so disgusted with this process that you just want to give up.
Option 3 is more and more tempting these days…
Atlas Shrugged is on many college admission essays that I wonder how often this very review with be plagiarized. Hi, Harvard and Oxford!
Before I really get into this 1,000+ page tome, GoodReads, can you do me a favor and give out badges when we read 1,000+ page books?
Readings books of this size is like climbing Mount Everest, and it is an event worth celebrating. As an aside, I would also like to see a lifetime pages badge.
In some respects, Atlas Shrugged is more relevant today than when it was first authored. It speaks to the weariness of overachievers as they go about the world with so many people not doing a good job.
Why does it take 45 minutes to buy a single loaf of bread at the store?
About two years ago, I ordered a treadmill for under the desk. After meticulously following the instruction manual, the belt would jump forward then slide back. The situation was especially dangerous because there were no handrails. After spending 30 minutes on the phone, I was told that the product was sold by a third-party seller. Up came the chat box where the seller tried to get me to load the 300-pound treadmill into my car, drive it to UPS, haul it in on my bare shoulders, and pay at my expense to ship it back to China. Let’s just say that didn’t happen…
COVID is now the blanket excuse for everything. People now make TikToks about quiet quitting, brazenly describing with pride how they intentionally do a bad job.
Withdrawing completely from society is so tempting, hitting Option 3.
Another point raised in Atlas Shrugged is how the government, non-businesspeople who don’t really understand the situation are making the rules governing business. This really resonated with me but in a slightly different way.
Human genome-editing is banned in most countries. In the US, the FDA prohibits DNA-editing.
Sorry, you probably fell asleep. What am I talking about?
A bunch of scientists at the FDA in their gilded white towers decided that people with life threatening genetic conditions cannot be cured before they are born. It is easy to pass such a sentence onto other people.
Have they bothered asking the person who has had two heart surgeries, can’t control their left leg, is covered head-to-toe in rashes, takes 14 pills a day, spends 4 hours a week at the hospital, is told by the very same United States government that she can work with restrictions while her heart was stopped, literally dead, treated as a pariah by society with no support, and it all could have been avoided if just one gene, ALDH4A1, was tweaked before she was born? No. No, they haven’t.
There are so many parallels between gene editing and Rearden Metal.
However, Atlas Shrugged is deeply problematic.
This book needs to check its premises.
Ayn Rand subscribed to a philosophy known as Objectivism and referred to the poor as “takers” and “refuse.”
Only two women are overachievers in Atlas Shrugged: one is a wife of an overachiever and the other is the granddaughter of the company founder.
What if Dagny was born poor or of color? What if she had a major illness or accident?
How do I really feel about this book? Take my hand. Let’s go back in time…..
Once upon a time, there was a young but poor scholar who attended a snobby, expensive elite university.
The financial aid officer told the scholar that she would have to drop out because her parents could not help with tuition.
One day, the scholar took out her sharpened pencils and turned her notebook to a fresh, clean, crisp page, arriving early to her psychology class. Her classmates consisted of the uber-wealthy of America, the types who have summer houses and fathers who work as CEOs of global corporations.
As she waited for class to begin, raised voices broke the stillness of the classroom. Two distinct voices engaged in an argument, turning to shouting, and then escalated into threats of violence.
“I’m going to throw this book at you!”
The young scholar leapt to her feet and bolted out of the room, intent on helping, while the rich students were still giving each other awkward stares and shifting uncomfortably in their seats.
She quickly located the students in question, determined that they were merely playing, and high-tailed it back to class.
As the scholar returned to her seat, her rich classmates turned their attention to her, smothering her with the same question, “What happened?”
Before the scholar could respond, the psychology professor burst into the classroom, exuberant, an enormous smile crossing her face.
“Lisa is the first person in seven years to respond to this experiment.”
Is there room in these esteemed academic institutions for the virtuous?
You say who is John Galt. I say who is Lisa of Troy.
“Check your premises” the major characters are told. Well let’s check the premises of Ms. Rand’s story.
The first (false) premise is that there are only a dozen or so people in the country who are worth a damn. They have well above-average intelligence, have worked hard and have been lucky enough that their work has paid off in oodles of money (which they don’t enjoy or even care about because they are too busy working). But they can’t bear the thought of paying taxes to support the services they receive and depend upon.
The second (false) premise is that every government employee is a lazy no-good who has nothing on his mind but pillaging the bank accounts of the lucky dozen. But beyond that, the government is inherently evil, to the point of passing laws that inflict major economic damage and suffering on virtually everyone in the country with the exception of the privileged government leaders. This evil government is all-powerful and has total control over every newspaper, television and radio station. Fat chance. Obviously the author’s image of government derives from her formative years in the USSR. She has no concept that other governments have not tolerated the oppression that she found there.
The third (false) premise is that the rest of the people of the U.S. are mostly a bunch of lazy morons who blindly accept the statements of the evil government and their patsy press. Further, they have no ability or process to provoke change. They wander around like a bunch of sheep being led to the slaughter. If only they were weren’t so stupid and lazy they would all be as rich as the “lucky dozen elite”. Since they didn’t have the ability (or intensity or luck) to become one of the elite, they all think that the elite should support them so they don’t have to work. The country has a middle class composed of about 24 people who are the trusted, loyal assistants of the elite. They are good enough to do everything their masters ask, but not good enough to join their masters in “Atlantis”. When the elite disappear (on strike), their trusted assistants are left behind to bear the misfortune of the rest of the poor slobs.
This is all set on a stage of poor science fiction, which includes such things as a magic “motor” generating vast amounts of energy out of nothing. The author doesn’t seem to know the difference between a motor and a generator and uses the terms interchangeably. Then there is a magic “ray” that makes large areas of land invisible, powered, of course, by the magic “motor”. These magic things were, of course, invented by the intelligent elite who use them to help wreak havoc and despair on the rest of the 200 million people of the country in order to punish the evil government.
Then there’s the (obligatory) sex. Dagny Taggart, the heroine and only intelligent woman in the universe, has sex with three of the elite. She dumps the only real relationship (with Rearden) in favor of the demi-god John Galt (who she barely knows) along the lines of a teenage girl throwing herself at one of the Beatles. Her favorite encounters are sado-masochistic.
In the end, after they have succeeded in destroying the economy of the world and most everyone’s life, the elite magnanimously plan to sashay back into the real world and rebuild the hundred years of technology that they just destroyed. Isn’t that a brilliant idea? They think the only path to change is to take their football and go home. You have to wonder how brilliant these people really are.
The author spends great quantities of print describing and re-describing thoughts and feelings of the characters ad nauseum. The redundancy is overwhelming.
This poor attempt at science fiction with a supposed moral message demonstrates how a 350 page book can be padded to become a 1200 page behemoth. Elitists, libertarians and others paranoid about the government will undoubtedly enjoy this book. Paramilitary groups will love it. Most of the rest of us will ask ourselves “What the hell was she was thinking?”
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I read this book as a teenager while recovering from a long bout of viral fever which had left me bedridden for almost a month: I had exhausted all my other books and forced to rummage through old shelves in my house. (Ironically, I read The Grapes of Wrath also at the same time.) My teenage mind was captivated by the "dangerous" ideas proposed by Ayn Rand. At that time, India was having an inefficient "mixed" economy comprising all the negative aspects of capitalism and socialism, and Ms. Rand seemed to point a way out of the quagmire.
Almost thirty years hence, I find the novel (if it can be called that - Ayn Rand's idea of fiction is a bunch of pasteboard characters put there as her mouthpieces) to be silly beyond imagination. The premise is laughable; the characters entirely forgettable; and the writing, abyssmal. The idea that governments governing the least and allowing a "winner-take-all" economy to flourish will solve all the world's woes ("Social Darwinism", a word I've heard used to describe her philosophy) will not wash anywhere today, I would wager - even with the hard-core adherents of the GOP in the USA. Especially when we look at Europe, where capitalism has gone into a downward spiral.
Ms. Rand, sorry to say, Atlas didn't shrug: Atlas collapsed!
The Concept: Rand follows the lives of society's movers and shakers (first-handers, in her words, and business men, scientists, inventors, and artists in her novel) as they resist the societal pull to become second-handers and to remain true to themselves and their live's work. Meanwhile, something is happening that is shaking the very foundation of society.
After reading The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand in 2005-2006, my life has been changed for the better. Applying Rand's ideas to my own life has made my mind clearer and has helped me to acchieve goals I thought were unreachable. Rand's ideas have been a big part of "growing up" and getting through the "quarter life crisis" for me.
While I read Rand's books for her ideas and to better understand the application of her philosophy, they can also be read on many different levels. Through reading them, not only did I read an amazing story, carefully crafted and well rendered, but I also learned so much. However, one does not have to delve deep into Rand's philosophical background to enjoy The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged -- they are also great stories about human endurance, individualism, freedom, relationships, and integrity.
If you are reading this book to gain an understanding of Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, then I would recommend reading this book AFTER reading Ayn Rand's other famous fiction, The Fountainhead. The Fountainhead is a more straight forward place to start that study.
I highly recommend this book, and I have a copy to loan if you're interested. When you're reading, we can go out for coffee to talk about the book -- there is much to think about in this one.
This book was the most overrated piece of crap of the twentieth century. It spars only with Dianetics and in its absolute absurdity.
The characters are absolutely idealized 'heroes of capitalism' action figures. I wonder if Rand imagined some of these great barons of industry coming to her rescue when she immigrated away from the vile pit of communism that she left behind. You know, during the time where she forged her citizenship papers and depended on the generocity and kindness of a liberal, open society.
If only she had us all her irritating, long winded, repetative tales of woe for the monied class of brilliantly handsome, powerful super geniuses.
She bases all of this on her objectivist claptrap, claiming rationality as her own private high ground. But this is a general critique of her works. Specifically this book is completely overwritten and serves as flak cover for all the wrong people. The Jack Welch's and Phil Knights that imagine themselves to be the heroes of this book.
This book has done more to create a generation of self interested greedy mindless zombies than any other book I can think of.
Atlas Shrugged is a flawed epic, strident with a swaggering ambition, yet almost fable-like in its overly simplistic social and economic criticisms.
This is more of a philosophical, social commentary than a literary monument. The characterization is where it fails; Rand draws stick figures for antagonists: caricatures, strawmen to act as foil to her politico-economic-social vehicle. This is the book that made everyone mad in the late fifties: progressive liberals were spurned due to its vitriolic anti-government stance and conservatives stayed away in droves due to Rand’s over the top atheism.
As provocative and controversial as it is, I wondered at the society that had produced Rand and marveled at the influence she had on our culture since its publication. I have read many controversial books, and have wondered how many critics have actually read the work; Atlas Shrugged makes me wonder how many fans have actually read it.
Rand would no doubt be critical of big business today with its corporate dollar laden cushions and aristocratically removed “leadership”. Rand’s libertarianism shares with Sinclair’s socialism in that it looks good in print.
The length? Yep, it’s a 1300 plus page monster. Rand forces her readers to be submerged, to live in the dystopian wasteland for two or three months to fully comprehend her vision.
Finally I am left with a feeling, an assurance, that I do not like Ms. Rand and don't care for her arrogance and her casual dismissal of much of what is good in society.
*** 2021 - thought about this and have decided that even if I don't care for Rand, disagree with much of her ideas, I did like parts of this book
I didn’t know what to expect from this book when I started reading, but it is fair to say that I wouldn’t have guessed it would prove to be anything like it ended up. This is pure and simple melodrama starring various iterations of Nietzschean Supermen wrapped up tight in Hayek’s Road to Serfdom – so, essentially, this is three of my least favourite things all slammed together in one endlessly, endlessly long book. In fact, if you were to read The Road to Serfdom and to say at the end of each chapter, “oh, yes, yes, take me, take me in your strong arms, no, no, don’t ask, just take me, take me here, here on my desk, here, oh yes, yes, let my body sing against your unbridled and determined will, please, please, let me submit to your manly desire, oh, yes, god, oh, yes, yes, yes.” You would pretty much have the novel down pat and would have saved yourself a week or so of reading.
About a year ago I read a book, written in the 1880s, called ‘The Melbourne Riots’. It was written by a kind of agrarian Socialist, I guess. In the book he shows how grossly unfair the current social situation is and proposes a utopian village where people will be able to live in a kind of commune, where each person will contribute to the common labour of the village, and will be rewarded according to the work that they do. I thought as I was reading it that it was interesting how these sorts of novels really had had their time at the end of the 19th century – with their Owen-like visions of brave new worlds. Do people write novels about socialist utopias now? Do people still go off to Paraguay to set up communes?
Well, this book is a right wing version of these utopian communes. It is a vision where the great and best among us go on strike and leave the rest of us to our misery – leaving us as Nietzsche’s botched and bungled – for us to fend for ourselves, catastrophically for ourselves, until we realise the error of our ways and beg for the thinkers, the men of action to return to once again have their way with us.
In this sense the novel is also a reworking of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata – where the women of Greece go on a strike denying men sex until they end the Peloponnesian War. It is just in this case it is the businessmen and the great scientists who go on strike until they are allowed to finally be rewarded according to the true worth of their contribute to society. This is a book of inversions and strawmen.
The main strawman is a caricature of Marx, particularly his ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their need’. This is repeated throughout the novel, maybe 20 times, you are certainly not meant to have missed it – but it is always used as an excuse by those with a death mentality so as to excuse the fact that they live from the appropriated productivity, brilliance and wisdom of the supermen industrialists. The fact that Marx believed work was the highest human virtue, that he said those who do not work should not eat, that his conception of morality was that people create the world through their labour and that this is the sole source of all value, moral and physical, in the world – none of this is mentioned in the strawman that is built. And Marx is not the only strawmen. The only Christians that could feel comfortable reading this book would be that particularly US version, the Prosperity Christian.
In the world of this book, humanity is divided into two distinct groups. One group is the great mass of us, and we are mostly parasites. We are, and will always remain, Nietzsche’s sheep. We are good at following orders, but only because we refuse to think for ourselves. When confronted by a new or novel problem that is not contained within a standard protocol we have learnt or can refer to, we are immediately crushed and incapable of any form of action and particularly not risk taking. This is what divides us from our betters, the Supermen. They would rather act than be delayed for a moment in their grand desire to transform the world in their own image. They are the great artists – the world is their canvas – the will to power is the creative gesture that they deploy and make the rest of us gape upon in wonderment. Where a challenge stops the rest of us in our tracks, risk is but another obstacle on the path to their foretold greatness.
And this world would be fine, except that we cannot be contented with allowing these gods among us to exercise their greatness. No, instead we have created life draining moral precepts to keep these gods in their place and to force them to dedicate their lives to meeting our needs and our wants at their expense. This is all straight Nietzsche, of course.
It is hard to know if you are meant to read this novel as a work of political philosophy or as a kind of cheap novel. As a novel it is breathless soap opera. “Oh, alack, it would have been impossible for me to finish building my railroad if I had 9 months, but now, now I have only 6 to do it in – I will just have to dedicate myself to this greatest of achievements and focus my will…” You might think I’m exaggerating – but read 20 pages of this and you see, in fact, I’ve toned it down.
At the start it becomes fairly clear that many of the Supermen are what we would today call ‘on the spectrum’. They are socially inept, trapped in loveless marriages and with families who do not understand them, or even try to understand them. They are unable to understand why they are expected to meet various obligations that they are otherwise completely uninterested in. But if the main characters are incapable of empathy, this reflects the lack of empathy the author struggles with for anyone that is not one of her supermen. The only slightly three-dimensional characters in the book are these supermen – everyone else is a two-dimensional cartoon character who are only in the book for what they represent – which is invariably an obstacle placed in the way of the Supermen to help them learn both their own true nature and the true nature of the society they need to tear down and rebuild anew.
I don’t want to spoil this for you, well, any more than I already have, but I do need to say that towards the end of this the main Superman gives a radio speech to the world. He says later, in a conversation about the speech that it went for three hours – it certainly felt like it as I was reading it. An endless harangue, putting all of us in our place, explaining morality, economic theory, the author’s great men of history theory, and so much else, felt like it was never going to end. I kept thinking, can she really believe this would convince anyone? I mean, beyond the total lack of verisimilitude in such a long speech, I kept hearing the audience of the supposed radio program saying, ‘can’t you turn this shit off?’ In no sense could this be called ‘show, don’t tell’. In fact, the whole book is a kind of exercise in tell, don’t show. There are no debates in this book – there is no discussion. There is the truth and lies – and each speaks past the other. This is a book of certainty.
I need to come back to sex. Each of the Supermen want to have sex with the sole Superwoman in the book, our main character in the novel. And each does have sex with her. But the sex is always initiated by the men while she submits, a passive receptacle of his desire and his lust. Look, I know it was written in the 1950s, but for someone calling for the revaluation of all values, this passive female sexuality clearly wasn’t one of the values she had in mind as needing re-evaluation. There is even a scene where the female lead is lying in a bed, in the room next to the man she wants to screw next, but although she is nearly driven insane by desire, she remains lying on her bed, her hands pressed deep into the mattress to stop herself rushing to the object of her desire, struggling to contain her overwhelming passion. The purple prose in this book is, I have to say, nothing if not amusing.
As someone who doesn’t agree with the ideology pushed here, I was always going to struggle with this book. But I was curious to see what a novel written by someone pushing these ideas might look like. And now I know. The best of ideological fiction generally contains characters that are complex and interesting – there’s not a single character here that is truly interesting. The good guys are superheroes – flying planes into impossible landings, sticking it to the man, fixing the unfixable, knowing when to take risks and for those risks always to pay off. The bad guys are infinitely bad, and invariably reduced to silence by the least word from one of these Supermen. Still, the melodrama is turned up to eleven here, and the whole way through, every damn page. In fact, I kept wondering how there could still be so much left in this book when crisis after crisis seemed to imply we would need to be nearly at the end, surely, nearly at the end now.
This is a capitalist utopia of aggressive selfishness – who could have guessed that could become the basis of an entire, very, very long novel?
Written while she was still alive, but published posthumously after her death in 1982, "Shagged At Last" is the posthumous sequel to Ayn Rand's greatest achievement and last work of fiction, "Atlas Shrugged" (not counting "Shagged At Last").
In this novel, she dramatizes the shortcomings of her unique Objectivist philosophy through an intellectual mystery story and magical mystery tour that intertwines sex, ethics, sex, metaphysics, sex, epistemology, sex, politics, sex, economics, sex, whatever and sex.
Reconsidering her worldview, she concludes that, in order to be truly beneficial to society individuals, sex must not be just the fun bit between the serious parts, it requires serious love action between the private parts.
In this sequel (which is the equal of the prequel to the sequel), Ayn Rand abandons Objectivism and embraces Sex Activism, without endorsing either Active Sexism or Subjectivism.
Likewise, she urges us to abandon the Protestant Work Ethic and embrace the Catholic Sex Ethic.
Her motto: No Safety Net, No Protection.
Where Have All the Objectivists Gone?
Set in the near-future [30 years after the time of writing in 1982] in a U.S.A. whose economy has collapsed as a result of the mysterious disappearance of leading innovators, industrialists, bankers, auditors, entrepreneurs, Republicans, bond-holders, futurists, financial advisers, chartered accountants and middle management after the re-election of a Democratic President, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life:
...from the playboy genius who becomes a worthless and unproductive executive in charge of a global television network...
...to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction as well as that of all those around him in rural China...
...to the intellectual property pirate and paedophile who becomes a neo-conservative philosopher and born-again, forgive-again tele-evangelist...
...to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad into the ground and under the river via the world's longest, most expensive architecturally-designed and least utilised tunnel...
...to the lowest paid track worker in her train tunnels who can't afford to come to work by private or public transport, and must walk 20 miles and swim across the river for the privilege of a fair day's work and an unfair day's pay so that his wife can be treated for inoperable cancer and herpes, and each of their children can afford an iPad and unlimited cable access so they can watch the film of the book online on the website of a global television network managed by a worthless and unproductive executive...
...all because they have fallen victim to the political philosophy of Objectivism and have not discovered the pleasures of unprotected tantric sex.
If you want to know who the female protagonist has deep and meaningless sex with, read the book or open the following spoiler at your own peril (to avoid disappointment, don't view the spoiler. Now.):
Get Your Copy Free or Pay for It and Get a 200% Tax Deduction
Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with larger than life accoutrements, struggling with towering questions of good and evil, and an adolescent's curiosity and enthusiasm for sex, "Shagged At Last" is a philosophical revolution told in the form of a soft-focus, hard-core action thriller with conveniently positioned tax-deductible PowerPoint slides explaining Objectivism from an historical point of view and revealing the correct use of all body parts from an hysterical point of view.
The televisualisation of the hysterical perspective is currently subject to the formalisation of contractual relations with Manny and Jessica Rabbit.
Ayn Rand Plays Lady Macbeth
You won't find in me The milk of human kindness, Just dire cruelty.
Only Her Self to Blame
Rand's philosophy Fucked a whole generation With its selfishness.
Turn Me On and Turn Me Off
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After working on this book for several months, I finally finished it and loved it. I've learned that I rate a book highly when it forces me to think and broadens my perspective. Rand definitely accomplishes this in Atlas Shrugged and earns five stars. I am amazed at the depth of her philosophy, her intelligence, and her ability to write and communicate her ideas through strong, entertaining fictional characters.
In Atlas Shrugged, she shares her philosophy which she calls Objectivism, which in a word is a system of justice. Before reading this book, I always viewed justice as cold, distant, and inferior to mercy, but Rand helps me view the essentiality and virtues of justice. In a few other words, Rand is an advocate of reason, logic, accountability, production, capitalism, agency, human ability, and she believes that working for one's happiness is essential and each person's personal responsilibity. She is against pity, mediocrity, taxation, seizing wealth and production from those who produce to redistribute to those who are unwilling to work hard. In the story, she illustrates what would happen to the world if incentive to produce is removed from the intelligent and able - the motor of the world would stop.
I love how Rand's character Dagny Taggart is such an example of intelligence and ability. She will move heaven and earth to accomplish her purposes and she approaches life with such passion. She runs the leading transcontinental railroad in the country, and Rand created this character in the 1950's!
Despite my love of the book, there were a few drawbacks for me. Rand believes that one's professional work, what he is able to produce, is THE purpose of life, definitely a "live to work" approach. Also, I didn't find any thread of mercy in her philosophy, which makes me wonder her view on caring for those who cannot care for themselves. Rand also has a sexual theme that emerges several times in the book which I didn't know I was in for when I began the book. Be forewarned that it's there, and she has a strong theory on sexuality that you'll be exposed to in reading the book.
Reading Atlas Shrugged reminded and empowered me to work hard for what I want in life, to stop making excuses, and to hold myself accountable and responsible for what I do or don't acoomplish.
I'd give this book 10 stars, but it only gets five, because really, Ayn didn't have the courage of her convictions. She wussed out at the end and gave in to EVIL Liberal Blackmail. The problem with Atlas Shrugged is that it doesn't go far enough. And so, to correct that, here's an addendum, a modest proposal to supplement Ayn's book.
We're taxing the wrong people. Why are we taxing rich people more than poor people? Rich people don't need government services. If they want a highway, they'll build it themselves. If they need electricity, they'll build a god damn dam. It's poor people that need the government to build these things for them. So, the tax structure should work this way: -- Everyone in the bottom half of income earners pays 50% tax. -- Those in the top sixth decile pay 40%. -- Those in the top seventh decile pay 30%. -- Those in the top eighth decile pay 20%. -- Those in the top ninth decile pay 10%. -- And those in the top tenth decile pay nothing.
This will encourage those lazy bums at the bottom to slave for rich people. After all, it's by slaving away and working hard for them that they can eventually become rich too. It's coddling them otherwise.
Why this tax structure? It's logical isn't it? It's RICH PEOPLE that create jobs. Ergo, the more money they have, the more jobs they will create. They are the Job Creators! We DEPEND on them for the jobs. Instead of taxing them we should be eternally thankful to them for even Existing.
But even this, EVEN THIS, fails to FULLY recognise how brilliant and innovative and hard working Rich People are. Without them, we'd all be living in mud huts and eating each other to stay alive. Clearly, it's NOT enough to NOT tax them. No, if they are in the top 5% of income earners, we should PAY THEM to stay in our country. Why, just their very presence in a country will mean that its inhabitants will get rich. It's that Well-Documented, Scientifically Proven Trickle-Down Effect.
How much should we pay? Obviously, the answer is to let the Market decide: governments should bid against each other in an open auction. Highest bidder wins. And clearly this has to be done as often as the Rich People want to change their country of residence. After all, you can't expect them to just stay in one country all their life. That would be a Fetter on Market Forces! (--booooooo!--)
Countries should COMPETE to attract rich people to their shores. Cypress giving them grief? Why the UK will PAY them GBP1 million to come over. Hell, don't go to the UK! We'll pay GBP1 trillion AND sweeten it with a line of grateful poor people lying down at the landing strip for them to walk over so that they don't soil their gold Gucci shoes on our unworthy soil.
And for those at the top 1%? Well, nothing's too good for them. No point offering them money since they make more than what any country can offer anyway. No, for them, we'll offer money AND a line of poor people AND control of the government. See a law they don't like? Governments will change it for them. See laws that need to be put in place? Governments had damn well vote them in if they know what's good for them.
Oh, and that nonsense about power corrupting doesn't apply to Rich Job Creators. THEY are subject to the Discipline of the Market. That Invisible Hand will come down and smack them upside down if they try anything funny. We don't need governments. Governments are for those rotten horrible poor people. The Invisible Hand keeps Rich Job Creators honest, hardworking, and competitive. They wouldn't dream of selling fraudulent financial instruments, or food that poisons you, or buildings that collapse, or lie about the value of their companies. Nobody would buy their products if they did that you see. It's only when Big Brother Governments intervene that such things happen. It's only when Big Brother Governments that think they know better and force them to obey laws (--booooooo!--) that faulty, dangerous bridges or aircraft get built, or carcinogens get dumped into rivers.
All hail Rich People! Without Them, life would be just shit. Civilisation Would Not Exist! Amen!
Update (20 Jan 2014)
You think this review is just kidding around? Fact is, we already live in an Atlas Shrugged world: In a world of 7 billion and more, 85 people (0.000001% of the world's population) own more than 50% of the rest. Think about it, if YOU became that rich and that powerful, once you got there, why WOULDN'T you do everything you could to make sure the rest would stay there and not pose a threat to your wealth? Why WOULD you let the system that allowed you to get to the top allow someone else to dethrone you? Ayn Rand would be SO proud.
If you're into sprawling, barely coherent I-are-mighty anti-Communist rants then this is for you. I suppose in our moments of weakness, we can look to Ayn Rand's philosophy to bring out our inner-super-humans. Except that really it's just a polarized response to Marx and Lenin (whom I have found equally unpalatable).
What's that? You want me to separate the aesthetic elements from the philosophy? Sure thing. This book reads like an instruction manual for drawing right angles.
I read this about 20 years ago, and if I'm honest I can recall very little about it.
At the time I didn't know anything about Ayn Rand, nor was I aware that the book had a heavy political / philosophical agenda, or that culture wars washed around it.
I think I was prompted into reading it when seeing it in a store a day or two after seeing Officer Barbrady's critique on South Park - a review that didn't tell me much as it was in a left-leaning cartoon but from an authoritarian character:
I did, of course, notice the politics of the thing at work whilst reading it. I wasn't, and still am not, a political reader and such messages have to be particularly heavy handed to be noticed, even more so to distract me from the story.
As a scientist I had a natural sympathy for our hero who appeared to be standing up for intellect, reason, and clear thinking against a sea of red tape, vested interests, and resistance to change. However, even with the powerful following wind of being in the protagonist's head and seeing everything through their lens, the point of view pushed by the narrative did grow less and less palatable. The bias grew so thick as to stray into parody. Everyone in our hero's way was a useless moocher seeking to rob the earnings he had made with his own two hands. Everyone who disagreed with him was a lentil-farming hippy or a self-absorbed oxygen sink who refused all opportunity to help themselves.
I recall that the story remained mildly interesting and I did make it to the end. I had a libertarian friend who, some years later, became teary eyed when describing the John Galt speech as the best piece of literature in the history of writing... I didn't admit to him that I had grown so bored with that part that I skipped to the end of it.
It's a long book, and the story (as far as I recall it) is far from terrible. However, the thickly applied lectures on libertarian philosophy - which felt to me deeply selfish, amoral, and as empty as they are shallow - all while describing everyone else as selfish, greedy thieves ... grated on this usually oblivious reader to a point where the potential enjoyment was heavily eroded.
Based on everything I've heard about Rand, in conversation and online, from her supporters and her detractors, or in interviews with the author or articles by her, I feel there is no reason to believe that this book or any of her others contain anything that is worth reading, not even as 'cautionary example'. Nothing about it sounds the least bit appealing or reasoned.
Watching interviews of Rand, herself, I wonder if she wasn't somewhere on the autism spectrum--her entire Objectivist philosophy seems like the sort of approach autistic people have to develop to deal with a world full of emotions, sympathies, and signals they cannot recognize or comprehend. The fact that this philosophy has since been picked up by Silicon Valley culture, itself notorious for high levels of autism, seems logically to follow.
Likewise, it would have an appeal for certain types of sociopaths, who also do not feel strong sympathy or emotional connection. Objectivism can thus be seen as a kind of justification for the lives they choose to leave: isolating themselves, putting work and financial achievement above social life, using others to get ahead, then blaming them for being emotionally open, and hence susceptible to manipulation.
It's unfortunate that Rand's method focuses on brutalizing, blaming, and denying people who are unlike her, instead of working with them and trying to understand them--recognizing and cherishing those differences, the fact that a society requires many different types of people to run effectively.
But then, looking at her life, and her inner circle--the isolation, disappointment, depression, and awkward love affairs as depicted in something like Adam Curtis' Documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, one sees a Rand who is wounded, alienated, and fragile--a far cry from the philosophy of power and dominance she wrapped around herself like armor--so of course she would lash out at the world and blame it.
There is also a curious parallel between her representation of the world and the moral certitude and will to power of modern fantasy novels. She seems to engage in the same sort of 'worldbuilding', where characters and events are structured to uplift a certain philosophy of life, where the story is abandoned for long passages to explain in minute detail the finer points of the constructed world.
As such, it's not surprising that she attracts a similar fanbase with her doorstop novels: a group of privileged middle class white folks who feel disaffected and are looking for a mythology structured around them and their struggles, which justifies their biases, privilege, and preferred way of life.
So, as nothing about any of her works has ever sounded appealing or interesting to me, and since my goal here is to read as many good books as possible and to do my best to avoid bad ones, it seems best to give Rand a wide berth.
I read this book in about 1961. It was the must read book of the day among my group of quasi-whatever we were (not intellectuals of any persuasion I might add) and I struggled through it to the bitter end, telling anyone who would listen that it was the most important book of the century. Yeah, like I would know this at the tender age of 20?!
What it was, was BIG - 1100 and something pages - and while I was quite adept at posing with book in hand and able to quote some John Galt verbatim, I really understood absolutely nothing about the incredibly selfish philosophy of Objectivism. This book of essential reading was as dry as a dead dingo's donger and just as interesting. In later years, as I read and studied more, I came to realise just what Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Brand were on about and Atlas Shrugged became a personal memento of the shallow crassness of me and my youthful peers in the late fifties and early sixties.
20/01/2021 Addendum: I am indebted to GR stalwart, Michael Perkins, for this quote which I copied from his review of Atlas Shrugged: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” – John Rogers
28/09/2021 Addendum: And thank you, Michael, for alerting me to this great comment about Atlas Shrugged: “I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.” - Christopher Hitchens
Who is John Galt? Actually, I think he may be alive and well, and residing in the US Senate this very minute. I hate to accuse anyone directly, but I think he may even be from my own state. Metaphorically speaking of course, because he has many imitators around the world. When I read a book I usually try to seperate the writers personal views and opinions from the novel and read it for what it is, a work of fiction. That's hard to do with Ayn Rand, especially this book, because she hammers you with them in every paragraph. ("Socialists are weak and evil, capitalists are strong and good. The 99 percenters are trying to feed off the genius and success of the 1 percenters"). I didn't like the agenda put forth in this book, but I gave it 4 stars because when it comes to putting pen to paper, Ayn Rand could write. She just didn't write what I want to hear. I also gave it 4 stars because it's important for us to pay attention. This book has had, and still does have, a huge influence on millions of people. When Modern Library selected their 100 best novels of the 20th century Atlas Shrugged wasn't on the list, but they also allowed readers to vote and select their favorite novel. Atlas Shrugged was number one. That might have given us a little hint why someone like Trump could be elected president. As I did in my review of The Fountainhead, I will quote Pogo; "I have seen the enemy, and he is us".