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Aslan Shrugged
July 16, 2007 9:32 PM   Subscribe

"And, why," Lucy says, "a lamp post!" The lamp post shines like a monument to industry.
Aslan Shrugged 1 2 3 4 [via a review of Atlas Shrugged in The Valve]
posted by Kattullus (53 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Worthy of Forum 3000. I wish that place was still hosted.
"Because Aslan is Aslan," says Peter. "A is A".
Also: Objectivist Sex talk
posted by anthill at 9:59 PM on July 16, 2007


This is a children's story set in the world of John Galt, who taught the world in his succinct radio address...

Laugh or cry?
posted by stavrogin at 10:02 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


?
posted by scheptech at 10:03 PM on July 16, 2007


Forum 3000 lives... more Ayn Rand fun.
posted by anthill at 10:06 PM on July 16, 2007


well. I really don't know what to say. C.S. Lewis meets Ayn Rand. Got it. Still a little unsteady on my pins though.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:21 PM on July 16, 2007


I initially read that as "Asian Shrugged."

Nothing interesting immediately popped to mind, except that I need new glasses.
posted by davejay at 10:58 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


If those Coke-bottle hipster lenses really make CS Lewis look like Ayn Rand, take them off.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:35 PM on July 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh man I totally missed that it wasn't "Atlas", and then I thought it was a typo, and now....now I'm pretty happy. That's a cracking great idea, though I've not yet read enough to decide if they pull it off.
posted by freebird at 1:03 AM on July 17, 2007


I'm reminded of Dr Johnson's famous quip.

'...like a dog's walking on his hinder legs. It's not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.'
posted by rhymer at 1:14 AM on July 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Um, before I waste any time reading this, is this serious or a pisstake on Objectivism? Cuz I'm not reading it unless it's a pisstake.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:31 AM on July 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


It's more a literary satire than an intellectual one. Think Craig Brown's 'diary' columns in Private Eye. And, yeah, it's a pretty good one, it's got some good gags in there, and made me chuckle a fair few times. Maybe falls apart a little toward the end. But then so do I, so who am I to comment?

The review of Atlas Shrugged is pretty decent as well. It was unlikely to ever be a good review, let's face it, but it at least attempts to deal with literary weakness in the book, rather than descending into anti-Rand polemic.
posted by howfar at 3:24 AM on July 17, 2007


MetaFilter: Objectivist Sex Talk
posted by beelzbubba at 4:39 AM on July 17, 2007


Regardless of the nature of the satire, it's just a really peculiar thing to do - and not at all like Craig Brown's Private Eye diaries (which are very funny and fairly straightforward satire).

This on the other hand is conflating two things where there is no obvious connection. It's like building a a 100th scale model of the empire state building out of gardening tools. Sure you could do it - and perhaps even do it beautifully. But it would still be an odd and pointless thing to do.
posted by rhymer at 4:42 AM on July 17, 2007


I loves me some Hitherby Dragons.
posted by Coventry at 5:24 AM on July 17, 2007


You're probably right about Craig Brown there, rhymer. Other Brown pieces in Private Eye and elsewhere fit the model better. However, what we have here is essentially literary pastiche. The humour is intended to derive from juxtaposition of style and content, and I genuinely do not believe this to be a forced one. Lewis's children's books are Christian allegory, intended specifically to work against a particular type of atheistic (ir)rationalism, Rand's work is intended to promote exactly the kind of philosophical perspective that Lewis despised.

If it were Paddington Shrugged, I'd agree with you, but it isn't, so I don't.
posted by howfar at 6:04 AM on July 17, 2007


There's just, like, a lot of it. You know?
All these words and stuff. And I read those Aslan books like, thirty years ago. Do I remember any of that stuff?
I dunno... I think I'll pass...

(though, howfar, I think you are spot on.)
posted by From Bklyn at 6:33 AM on July 17, 2007


Adrian Mole: The Objectivist Years.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:37 AM on July 17, 2007


This on the other hand is conflating two things where there is no obvious connection.

From my perspective, the commonality is the seriousness with which both have traditionally been regarded.

I could also make an argument about the intellectual tunnel vision of the two worlds' creators.
posted by lodurr at 6:42 AM on July 17, 2007


This on the other hand is conflating two things where there is no obvious connection.

Except for their respective authors' shared tendency to sermonize via their literature.

(On preview, howfar got it.)
posted by Reggie Digest at 6:43 AM on July 17, 2007


Fair enough howfar. I think that the problem from my perspective is not that I don't understand what it's getting at, it just that it all seems a bit premeditatively clever and high-minded to me, a kind of "proof of concept" humor.

Then again, Fletch is one of my favorite films.
posted by rhymer at 6:45 AM on July 17, 2007


You have a point, rhymer. My view on it is that things of this sort stand or fall by the quality of their execution. The pastiche of both Rand and Lewis is of a decent quality, and there were moments that I thought worked extremely well. It made me both nod and chuckle.

Then again, as someone from an academic philosophical background, with the fairly typical contempt for Rand and an unhealthy fascination with British C20th Christian apologia, particularly Lewis and Chesterton, perhaps I just happened to be in the target audience.
posted by howfar at 6:56 AM on July 17, 2007


And Fletch is great.
posted by howfar at 6:56 AM on July 17, 2007


Why does everyone have so much contempt for Rand? I've read Atlas Shrugged and take the point that it is partly a philosophy of selfishness that appeals to the strong and successful as kind of justification for almost anything they do. But then again, every time I have even the most minor dealing with my useless and bureaucratic local authority (in London) to do the simplest thing, I know exactly what she's on about.

I don't really have a view on CS Lewis.
posted by rhymer at 7:13 AM on July 17, 2007


rhymer, This is why. My favorite Rand quote:
"I am not looking for intelligent disagreement any longer.... What I am looking for is intelligent agreement."
posted by Coventry at 7:32 AM on July 17, 2007


rhymer, I think because Rand believed herself to be, and is presented by her followers, as a visionary philosopher, cutting through the nonsense of the academic tradition. On the other hand, very few people in academic philosophy can find anything particularly original or useful in her work, I've never met anyone who has.

Her epistemology is essentially a simplified sub-Kantian one. She seems to push a variant on Kant's model into slightly vague Platonism. Whether she is really aware of this is unclear to me. She does not demonstrate an awareness of any of the debate that has occurred since Kant. Dialecticism, both Hegelian and Marxist (obviously) is anathema to her, but she never really seems to engage with it.

The moral philosophy that she tries to establish on this basis is fairly laughable. Isn't Atlas Shrugged a perfect example? Selfishness is lauded as a rational virtue. OK, fine, I can deal with that concept. Rand, however, can't. Old fashioned Benthamite utilitarianism is required to underpin the novel. Selflessness is portrayed as bad because it produces negative effects upon the populace. Selfishness is good because it has good effects for the population.

Typically, this "rising tide" argument (Hayek springs to mind as someone who used it) acknowledges itself. Rand claims, however, that her ethics develop directly from her ontology and epistemology. The functioning of the story undermines it intentions. Rand, like those she criticises, cannot do without certain axioms that she denies the truth of. It doesn't matter whether you agree with her political point, because she fails embarrassingly in her attempt to express it as a philosophical point. You can find similar political perspectives all over the place, without the bad philosophical baggage that accompanies them in Rand's case.

In short, it really is contempt that most people feel, rather than hatred. Most people think that she was a bright person, without enough philosophical education and with an enormously inflated ego. She's the know-it-all 14 year old of C20th philosophy.
posted by howfar at 7:46 AM on July 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Why does everyone have so much contempt for Rand?

Because she's written a novel that is epically, hilariously, painfully, tediously bad that some people inexplicably think is Really Good.
posted by straight at 8:02 AM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


And Fletch is great.

Rubbish. The book is great. A Fletch movie could be great. The actually existing movie is just a series of wisecracks strung together to give Chase an excuse for an hour and a half of sub-Caddyshack mugging. Fletch only looks good in comparison to Fletch Lives.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:19 AM on July 17, 2007


Are there any Fletchists out there?
posted by rhymer at 8:35 AM on July 17, 2007


This pastiche/parody/whatever is brilliant. I particularly love this matter/antimatter collision between Objectivism and Christianity:

"I do not do this thing," rumbles Aslan, "because you are unworthy and small. You are not. I do not do this thing to save an evil land. It is not. I do this because Narnia is good. I do this because you are good. I do this because you are worth this to me. Because in a world that seems very dark I will prove to you that you are worthy of my life."
posted by straight at 8:58 AM on July 17, 2007


This pastiche/parody/whatever is brilliant. I particularly love this matter/antimatter collision between Objectivism and Christianity.

This kind of thing is obviously aimed at those with a far less butt-headed sense of humour than mine. Now can someone please post a picture of a monkey throwing a turd at a tourist.
posted by rhymer at 9:22 AM on July 17, 2007


Sorry, no image tag.
posted by lodurr at 9:40 AM on July 17, 2007


Most people think that she was a bright person, without enough philosophical education and with an enormously inflated ego.

We the Living was the beginning of the end of my fascination with Rand. It becomes clear just a few pages in that the protagonist has a massive chip on her shoulder: She's far, far, far, far far too good to associate with the likes of -- well, with anyone, except her ethically-challenged but extremely hot white-Russian boytoyfriend. (It's kind of like Doctor Zhivago meets Run, Lola, Run, now that I think of it.)

Her protagonist's attitude (which I started really quickly to find amazingly arrogant and annoying) is important because Rand apparently loved to hint that the novel was autobiographical. In the anti-Soviet air of the time, that most likely helped her sales a bit. It made me suspect that Rand might just be a bit of a priss.

I read that last, of all her books, and it struck me as I did that she could have been a really successful romance novelist, had she so chosen, and had she been willing to take editorial criticism. There was the germ of a good writer in there.
posted by lodurr at 10:02 AM on July 17, 2007


Coventry: I was really enjoying that article as a refresher on Rand drama until this:

The postpartum depression following Atlas Shrugged

A profoundly sexist comment, no? Did she claim motherhood as an analogy to authorship? I doubt it... I don't think I can take any opinion in that article seriously now, if it can't consider her placement in the canon of feminism seriously, which is demonstrably the case.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:19 AM on July 17, 2007


See, I've always felt that "We The Living" is the book that allows us to actually understand Rand.

Yeah, it's sort of a tedious romance. Yeah, the main character is singularly distasteful. But reading it is as good an entry point as any into seeing what Russia really felt like to people who lived in it during those years.

Ayn Rand wasn't a philosopher queen. She was a woman deeply scarred by her years under a totalitarian regime, and saw her family oppressed in the name of Communism. it's not surprising that, with such a history, she would react violently against anything hinting at socialism. She came over to the United States, and it was very difficult to do at the time, and she requested asylum here. That's pretty courageous, no matter what you think of her later books.

I basically see Rand's books as universally being autobiographical. Rand was given to dramatic turns in her personal life, turns that echoed her novels. In each novel, there is a major love triangle involving one woman and two men: typically one man is a genuinely interesting human being who loves the protagonist dearly, and the other is an inhuman cipher who treats her like crap. They fight for the woman, and in each novel, the woman chooses the latter. Rand worked to make this situation happen in her own life: upon receiving fan mail from Nathaniel Branden, she basically created a plotline from one of her novels, with her husband playing the role of Andrei Taganov/Gail Wynand/Francisco D'Anconia and her new protege being her John Galt/Howard Roark/Leo Kovalinsky (fuck if I know if I have these names right anymore).

But things didn't work out the way she'd planned. Things went sour with Nathaniel, who didn't worship her the way she wanted/needed to be. She was a woman scorned, and once scorned, she abandoned her fiction narratives. She had lived the fantasy, and seen it crumble. She became a bitter woman, aging quickly, and devoted the rest of her life to gathering followers and acolytes rather than those she could consider an equal. Gathering people she could acknowledge as equals was now seen as a source of potential danger.

As her life went on, she was even less concerned with friends and more concerned with people towing the party line. After a surgery in the last years of her life, the general anesthetic was making her see things (as it does with many folks) as it left her body. She told two of her loyal acolytes that she loved the tree outside the window of her hospital room. Problem was, her hospital room was on something like the seventeenth story. There were no trees that tall in the area. She immediately accused these very loyal acolytes of telling her to "doubt the evidence of her own senses" and excommunicated them from her inner circle.

In the end, looking at Rand as either a philosopher or as an evil cult leader is a bit mistaken. What she did was very deeply human, and came from a very broken person indeed. I don't think that she should be reviled or praised, but I do think that for these reasons she is worthy of study. She's a display of what can happen to the human mind and its emotions when it has been repeatedly traumatized and pushed to the breaking point. For that, and maybe for that alone, she's worth further study.
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:16 AM on July 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


See, I've always felt that "We The Living" is the book that allows us to actually understand Rand.

Sorry if I wasn't clear, but that's basically what I meant. I don't disagree with anything you say, and you put a much finer point on the "red riding hood" / abuser narrative than I would have. (All good Objectivist sex is about power, after all, just like Objectivist life. But we dare not speak the name of Nietzsche!)

AmbrosiaVoyeur: You are joking, right? Childbirth is a time-honored metaphor for the creation of novels and plays (though not so much of visual art, I think) for both male and female authors. I'm really not seeing how it's sexist.
posted by lodurr at 1:01 PM on July 17, 2007


lodurr: time-honored? Who honors metaphors?

I am not joking, and though I agree with the occasional aptness of the childbirth metaphor, I challenge you to find any extant analogy of writers block or professional doldrums as "postpartum depression" for a male author or artist. How about morning sickness, apesiotomy, or dysmenorrhea? Preposterous. The sexualization of women's achievements is a particular trend aside from harmless metaphors, and sometimes reduces extraordinary feats such as the completion of novels to the level of biological facts by rhetorical association. I assume this slight is doubly offensive for a person of beliefs such as Rand's, for whom all pleasures and pains are believed to be arrived at through rationality and individual effort. I think conflating dissatisfaction with the reception of a work with hormonal/psychological fallout of motherhood would be completely offensive to her, and therefore the metaphor comes off as approaching sarcasm.

Moreover, in the fracas determining her historical relevance, her womanhood, sexuality and relationship to various ideas of feminism is supremely important, and using such belabored reproductive metaphors is just inadequate in addressing these very prickly issues.

However, I willingly defer to people who are more expert on said fracas if the postpartum remark is actually somehow more apt than I thought.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:29 PM on July 17, 2007


How about morning sickness, apesiotomy, or dysmenorrhea?

I would regard those as sexist. I'd say it's a usage call: Since nobody actually uses those metaphors, and people do actually use the labor-pain and childbirth metaphors for the production of artistic works, I'm thinking that's not a very apt analogy. (And no, I'm not going to go scratching around to find one. I'm really not interested in that kind of tit for tat coup-counting, thank you.)

It is possible to take the constant vigilance against sexism too far. This is such a case. There is no comparable "male" metaphor for the gestation and delivery of a work. I suppose you could use plant metaphors; my horticultural vocabulary isn't responding on cue, so I'll leave those to the audience imagination, but I'm sure there are quite a few. Since Rand wasn't a plant, I suppose that wouldn't be "vegetist". But since she was a mammal, and a human mammal to boot, I think I'd prefer a mammalian metaphor. Gestation sounds good to me.

Anyway, I didn't see the gestation metaphor as being pertinent in that context to her place vis a vis feminism. Sure, Rand's impact on feminism is worth looking at; sure, part of the way that people talk about her is colored by the fact that she's a woman. A man who kept a tight inner circle like that might not be thought of as being quite as odd. (I'm having a hard time thinking of any male examples who weren't cult leaders. Maybe Hayek? Wagner? George Clooney?) That would be an interesting question. It wasn't being discussed, though, so the metaphor doesn't really damage the logic of the piece, IMHO.

In the spirit of appeal to reason, I suggest you let the rest of the essay stand or fall on its merits, rather than damning it on the basis of one metaphor that you regard as suspect. To do otherwise smacks of illogic.
posted by lodurr at 1:51 PM on July 17, 2007


lodurr: time-honored? Who honors metaphors?

Synecdoche is not a town in New York.
posted by oats at 2:07 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


You've got me on one point. I did consider including a remark in my last comment relenting that I should not have claimed one idiotic and inappropriate metaphor completely invalidated the essay, but it certainly did shake me out of believing it whole cloth. It jumped the shark.

I'm tired of the "vigilance against sexism can go too far" argument, because my callout of this instance is not "too far" in any respect. "Going too far" implies harm done in some way, and the only harm my criticism has done is to the validity of a metaphor to this person's experience.

If you can't be made to understand that sexualization of female philosophers' work is problematic in general, and think that it's only sexist in made-up cases, like "dysmenorrhea," and not real ones like "post-partum depression," I don't think we're meant to debate logic.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:08 PM on July 17, 2007


If you can't be made to understand that sexualization of female philosophers' work is problematic in general...

I can "be made to understand" that the sexualization of an author's work can be problematic. Or, more precisely, I can reach that understanding.

I just don't think it is particularly problematic, in this case.

In any case, if the term is applied to male and female authors alike -- and this one is -- then it's not really "sexualization", is it? Or is any use of sexually-marked metaphor "sexualizing"? If that's the case, our language gets a lot poorer, and a lot less human.
posted by lodurr at 2:28 PM on July 17, 2007


InnocentBystander, thanks for making this thread all worthwhile.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:49 PM on July 17, 2007


argh.

Postpartum depression is not a term I find usage of for male and female authors alike. Nor is your gestation/delivery a standout metaphor for the publication process, such that it could prove the normalcy of this family of imagery, in my experience.

Language is in many ways sexualized aside from addressing sexual content. Master/Mistress, Sir/Madame and many other binaries like this as well as the whole class of female specific diminutives and qualifiers in titles.

I think one problem here is that I have not been clear in my criticism of the piece. By using such a metaphor, which I found clumsy and arousing of suspicions of latent sexism, to me, the author of that piece compromised his ability to assess Rand though a feminist lens. This is not to say I criticize his assessment of Rand's contributions to feminism as a study, I am making no claims about capital F Feminism and Rand. Rather, I think lessons of feminism must be applied when analyzing her talents, background, accomplishments, reception and contributions to the fields of philosophy, or the other related fields in which people debate her worthiness. One of these lessons is: people who are women are often appraised as women first, and anything else second. This seems to come out when using the metaphor of post-partum depression. To me, it is as suspect and potentially harmful as saying she was menopausal when she turned on Nathaniel Branden.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:01 PM on July 17, 2007


A man who kept a tight inner circle like that might not be thought of as being quite as odd. (I'm having a hard time thinking of any male examples who weren't cult leaders. Maybe Hayek? Wagner? George Clooney?)

Yukio Mishima. And we all know how that went.
posted by Kattullus at 4:37 PM on July 17, 2007


I agree completely. Why, it would be like telling someone, man or woman that they seem to have a bit of a priapism for feminist semantics... Thank you for pointing that shameful political gaffe out to me, so that I will no longer ignorantly expose myself by recommending such a sexually oppressive article.
posted by Coventry at 6:13 PM on July 17, 2007


Any time, Coventry. Language is important indeed. It grants a man or a woman equal ability to grow a pair and engage in earnest debate, man to man, without hitting below the belt with bitchy sarcasm, reliance on a straw man argument or douchebag rhetoric!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:24 PM on July 17, 2007


I'm tired of the "vigilance against sexism can go too far" argument, because my callout of this instance is not "too far" in any respect. "Going too far" implies harm done in some way, and the only harm my criticism has done is to the validity of a metaphor to this person's experience.

But I also hope you don't think that this metaphor represents harm done in some meaningful way. There's very little genuine consideration of Rand's ideas going on, and I'd imagine that none of it has to do with her chromosomes. It has to do with her presentation of otherwise Classically Liberal and Libertarian ideas in a framework that's at times polemic, epic, and cartoon. What bothers me the most is that some of these ideas are otherwise reasonable, especially when toned down, and that, as others have observed intelligently in this thread, some of her writing was a whole lot better than Atlas.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:25 PM on July 17, 2007


kid ichorous: No, I certainly don't feel that it was a harmful remark, just suspect enough of bias I find troublesome to disengage me from rapt attention to the article. So, harmful to the author's argument, to this reader.

And, as you say, her ideas are (I'm being deliberately non-committal here, because although I've been interested in her for eleven years now, I still can't make pronunciations about her ultimate import) often strong, but often broad.

In any case, a personality and a body of work such as hers is due careful examination not excluding all relevant details of her identity, and gender certainly. So few women have attained the recognition for ideas, the cult following or the sexual license that she managed. I don't know what might ever be determined about the fact that this figure playing in our philosophy's history was a woman, but I've been personally affected by the fact that she was.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:16 PM on July 17, 2007


... compromised his ability to assess Rand though a feminist lens ...

I wasn't aware that was the point of the article. I'm still not.
posted by lodurr at 10:30 AM on July 18, 2007


I wasn't aware the article had a "point" at all. It read more like a retrospective than an argument.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:57 AM on July 18, 2007


You seemed to be requiring that the article 'assess Rand's thought through a feminist lens'; a more useful (to us) way for you to dismiss it would have been to say something like "this article was useless to me because I'm only interested in stuff that situates Rand's thought vis a vis feminism."

Instead, you seem to be dismissing it because it didn't address teh particular question you were interested in -- when, in fact, it was never intended to address that question.

It's like damning a skunk for not being a porcupine.
posted by lodurr at 12:05 PM on July 18, 2007


You seem to be relying on the word "seem" to describe my arguments above, because you're overstating each one for argumentative effect.

Just goes to show what happens if you invoke the F word, even only in calling out one little crappy metaphor. People find ways to argue you're damning all of academia or human nature or language or something. Sorry, bait not taken.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:45 PM on July 18, 2007


I'm objecting to the use of the word "broad" in reference to Ayn Rand's ideas.
posted by adipocere at 4:44 PM on July 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just goes to show what happens if you invoke the F word...

Sorry, [your] bait just nibbled.

And I don't really think I'm overstating your positions, as you present them. You're presenting them pretty categorically. If you don't hold them categorically, then you should state them as you mean them.
posted by lodurr at 4:41 AM on July 19, 2007


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