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Atlas Shrugged in 1000 Words
February 1, 2010 7:32 PM   Subscribe


 
tl;dr
posted by cjorgensen at 7:35 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Still too long and pompous.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:36 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Galt is a little too human in this, but otherwise it's spot on. You have to give credit to Rand, no one can create unsympathetic, robotic, cardboard characters like her.
posted by stavrogin at 7:38 PM on February 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


I liked Bioshock better.
posted by Avenger at 7:38 PM on February 1, 2010 [27 favorites]


the young cons should be proud.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 7:41 PM on February 1, 2010


Haha, it's been awhile since I read any of Rand's novels, but wouldn't the Dagny in the Abridged Atlas Shrugged be more similar to the female heroine in The Fountainhead (I forget her name)? At least my recollection is that she was the far most submissive type.

Anyway, good find. :)
posted by albatross84 at 7:51 PM on February 1, 2010


Still fond of Aslan Shrugged:
"And, why," Lucy says, "a lamp post!" The lamp post shines like a monument to industry.
still cracks me up every time
posted by Kattullus at 7:57 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is a mockingly. I mean mockery.
posted by uosuaq at 7:59 PM on February 1, 2010


The fact that anybody takes Rand seriously, as a writer, a thinker, or as a person, when she was so demonstrably terrible at all three, always makes me a bit sad. Also, if I go to somebody's house and see Rand on prominent display, it gives me pause. But some people have bought the books on recommendation and never read past a few pages, and don't know much about her, so don't know enough not to display her work. It is those that, when quizzed, confess to reading her books repeatedly and basing their life on her writings that make me very uncomfortable. It will be very hard for me to be their friend, and impossible for me to ever take their opinion seriously.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:03 PM on February 1, 2010 [32 favorites]


Allan Greenspan was a huge Rand fan.
posted by delmoi at 8:05 PM on February 1, 2010


Ah, an Ayn Rand thread. Just the thing to make me miss the range of opinions on offer in the Sarah Palin thread.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:05 PM on February 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


You have to give credit to Rand, no one can create unsympathetic, robotic, cardboard characters like her.

Someone once explained to me how Atlas Shrugged is an allegory. The characters are cardboard because they are meant to be one dimensional symbols of the ideas they represent. Like the book isn't really a fiction novel so much is it is a long parable for Rand to convey her ideas.
posted by katerschluck at 8:07 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Atlas Shrugged was the only book I ever threw away after reading. Didn't want that shit demeaning the rest of the books on my shelf.

I had to read it for a book club. And I was outvoted.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 8:07 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Gimmie.
posted by mpbx at 8:09 PM on February 1, 2010


Someone once explained to me how Atlas Shrugged is an allegory.

Lord of the Flies is a parable and had well-crafted characters; true also of Camus' The Stranger, Orwell's Animal Farm, and McCarthy's The Road. The somebody who was explaining to you sounds like they were making excuses for bad writing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:10 PM on February 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


Like the book isn't really a fiction novel so much is it is a long parable for Rand to convey her ideas.

The beauty of parables is that they are short and pithy. Atlas Shrugged is neither.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:10 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was a comic called Elvis Shrugged in the early 90's, I think, where Elvis was Galt, Sinatra was Hank Rearden, and Madona was Dagny. Pretty good, consistent parody. Anyone remember it?

Mojo Nixon was in it.
posted by vrakatar at 8:11 PM on February 1, 2010


Alan Greenspan was a huge Rand fan.

A little more than that: he was part of her inner circle for a time.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:13 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this - there are several Atlas parodies - I have searched Google quite thoroughly - and this is the best one I know of!

However it misses the:
"Get the hell out of my office," said Dagny, her voice low.
One of the most fun things about Atlas Shrugged is trying to predict:
(a) Whether someone is going to get kicked out of Dagny's office
(b) How fast this is going to happen
(c) How angry Dagny will get

I see Atlas Shrugged as a comedic work as well as Utopian (meaning idealistic) literature. I have mentioned this to a guy who brings the book to my work quite often and he got offended- I think the reason for the Ayn Rand hate is due to the religious devotion to the book. View it as fiction and it's rollicking good fun.
posted by niccolo at 8:29 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sarah Palin is a fan of Rand too.
posted by octothorpe at 8:29 PM on February 1, 2010


They completely cut out the best part of the book. The cigarettes with the gold dollar signs. Fascists! Anti-smoking fascists I say!
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:31 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sarah Palin is a fan of Rand too.

But who... do I hate... mor... *head asplodes*
posted by Alex404 at 8:33 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yes, but admit it, you're secretly grateful she wrote these books so that you can quickly screen people out on dating websites.
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:41 PM on February 1, 2010 [37 favorites]


tl;dr

ha! Personally I always felt it could be shortened down to "Shrug".
posted by mannequito at 8:46 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sarah Palin is a fan of Rand too.


Bless her heart.
posted by darkstar at 8:47 PM on February 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


User profiles from the Objectivist dating site The Atlasphere:
-dpvabc, Edmonton, Canada
My name is Daniel. I consider myself to be a born-again egoist and I have dedicated the rest of my life to self-improvement. People see me as a socially inept loner because I tend to avoid superficial conversation but actually I love talking to people who like to think (the problem being I don’t know very many).

-thustotyrants, Selden, New York
[I am] short, stark, and mansome.

You should contact me if you are a skinny woman. If your words are a meaningful progression of concepts rather than a series of vocalizations induced by your spinal cord for the purpose of complementing my tone of voice. If you’ve seen the meatbot, the walking automaton, the pod-people, the dense, glazy-eyed substrate through which living organisms such as myself must escape to reach air and sunlight. If you’ve realized that if speech is to be regarded as a cognitive function, technically they aren’t speaking, and you don’t have to listen.

-Chinoy, Manila, Philippines
My individualism takes precedence at all costs, if not at all times.

Contact Me If You … : do not conform to the dictates and whims of any of the world’s religions, simply because your soul’s independence is paramount.
Yeah... I bet these guys get crazy laid.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:50 PM on February 1, 2010 [55 favorites]


To be fair, Astrozombie, Animal Farm has cardboard cutout characterisation too. It's just roman a clef that doesn't make any sense at all to anyone who doesn't know anything about the history of the Bolsheviks, the Civil War and Cult of Personality. Orwell didn't have to spend much time characterising Napoleon and Snowball—readers at the time had them quite characterised enough just by knowing the first thing about current affairs.

Animal Farm is quite similar in many ways to Atlas Shrugged; just far shorter, more fashionably anti-Stalinist, and not nearly so shit.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:50 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was a comic called Elvis Shrugged in the early 90's, I think, where Elvis was Galt, Sinatra was Hank Rearden, and Madona was Dagny. Pretty good, consistent parody. Anyone remember it?

Here's some description of it.
posted by dammitjim at 8:50 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love a good Rand-punching-bag thread.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:51 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had a friend who demanded I read this. I got half way through, and I just couldn't finish it. I dislike most fiction in general (except for maybe Joseph Heller), but the message it was sending felt so wrong to me. I apologized to my friend and explained why I couldn't read it completely through. He took it very seriously, got angry and never spoke to me again. I still feel bad about losing a friend because I didn't share his taste in books. That said, this version of the book was much improved.
posted by peppito at 8:54 PM on February 1, 2010


I always liked this one.
posted by anazgnos at 8:56 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, but admit it, you're secretly grateful she wrote these books so that you can quickly screen people out on dating websites.

And résumés. Seriously, I saw an applicant mention how much he loved love Ayn Rand in his "Interests" section or whatever. Not that liking Ayn Rand is a disqualification for employment... it just seemed tonedeaf to mention it to a potential employer, like mentioning that you're opposed to the fur trade (unless you're applying at PETA or something - this was for an HTML developer position).
posted by dammitjim at 9:06 PM on February 1, 2010


Don't forget Atlas Dined.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:06 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I still feel bad about losing a friend because I didn't share his taste in books.

Seriously, dude, you lucked out.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:07 PM on February 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


Someone once explained to me how Atlas Shrugged is an allegory. The characters are cardboard because they are meant to be one dimensional symbols of the ideas they represent. Like the book isn't really a fiction novel so much is it is a long parable for Rand to convey her ideas.

All fiction is a vehicle to convey the writer's ideas. Good writers do it through human, rounded characters.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:09 PM on February 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'd never heard of her or her book before the Internet and have managed to avoid reading it since. I expect it must have had an audience in the UK (FCS types?) but I'd also never to my recall met anyone who mentioned the woman or her works.
So not much to add to the discussion other than a thinly-veiled attempt to lord it over you poor US readers who've obvious suffered greatly on Rand's account. Ha ha!
posted by Abiezer at 9:11 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Memorize this Rand quote to demoralize any Rand-bots you encounter.
posted by ambulocetus at 9:12 PM on February 1, 2010 [23 favorites]


You guys just don't get it! This is the ONLY philosophy that is OBJECTIVE! A=A, therefore everything Rand said was objectively, scientifically true! WHY MUST YOU TORMENT ME WITH YOUR PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC DELUSIONS
posted by shii at 9:13 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rand bugs the shit out of me too, but one of my closest friends, who is among the most intelligent and probably the most thoughtful person I know, is a huge fan of hers. The weird thing (and I wouldn't try to put words into his mouth, these are just my impressions) is that it's never about the go for him. It's not even really libertarian. He rather uses Objectivism to try to figure out the best ways to get people to want to work together and to make sure that everyone benefits from it.

I don't always agree with him, but he's not exactly doctrinaire about things either. In fact, he's more likely to hone and refine his position due to new information than anyone I've ever met.

I already predict that I'm going to run into some "no true Scotsman" arguments about this, but while Rand pisses me off as both a writer and philosopher, I think it's beneath us to judge others based on books that engaged them for whatever reason.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:14 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Stop hitting Ayn Rand! Stop! She's already dead!
posted by decagon at 9:16 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you're identity gets so bound up in a particular book that it really causes you meaningful suffering to hear people criticizing it, you have bigger problems than shit taste in books.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:21 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


dammit. "your identity." still.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:22 PM on February 1, 2010


Does anybody have a copy of Aslan Shrugged that still works? I missed out.

I only just got out of my Rand phase last year — remarkable that the duration's so similar for most people — and so I've still got sympathy for people that buy into Rand. She does a bait-and-switch.

In The Fountainhead she gives you Roark, who is a character you can somewhat fall in love with — he's determined that he wants to make something great, is willing to sacrifice for it, but pretty frequently loses stamina and gives up, and wonders if he's doing the right thing — and a slew of villainous figures who are fairly sympathetic. Peter Keating most young readers fall in love with first, because he's the good student and the social popular guy, but he's really doing things in life for the wrong reasons, and realizes it, and has a nice tragic arc in which a guy who's not a complete shit is pressured into being shitty anyway.

And the writing's edited down so that while it's longwinded, it's also nicely concise at points, and there's a hell of a pulp story going on there. Earnest, sincere artists trying to make something meaningful and life-affirming, against a world of people who prefer the status quo. I can buy into that!, thinks the reader. Maybe it matters more to do what I want to in life, rather than to do what society expects of me. Sure, there are some iffy parts, like her description of the lame modernist writers where you wonder Aren't they experimenting with art just like the heroes are supposed to be?, but overall the story's a nice pop read with some lovely visuals (the forest resort is depicted lovingly), you've got a delightfully named cast of characters, and the plot structure itself is pretty appealing.

Even the rape scene, which gets really fucked up the instant you know a thing about Ayn Rand, comes across as idealistic in some ways. Dominique is clearly flirting with Roark, and she pretty obviously is physically in lust with him, to the point where she makes a clear advance, and so if you're willing to skip a few really nasty phrases it's just a fun flirting ritual between two beautiful people! Ignore those parts about her being violently hurt! If you skip those lines then she's totally getting what she indicated she wanted, and, um, it's not rape because Ayn Rand says it's not! All the iffy parts of the Fountainhead work like that. If you gloss over certain phrasings, it still comes across as nice and life-affirming. Just like Ender's Game!

I thought when I read that book that the message of caring more about my own ideals than about others' was spot-on. I still do. So I owe the book a debt, even though now I've read more about those same ideals from much maturer authors, because it introduced the idea of having a healthy ego to me.

Then comes Atlas Shrugged, which, if you read right after the Fountainhead, feels logical! Okay, the idea of art can be applied to business... and I recognize all these characters... and it makes sense to kill them all and replace them with good guys, right?! Plus, for all it's in want of a good editor, the story is still kickass in a pulp way. You've got Spanish lovers and Norwegian pirates and gunfights and even badass courtroom scenes. What's not to love?

But as you're reading and just assuming the book's philosophy makes sense, you're agreeing to a lot of logical holes, and what might have been a healthy self-reliance instead becomes an ugly, brooding hate. Now, most people do what I did, which is think about the book, and slowly pervert the ideas within it. "It's within my selfish interest to have a safety net for poor citizens so that I could afford to bankrupt myself in the search for a better life! Or to pay for educating everybody so there are fewer James Taggarts! Ayn Rand would have supported Barack Obama." But then you're developing a compassionate liberal philosophy with perhaps some strands of isolationism, not Objectivism per se, and then you reread Atlas Shrugged and realize Rand is dumber than you are, and then you graduate! So thanks Ayn Rand for tricking me into learning how dumb you were!

The real issues are the shallow jackasses of the world who don't get the irony of groupthinking Objectivists. They're the ones who'll spend years and decades convinced that Rand's worldview holds, and that they're the real cutting edge. They don't stop being teenagers regarding philosophy, in other words. It doesn't help that Rand writes so much about how philosophers are evil and poisonous.

So I don't hate Rand, even though I disagree with almost all of her lessons, and when my future kid turns fifteen, I'll give it to him The Fountainhead for a long car ride and then debate it all out of him as quickly as possible, because I do believe that in the process of debunking the story you can learn a lot about a bunch of different things. But if my son makes it to eighteen without realizing it's a little loopy, then I'll start worrying. Once you're old enough to vote, you're old enough to learn about empathy and subjective reality and writers that can keep your attention without a well-placed bomb in the third act.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:22 PM on February 1, 2010 [60 favorites]




> All fiction is a vehicle to convey the writer's ideas. Good writers do it through human, rounded characters.

No. Fiction is telling stories.
posted by Pranksome Quaine at 9:40 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


No. Fiction is that which is not true and not lies.
posted by Kattullus at 9:44 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Truth, beauty? Beauty, truth?
posted by stavrogin at 9:45 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read Atlas Shrugged the summer after middle school ended and passed it around within my nerdy circle of girlfriends because it contained a few sex (!) scenes (!) (OMG!). Of course, everyone was scandalized and then read it one by one anyway. What can I say? It was the deep south and the pickings were slim.

I distinctly remember skimming through the big ass ~80 page speech John Galt gives thinking "nope...no banging in there..." and then immediately skipping to the next chapter. I think the philosophy was kind of wasted on all of us.

I must say that Atlas Shrugged was followed immediately by a half dozen V.C. Andrews® books picked up on the sly at a yard sale...and then Catch-22 for some reason. Life was tough in a town without a bookstore, but we learned to be eclectic.
posted by oysters oysters oysters eat eat eat at 9:51 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


So I outgrew Ayn Rand when I was fourteen, but I will always remain a little bit in love with Dagny Taggart, who was one of the most kick-ass heroines I had read up to that point - intelligent, ambitious, principled, and unabashedly sexual. Which is why the one thing that really irked in this link was the characterization of her as existing solely to lust after the various male characters, and make stupid statements like this:

She mocked herself silently inside. How could a grown woman think such a thing? Oh, who was she kidding? She knew that women weren't much better than children anyway. Everyone knew that. It was a fluke she had any position in the railroad at all.

Where the fuck is that even coming from? Possibly from the satirist's own ingrained sexism. Skimming his website found some of the following gems:

There was a girl in every office that got special treatment because the men had all silently agreed that she was somehow better looking than the rest and it would be a real shame to lose her. Jennifer was that girl but two weeks in an industrial shipping container with anyone would shorten tempers. Besides, as it was quickly discovered, her good looks turned out to have more to do with the cosmetics counter on 5th Avenue than good genetics. (link)

and

"Well," Walter Sandaman said, taking a sip from his coffee. "Was she cute?"

"Yes?" Wayne sure as hell wasn't about to tell his boss that his son went home with a drugged out bartender who looked like she had hit every bump in the road of life and was twice Jeffery's age. Wayne didn't think she was pretty in the least but hoped he could convince his boss of it. "I mean, she wasn't my thing but, yeah, she was pretty."

"Huh," his boss said with a casual shrug and small grin of fatherly pride. "Well, good for him."
(link)

This doesn't really strike me as the best of the web, and I hate to give guys like this encouragement.
posted by shaun uh at 9:53 PM on February 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Does anybody have a copy of Aslan Shrugged that still works? I missed out.

Archive for the ‘Aslan Shrugged’ Category
posted by effbot at 9:55 PM on February 1, 2010


anazgnos, dammit, you beat me to it.
posted by LMGM at 9:56 PM on February 1, 2010


The fact that anybody takes Rand seriously, as a writer, a thinker, or as a person, when she was so demonstrably terrible at all three, always makes me a bit sad.

You're totally right, AstroZombie -- but consider the economic conditions under which she is published and revered. A hack who toes party line -- indeed, pushes it to its furthest extreme -- will be more widely accepted than a hack for the opposition. For instance: Clifford Odets, a (reeeeally terrible) socialist author whose works, ghastly as they are, could never reach the terribleness of Rand's, will never attain the same degree of popular appeal or persuasive power under capitalism. Ayn Rand is, by any estimation, a wretched writer, and a worse philosopher; however, her works hold mass appeal for the ruling classes, and those who aspire to those same "heights." Therefore, we'll hear "Up with Rand!" again and again, even as worthier authors are chucked wholesale into the dustbin of culture.

To wit: I had a student, a devoted Randian, who vigorously objected to my teaching a Brecht poem in my "Intro to Poetry" course. She thought it was "poorly written" and "too on-the-nose." I asked her how Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged was any less "on-the-nose," and she told that while, yes, Galt's speech was very long and very pedantic, he was "telling the truth," so it was OK.

The lesson? We'll lap up sloppy thinking and sloppier prose-craft so long as it relates a truth that's palatable under capitalism. So..."Up With Rand! Down With Brecht and Odets!"
posted by ford and the prefects at 10:11 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's beneath us to judge others based on books that engaged them for whatever reason

Yes. I have her stuff on my shelves. There is also a bible there. And some BF Skinner ... and plenty of other stuff I don't 'believe' in. Part of being 'well read' (not to sound pretentious) is to read widely, and then perhaps to keep them at hand to help remind you of what is in them.

Dangerous to judge a person by what you see on his bookshelves.
posted by woodblock100 at 10:14 PM on February 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


All fiction is a vehicle to convey the writer's ideas. Good writers do it through human, rounded characters.

Even if Rand and her weird strain of LeVayan Satanism-sans-robes had said love thy enemy, most people would still find its edges and weaponize it; if she'd retreated to a cave in Mount Hira to wrestle the secrets out of angels, she'd only teach mankind to live in caves forever.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:15 PM on February 1, 2010


In other words, our thirst for affirmation is stronger than that for information.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:17 PM on February 1, 2010


No. Fiction is telling stories.

And why have people always told stories? To express ideas about life. That's what everyone who ever creates anything does, either consciously or unconsciously.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:37 PM on February 1, 2010


Oh, who was she kidding? She knew that women weren't much better than children anyway. Everyone knew that. It was a fluke she had any position in the railroad at all.

To be fair, this is flatly inaccurate. Atlas Shrugged has its problems, but the lack of explanation for how Dagny got to be where she is, and the role her gender plays in her career, is not one of them.

Although Rand is scoffed at by artists, writers, and humanities-oriented people in general, she is unironically revered by many intelligent and accomplished business-minded people. Being a liberal arts guy who ended up in business, it's not uncommon for a colleague to approach me and say "You like novels, right? Have you read Atlas Shrugged?" and to do this with a hopeful, encouraging look on their face, as if they expect that we are going to bond over our taste in art. This happened in Mad Men, where agency head Burt Cooper gifts a copy of Atlas Shrugged to art director Don Draper, and, other than the fact that I'm not a powerful art director in 1964, I felt that this scene could have been lifted straight from my own life.

There is a lot of cool stuff in that book, but the cool stuff is mostly the stuff that Rand made up as pure symbols, like the mechanical inventions of John Galt and Hank Rearden, and the giant burning oil spout, Wyatt's Torch. If only she had just told a straight story and let the reader draw their own conclusions... Her much smaller novel Anthem is much easier to read, less preachy, and easier to relate to without feeling like you have to agree that the gold standard is a good idea.
posted by bingo at 10:38 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


personally, i'd rather go to the objectivism theme park!
posted by mingo_clambake at 11:30 PM on February 1, 2010


I guess I'm a freak; I read a couple of the books and enjoyed them, as simple works of fiction to kill time. Didn't overthink 'em any more than I would a Tom Clancy novel that I got stuck with at an airport for a four-hour flight.

You know, come to think of it, I also liked L Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth and Battlefield Earth when I was a teenager, along the same lines. I wonder if I need to worry about a time bomb going off in my head someday from all these flawed, ideologically-driven works I thoughtlessly absorbed over the years.

disclaimer: the scene in one of those Rand books where they discover a factory in the middle of overground, abandoned land and start poking around -- I totally loved that scene in the same way I love reading about old abandoned subway platforms in New York. you can't take that away from me.
posted by davejay at 11:36 PM on February 1, 2010


Stop hitting Ayn Rand! Stop! She's already dead!

Just making sure is all.
posted by Spatch at 11:42 PM on February 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ah, an Ayn Rand thread. Just the thing to make me miss the range of opinions on offer in the Sarah Palin thread.

ELEPHANTS have INFILTRATED my BLOODSTREAM! The MOLE PEOPLE from TOLEDO have NEVER VOTED INDEPENDENT in their LIVES. I know the SECRET of the MOON LANDINGS, and it TASTES LIKE APPLE FRITTERS!

There, I just broadened them out for you. I have more if needed.
posted by JHarris at 11:51 PM on February 1, 2010


Atlas Shagged?
posted by loquacious at 11:59 PM on February 1, 2010


"What in capitalism's name is going on here,"

Very funny.

Sarah Palin is a fan of Rand too.

Maybe someone told her she was, but no way that woman has ever read a book for herself.
posted by Hickeystudio at 1:15 AM on February 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ralph Lauren in Vanity Fair:

Who are your favorite writers?
Ayn Rand, Ernest Hemingway.

...

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Selfishness.


I think someone needs to learn to read.
posted by GregorWill at 1:17 AM on February 2, 2010 [13 favorites]


Ah, an Ayn Rand thread. Just the thing to make me miss the range of opinions on offer in the Sarah Palin thread.

Is this like the shortest trajectory from excited newbie to dead-eyed cynical old-timer ever?
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:36 AM on February 2, 2010


All fiction is a vehicle to convey the writer's ideas. Good writers do it through human, rounded characters.

Borges, Calvino, Voltaire, Swift, and a cavalcade of others don't need pat little writing-circle formulas like this to be "good writers".
posted by Wolof at 2:45 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm still waiting for Atlas Shoggoth.
posted by Ritchie at 2:52 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]




Memorize this Rand quote to demoralize any Rand-bots you encounter.

A loose collection of cells have no human rights. That sounds about right to me. Are you trying to make us like her or something?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:19 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had to read it for a book club. And I was outvoted.

Goddamn collectivists!
posted by Pollomacho at 4:20 AM on February 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Clifford Odets, a (reeeeally terrible) socialist author

....You take that back.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:27 AM on February 2, 2010


but if you don't read Rand and pull out some good things in there, you can't reach the point of having a logo that says A?
posted by infini at 4:28 AM on February 2, 2010


I read it once, big mistake. My favourite moment was at the end when they're all sitting around in the magic valley and Rearden is chuckling with a fellow resident about how he put him out of business then employed him and they all chuckle like at the end of an episode of Scooby Doo
posted by Damienmce at 4:54 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can you really capture the essense of Rand without one paragraph, 50 page rants?

BTW, I'm really hoping that's the defense James O'Keefe uses to defend his trespassing with the intent to sabotage federal property.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:55 AM on February 2, 2010


For Rand reporpoising -- those copies bought for perfectly understandable reasons (in my case, a bout of hormone poisoning induced by a fan of her woiks), half read, then abandoned and left skulking on the shelf: The Oyster Mushroom Book Recycler Kit.

Mushrooms thrive on being fed shit and kept in the dark.
posted by titus-g at 5:03 AM on February 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


There, with a determination truly admirable and heroic, she transformed herself into a writer. Although she wrote in English, and her two most famous books are American in subject matter and location, she remained deeply Russian in outlook and intellectual style to the end of her days. America could take Rand out of Russia, but not Russia out of Rand. Her work properly belongs to the history of Russian, not American, literature—and nineteenth-century Russian literature at that.
posted by robbyrobs at 5:13 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm generally anti Ayn Rand but I think that sometimes people go overboard with their dislike for her. I think if you work backwards and are descriptive rather than work forwards and are prescriptive Ayn Rand becomes so much less dumb. What I mean is Ayn Rand treats selfishness as a should and then because this is sort of dumb picks apart the sundry of exceptions to this, love for family, generosity, sacrifice for a great purpose and explains that these are actually selfish and thus okay. I think it makes more sense to look at noble, generous behavior and trace it back to fulfilling some kind of cognitive or evolutionary need, that shows it has an origin not in a spiritual sacrifice for its own sake but a chess sacrifice where one lets go of something less valuable like money for something more valuable like a grand self conception (and the social power that comes with being known as generous).

Oh and we the living is a decent short story. But yeah generally rubbish.
posted by I Foody at 5:41 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]



Stop hitting Ayn Rand! Stop! She's already dead!


We can't be sure until we remove the head or destroy the brain.
posted by The Whelk at 6:28 AM on February 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Thanks to this, I finally figured out why Rand and her followers make me grind my teeth so. Rand's work is like a satire ofDoc Savage that demands that it be taken VERY VERY SERIOUSLY.

There may be somebody out there who is a big Rand fan and/or is an upper manager of her characters' ilk who actually knows what a Peltier junction is, or what Martensite and Pearlite are, or how to set the timing on an engine. As of yet, I've never met one who has convinced me that they could single handedly invent anything other than a way to con money out of share holders or ratchet down the quality of their product.

Meanwhile, my nightstand looks like something out of Steppenwolf with less philosophy and more welding. As soon as two dimensional industrialist chicks with twisted rape fantasies start throwing themselves at me I'll be really creeped out start believing that Rand's work is objective in any "reflects reality" kind of way.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:31 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Like many here, I first read Rand's stuff in high school. At about the same time I was reading RAW's stuff. Talk about a strange mix of world views.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:47 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tobias Wolff's Old School has one of my favorite portrayals of teenagers reading Rand, loving Rand and then becoming quickly disillusioned by Rand. Also, has a great moment in which Rand herself shows up with her entourage to lecture high school students. Highly entertaining.

(And the rest of the book is pretty wonderful, too.)
posted by thivaia at 7:54 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Stop hitting Ayn Rand! Stop! She's already dead!

Not dead enough.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:54 AM on February 2, 2010


"If your identity gets so bound up in a particular book that it really causes you meaningful suffering to hear people criticizing it, you have bigger problems than shit taste in books."

Are you talking about Atlas Shrugged or the Bible?
posted by caution live frogs at 7:57 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


That Anthony Daniels piece robbyrobs linked to, "Ayn Rand: engineer of souls," is one of the best things I've read on Rand, and nails her perfectly: she's a female Chernyshevsky, stranded in America but still writing in the best/worst nineteenth-century social-realism tradition. How she would have hated this:
In her expository writings, Rand’s style resembles that of Stalin. It is more catechism than argument, and bores into you in the manner of a drill. She has a habit of quoting herself as independent verification of what she says; reading her is like being cornered at a party by a man, intelligent but dull, who is determined to prove to you that right is on his side in the property dispute upon which he is now engaged and will omit no detail. ... Rand’s heroes are not American but Soviet. The fact that they supposedly embody capitalist values makes no difference. Rand fulfilled Stalin’s criterion for the ideal writer: she tried to be an engineer of souls.
And this reinforces my belief that everyone in prerevolutionary St. Petersburg knew everybody else: "Vladimir Nabokov’s sister was a childhood friend of Rand’s."
posted by languagehat at 8:01 AM on February 2, 2010 [9 favorites]



"If your identity gets so bound up in a particular book that it really causes you meaningful suffering to hear people criticizing it, you have bigger problems than shit taste in books."


I try not to let it bum me out when I hear people say that they hate fiction, but it does actually bum me out a little.
posted by thivaia at 8:01 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like many here, I first read Rand's stuff in high school. At about the same time I was reading RAW's stuff. Talk about a strange mix of world views.

I'm assuming RAW is a reference to Robert Anton Wilson. If not, it should be. In fact, I can imagine an utterly fascinating course based entirely upon in-depth study and discussion of Atlas Shrugged + Illuminatus, preferably reading both simultaneously. I say this because that's exactly what I did at some vaguely drug-addled point in mid-20s, taking Illuminatus seriously (if such is possible) and Atlas NOT.
posted by philip-random at 8:17 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are you talking about Atlas Shrugged or the Bible?

Yes.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:20 AM on February 2, 2010


It will be very hard for me to be their friend, and impossible for me to ever take their opinion seriously.

Oh, I don't know. I've got at least one not entirely repentant Randian in my circle; wary enough to NOT pursue argument when the topic comes up but neither does he deny her. He's a hell of a talented man, it's worth pointing out. If you're even remotely into gaming, you've likely enjoyed some of his breakthrough work.
posted by philip-random at 8:22 AM on February 2, 2010




Anthem was not so terrible. I found a copy in my middle school library and devoured it, but instead of coming out all objectivist, I emerged with a taste for post apocalyptic science fiction and a strange, vague belief that it was the basis for Logan's Run. Maybe it was.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:53 AM on February 2, 2010


Like many here, I first read Rand's stuff in high school. At about the same time I was reading RAW's stuff. Talk about a strange mix of world views.

Phillip-Random: I'm pretty sure this is the RAW monju_bosatasu was referring to.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:14 AM on February 2, 2010


As someone who actually does like Ayn Rand, I am always amused by parodies. Rand is a larger than life, controversial figure. She, like all people who achieve her status deserves to be parodied and those of us who enjoy her work should be able to laugh and recognize that no one, not even the "Queen of the Market" is perfect.

I like Rand because I have always been an individualist. I like to be a good, helpful, and kind person, but I also see that I have motivations for doing these things that are deeply self-centered. Objectivism simply calls on me to recognize what those motivations are, examine them for for logical consistency and then seek to maximize what I get out of what I do. It also puts ideals such as the recognition of the autonomy of others, a right to be happy, and a responsibility not to impede the happiness of others in the forefront of my mind. Like all systems of belief, Objectivism is a means to an ends. The ends in this case is happiness through understanding of motivations.

It really is not about rich versus poor. A careful reading of Atlas Shrugged reveals plenty of "poor" characters who are portrayed as heros. In fact the worst villains are far wealthier than most of the heroes, and Quentin Daniels, Galt's protege, is downright impoverished when Galt finds him. The story is really about pitting self actualizing heroes against a collection of villains who want what they do not earn. It is less of a parable and more of an epic, highlighting the need for people to know what they want and excel within the framework of doing right by oneself without doing harm to others.
posted by epsilon at 9:16 AM on February 2, 2010


And why have people always told stories? To express ideas about life. That's what everyone who ever creates anything does, either consciously or unconsciously.

For 5,000 points, express an idea that is not somehow "about life".
posted by LogicalDash at 9:31 AM on February 2, 2010


Phillip-Random: I'm pretty sure this is the RAW monju_bosatasu was referring to.

Either/or. I was reading RAW-mag the same time I was getting lost in Robert Anton Wilson. It all seemed connected somehow.
posted by philip-random at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2010


a collection of villains who want what they do not earn

You mean, like rapists and serial child killers?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:35 AM on February 2, 2010


Oh, no wait, those were the self-actualizing heroes in the cast... Right...
posted by saulgoodman at 9:36 AM on February 2, 2010


Sarah Palin is a fan of Rand too.

Because someone told her she was. I'd bet my internal organs she's never read a thing Rand wrote.
posted by Naberius at 9:52 AM on February 2, 2010


For 5,000 points, express an idea that is not somehow "about life".

Oh man, you gonna regret getting the reign of Darkseid unleashed upon you.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:59 AM on February 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


WHO IS ABLE TO RECOGNIZE SELFISHNESS AS A VIRTUE

DARKSEID IS

WHO IS TAKING NOTE OF THE ARCHITECTURAL FANTASIES OF A DILETTANTE

DARKSEID IS


WHO IS JOHN GALT

DARKSEID IS
posted by Greg Nog at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Buddy of mine tells of a night out with a Randian. After the Randian had long extolled the virtues of selfishness, my friend stood up and announced that he was going to the bar for another beer. The Randian asked, hey would you get me one too? The response: Get it your own damn self.
posted by notsnot at 10:03 AM on February 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


In fact, I can imagine an utterly fascinating course based entirely upon in-depth study and discussion of Atlas Shrugged + Illuminatus, preferably reading both simultaneously.

Well, Illuminatus already contains a meta-reference to Rand in the parodical "Telemachus Sneezed", so you could do yourself one better and just leave the ACTUAL reading of Rand out of it entirely and spend your time reading more RAW ('Cosmic Trigger' and 'Prometheus Rising', mayhaps).
posted by FatherDagon at 10:13 AM on February 2, 2010


so don't know enough not to display her work.

What, you hide the books you hate? I say there is nothing wrong with following the precept know your enemy Now if it's in a little shrine, that would be embarassing.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:43 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will cop to never having read more than a few pages, or ever having fully grasped the whole Rand-ian thing, beyond the concept of "enlightened self-interest." But if I'm understanding this all correctly, there are a lot of parallels between Fight Club and Atlas Shrugged.

And - more disturbingly - I'm starting to wonder if one of my favorite authors Neal Stephenson is a Rand fan. Anathem in particular seems to be describing a post-Atlas Shrugged world, where all the smarties have locked themselves away in a tower, to point and laugh at the rest of us out here in The World.

I'm also thinking about Bobby Shaftoe in Cryptonomicon who now in hindsight strikes me as a very Rand-ian character. The poor misbegotten smartie, being repeatedly sent to his doom by meddling government policy wonks, who survives thanks to his own pluck and cleverness.

Damn. Do I hate Neal Stephenson now?

Thanks, Metafilter, for totally ruining something I really really liked.
posted by ErikaB at 12:06 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


OH GOD THE DIAMOND AGE.

It's true, isn't it? Stephenson's a big ol' Ayn Rand fanboy. Weep!
posted by ErikaB at 2:13 PM on February 2, 2010


the smarties...point and laugh at the rest of us out here in The World.

This pretty much describes every Neal Stephenson book, although frankly I found Anathem to be the least offensive in this regard. In Anathem I don't believe they were locked away by choice, and in fact towards the end the main character decides the locking was a major mistake. It's toward the end that the book starts to tread the path Stephenson's well-worn fantasy of people he considers smart ruing the world, but the message is softened a bit in Anathem, with (some) people outside the mathic world having some worth to those within it, and the nerd arrogance is tempered with some humility, which is refreshing for him. Maybe he's just tired of unapologetically licking nerd balls.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:22 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Phillip-Random: I'm pretty sure this is the RAW monju_bosatasu was referring to.

Actually, I was indeed referring to Robert Anton Wilson.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:27 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fight Club is Randian if you believe Tyler Durden is a good guy. A lot of people do, which is why Fight Club fans convinced me not to watch Fight Club for a long time.

This Thanksgiving I finally saw it. The moral of the story is that Tyler Durden is the product of a psychotic mind and that if you think punching people and blowing things up is the only way to be a man, you might be a psychopath yourself.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:42 PM on February 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


Seconding thivaia's Old School love. This exchange cracks me up every time:

Headmaster: If you had to name the single greatest work by an American author, what would it be?
Rand: Atlas Shrugged.
Headmaster: Your own novel.
Rand: Is there another?
Headmaster: And after that?
Rand: The Fountainhead.
Headmaster:
Is there really no other American author whose work you admire?
Rand: There is one. I am interested in the novels of Mr. Mickey Spillane. His metaphysic is perhaps rather instinctive but quite sound nevertheless…I would particularly recommend I, the Jury. In Mike Hammer, he has created a true hero, one who doesn’t torture himself in the current fashion with decadent niceties. Mike knows evil from good and destroys it without hesitation or regret. Most unusual. Most satisfying.
posted by naoko at 4:32 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


(I haven't actually read Atlas Shrugged. I did read The Fountainhead; it was a gift from a dear relative, and I really tried not to find something I liked about it - but I failed. Plus I read Anthem, which I thought was pretty good, actually - but I was about 12 and it may not hold up to rereading.)
posted by naoko at 4:38 PM on February 2, 2010


Oops, tried to find something I liked about it.
posted by naoko at 4:39 PM on February 2, 2010


I breathe Rand snark.
posted by ovvl at 4:44 PM on February 2, 2010


I still wanna perform bits of The Romantic Manifesto in Rand drag. It's *hilarious*


Anthem is perfect if you're 12.
posted by The Whelk at 4:50 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm starting to wonder if one of my favorite authors Neal Stephenson is a Rand fan
I did notice very strong parallels, but so did those at the Googleplex who asked Stephenson in this interview (first question) about Rand's Anthem, to which he responds that he's never read it.

This doesn't imply he hasn't read Atlas Shrugged, but I think Stephenson's Anathem would be weaker if he'd read Rand's work first, because Rand is very blunt.
posted by niccolo at 5:23 PM on February 2, 2010


OH GOD THE DIAMOND AGE. It's true, isn't it? Stephenson's a big ol' Ayn Rand fanboy. Weep!

I'm not so sure. Sorry if this is a spoiler, but Dr X checkmates Judge Fang -- who is depicted as an entirely admirable character -- with his own compassion. A randian wouldn't have given two shits for those shiploads of abandoned baby girls. I'm sure there are other examples.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:24 PM on February 2, 2010


I miss forum 3000 making fun of Rand constantly.
posted by ifjuly at 5:38 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to hear a ganster rap version called "Atlas Thugged (out)"
posted by fuq at 7:45 PM on February 2, 2010


A word of advice: if you are interviewing for a job and you see a copy of TF or AS anywhere in the building, run, do not walk to your next prospect.
posted by telstar at 11:04 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Diamond Age is a cranky book, but it's saved by being smart enough to realize it's own contradictions, although granted it's by the end when the plot goes off the rails into "Oh shit I need an ending?" territory.

It also works as a nice answer to the whole cyberpunk genre: No matter how cool you think you are, the well-organized groups with the professional sheen will always kick your ass cause they are everywhere.
posted by The Whelk at 5:47 AM on February 3, 2010



Fight Club is Randian if you believe Tyler Durden is a good guy. A lot of people do, which is why Fight Club fans convinced me not to watch Fight Club for a long time.

This Thanksgiving I finally saw it. The moral of the story is that Tyler Durden is the product of a psychotic mind and that if you think punching people and blowing things up is the only way to be a man, you might be a psychopath yourself.


See I always thought Fight Club: The Movie was about the seduction of fascism. Wouldn't it be really manly! and cool! and shit? Oh wait no- it wouldn't be cause the creator is a fucking dangerous psychopath and it leads to you becoming a terrorist. Just thought it was interesting that a lot of historical fascism had to do with rejecting women or femininity and Our Narrator only wakes the fuck up when he's saved by Marla.
posted by The Whelk at 5:50 AM on February 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I support my theory with the fact that Tyler's goons go through every fascist checklist on their way to the Crazy.
posted by The Whelk at 5:52 AM on February 3, 2010


Our Narrator only wakes the fuck up when he's saved by Marla.

Could it be... HITLER?!?

Also, insert something about Hitler marrying Eva Braun right before shooting himself in the face.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:00 AM on February 3, 2010


take it with a grain of salt
posted by 4Women at 10:26 AM on February 3, 2010


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