Ayn Rand’s handsome hunks

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I made pasta today. Or rather, I cooked some rigate and poured pesto over them:

pasta with pesto

Stellar.

And here’s another book that I have recently finished “reading” (another audiobook): Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”. Long story short: it was ridiculously bad.

“Atlas Shrugged” is about a dystopian future where the world is being ruined by Socialism. Or so you might think, when in fact it’s a 1100+ page long romance novel of the cheesiest kind. Yes, you read that right. A romance novel. One thousand one hundred pages. The cheesiest kind.

But let’s take it from the top.

Firstly, there is no character development. Hell, there are hardly any characters at all! The good guys are good (mostly businessmen who bless the world with their entrepreneurial prowess) and the bad guys are bad (anyone with egalitarian tendencies). Ever watched the tornado movie “Twister” where the good guys wear white and drive white cars, while the bad guys wear black and drive black cars? That’s kind of how “Atlas Shrugged” works. And the good guys are all just SO HANDSOME!

So how about the plot? Well. Okay. The story is about Dagny Taggart, a female railroad executive who wants to keep her line operating while the state keeps sabotaging her. And not only the state, but also a group of businessmen (good guys) who have decided to “go on strike” by refusing to provide society with their services. They also sabotage her, and in the end she meets them and they all come together while the Socialist dystopia around them goes up in flames. A plot worthy of 1100 pages? Maybe for Paul Ryan.

The book is mainly composed of dialogue. But the weird thing about this, too, is that the dialogue is actually hardly any real dialogue at all. For in reality, anything masquerading as “dialogue” in Ayn Rand’s work is really just a set of monologues delivered by papier-maché figures: handsome good guy delivers monologue about the virtue of egoism, slimy bad guy answers with monologue about the ideology of egalitarianism. And so on.

“Atlas Shrugged” is a book for dull minds.

I mean, I get the basic premise, and I think it could have been a nice little allegory along the lines of “Animal Farm”, which is a mere 100+ pages long and hits you with biting humour while driving one single point home: most self-proclaimed Socialist “liberators” will most likely end up taking the places of the former rulers.

But apparently Ayn Rand didn’t want to write anything allegorical (hence the length of the book), or anything in the tradition of Literary Realism (hence the cardboard characters), or even an action novel (hence the almost total absence of a plot). What Ayn Rand claimed is that she wanted the novel as a vessel for her philosophy. Which would explain the endless monologues.

The thing is I don’t buy even that. I think that “Atlas Shrugged” is, at its essence, just a shell for a romance novel.

Remember our protagonist Dagny Taggart, the female railroad executive? Well, in the first part of the book she has awesome sex with an Argentinian super hunk, a genius billionaire named Francisco D’Anconia who slaps her in the face, which she likes. Then, in the second part, she has awesome sex with an American inventor-slash-genius businessman named Hank Rearden, who buys her jewellery and commands her to put it on and remain otherwise naked, which she likes. But then in the final part she has awesome sex with an almost mythical figure called John Galt, a man who has been literally stalking her for ten years, which she loves.

So the book basically goes like this:

MONOLOGUE.
Railway stuff.
MONOLOGUE, MONOLOGUE.
“Oh, Francisco!” whispered Dagny as Francisco held her safely in his strong arms.
MONOLOGUE.
Railway stuff.
MONOLOGUE, MONOLOGUE, MONOLOGUE.
“Oh, Hank!” said Dagny, feeling safe in Hank’s strong arms.
MONOLOGUE, MONOLOGUE.
Railway stuff.
MONOLOGUE.
LONG-ASS FUCKING MONOLOGUE DELIVERED BY THE MAN JOHN GALT HIMSELF.
MONOLOGUE.
Society falls apart.
MONOLOGUE, MONOLOGUE.
“Oh, John!” cried Dagny, as John picked her up with his strong arms. She had never felt so safe.
MONOLOGUE.
MONOLOGUE.
MONOLOGUE.
-fin-

I’ve heard a lot of talk about people saying this book “changed their lives”, and to be honest, I think those people are full of shit. Sure, they might like the book’s premise (Socialism is bad).

But they’ve simply never read it.



  • Dimitrios

    “But they’ve simply never read it.”

    Maybe they’ve listened to it being read? 😉

    You are taking a strong position here, about people liking this book. I’ve _actually_ myself _read_ the book (back in the ’80s) and liked it. Strangely, it wasn’t the “Socialism is bad” premise that I liked, but the clear cut (or oversimplified) virtues she proposes in the book and throughout her other novels; she called them a philosophy and gave them a name: “objectivism”. In a way, they appeal to people in the same manner Hollywood movies do: there is always the good and the bad guys, and you don’t have to do a lot of thinking to decide which side you are on. The world is a manichaeistic dipole, a war between the good and the evil. What could be simpler?

    It should be rather expected that glorified simple answers to existential questions can be “life changers” for many people seeking guidance amidst the chaos of a complex and changing world. Because she managed to approach this “simplification” not by proposing an anchoristic life, but by detailing a modern (at the time of writing) technocratic business environment and projecting her philosophy to the capitalistic world, her books appeal to many people with a technocratic/business inclination. No pain and Christian martyrdom, no disciplinarian patriarch God, no self torturing, just a wealthy heiress and a modern Atlas who, at times, shrugs at the fate of humanity, appears and disappears at will. Easy to side with.

    And, as you notice, she paints a dear portrait for her heroins in her novels, something which, at times, seems ridiculously self serving. E.g. while her Atlas lives his lonesome life working hard and hiding, his “strong arms” holding nothing but thin air, wealthy heiress Dagny lives her (admittedly hard working too) life, frequently changing lovers, until she finally finds safety in the strong arms of John Galt. The theme repeats at least in “The Fountain Head”, another novel of hers.

    Still, an interesting and likable read.

    Cheers

    Reply

  • Dimitrios

    Hi
    I posted a (long-ish) comment here some time ago, but it seems it never got through. Is there a limit on the length of a comment?

    Reply

    • Christoph Rehage Post author

      oh? never seen it. sorry dude

      Reply

    • Christoph Rehage Post author

      Found it in the spam folder. Wonder what other comments are hidden in there between nutrition additives and captured princes. Anyway thank you for your comment. Sometimes books (or movies, or stories in general) are pleasing to an audience of a certain age. I used to like American Beauty, for example. Makes me cringe now. 🙂

      Reply

  • Dimitrios

    Thank you for digging up that comment.

    Come to think of it, the spam filter’s “intelligence” makes me wonder if we are closer to some dystopian future than we realize.

    Reply

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