Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Atlas Shrugged

Book: Atlas Shrugged
Author: Ayn Rand
Like/Don't Like: Like. Although I have already forgotten the first 700 pages.

Have any of you who haven't read this heard anything about it? It's always been on my list of books I should read and that I picked up on a recommendation but when I actually started reading it I realized that I didn't know a thing about it. This is unusual. I generally know at least the basic plot line of most well known classics. But I honestly had never heard a single thing about this one. Strange.

Well, now I know why. It's not the easiest plot to explain. It's easy enough to say that it's about capitalism, sort of, and big time industrialists vanishing, in a way, and a vicious commentary on socialism mixed in with economic theory and Aristotelian philosophy (Fact#1: I can promise you that this will be the one and only time I ever use the word Aristotelian, so you had better enjoy it. And please still be my friend. Fact #2: The only way that I actually know that Aristotelian is even a word is because there was this guy in one of my classes who used it EVERY TIME HE OPENED HIS MOUTH. And I wanted to shoot myself in the foot each time. And I want to shoot myself in the foot now for using it but I find, much to my surprise, that it actually applies in this case.) But the book is nearly 1200 pages so to say that it's just about these things is to say that Tyra Banks is just about smiling with your eyes. We all know that Tyra is so much more. (Fact#3: First time Atlas Shrugged has ever been compared to Tyra Banks.)

I was talking to someone the other day and explaining the book a little bit and she said, "That doesn't sound like anything you would even remotely read." Boy, is that true. Economics, business, philosophy, 1200 pages, a 60 page soliloquy near the end, basically all add up to being a book I would shun with a firm hand. But remember, I didn't know. And I'm so glad that I didn't because I loved it. It was a really incredible book. The story was great, the characters where strong, it moved along nicely (especially since I skimmed most of that 60 page soliloquy)(and I'm not making that up. See pages 1009 to 1069.) I think it helped that she was a screen writer also. She was great in her descriptions, although I did get a little tired of her describing nearly everyone at some point as having a blank expression but with very significant meaning behind it. I get to a point in every fatty book when I'm done with it and I'm ready to toss it, simply because I feel like I've dedicated enough of my time and want it to wrap up so I can get back to my life. It says something that that point didn't come until about page 1000. And really, once that soliloquy was done and the story picked back up I was ready to make a sprint to the end.

This is not to say that I didn't have my issues with it. Ayn Rand was definitely extreme in her views, which means that this book, which is, admittedly, a vehicle to explaining those views, is one of extremes. The philosophies where very black and white. Either you believed in Self over Society or Society over Self. She usually sacrificed anyone in the middle and that bothered me. The world isn't made up of extremes, but that's how she portrayed it. And by about half way through I started to say, "Yeah, I got it. Stop explaining." Because it wasn't too difficult to figure out who John Galt was and what he was up to. (You'll get a little tired of the question, "Who is John Galt?" I won't tell you who he is, but I will tell you he's a Chatty Cathy. See pages 1009 to 1069.)

So, I'm going to recommend this book but with a warning that the 60-pager was the longest but was not the only multi-paged personal manifesto.


Liz W. said...

Hmm... I've always wanted to take a stab at this book. And if it enables you to use "Aristotelian philosopy" legitimately, I'm in!

Rac said...

I have a copy checked out from the library. I haven't started it yet, but once I get through the rest of Mansfield Park I'll dig in. It's nice to hear good things about it, because I admit, I'm a little intimidated by the length. And the subject matter. Mostly the length.