Anthem by Ayn Rand
Release date: 1938
Publisher: Cassella, UK
Difficulty level: Negligible
Time to completion: 20 minutes on the subway this morning, 10 minutes at lunch, 15 minutes on the train home, so less than an hour. Huzzah!
1-10 rating: Uhmm a four. Yes, Jane Slayre got a higher rating. Ayn Rand can suck it.
Amazon had this for 99 cents or free or whatever for kindle, so since I’d heard it was pretty short, I thought I’d give it a go. At first I totally loved this novella. Super trippy, clearly dystopian world (which I always love), with one narrator who refers to himself as “us,” “our,” and most especially “we.” Equality numberwhatever are a member of this world where all are brothers; they work as a Street Sweeper, but has always committed the Transgression of being smart and wanting to know more. They are glad for the assignment of Street Sweeper at the age of 15 or 16 because they get to work off their sins (…oh, for pity’s sake. While I was reading it, I thought how much easier it would be to right a book like this, properly, and then just use control+f to find all the singular pronouns and replace them with the plural ones. Just trying to write like that now was giving me a headache.)
Point is, our buddy Equality numberwhatever is different. He’s curious and inquisitive and smart. He figures out that he can “do” science experiments under the street by sneaking out during rec time. He meets a girl. He wants to share his discoveries.
Equality numberwhatever does share his new invention, gets run out of town, and discovers what he’s been missing his whole life: himself. The I, the thing that makes him tick, that makes it all worth living for.
I was seriously enjoying the book for a good chunk of it. And then the other shoe drops. We swing around right into Objectivism land and I instantly hate the whole thing ’cause I’m a liberal hippy and refuse to open my mind to the wide world of Ayn Rand. She just has no finesse! No style! It’s either a story, or a lecture. A beautiful painting of a frightening and scary world or a hellfire and damnation sermon. The book ends in full out lecture mode, the end. Plus, Equality numberwhatever/his new name just seems so petty at the end! He’s gonna build himself a fort and to hell with the rest of them. No girls allowed! Oh wait, that was the Berenstain Bears book. My bad. I get confused.
1. if I had read this first, the hell that was Atlas Shrugged would have been completely unnecessary.
2. I feel that Margaret Atwood and Ayn Rand are very similar in how they forsee freakishly scary futures, except that Margaret Atwood does it better. Plus I agree with her. That probably helps.
3. If someone gives me a print version of the book, but with the lecture-y bits cut out, I’d probably really like it.
But then he gave up all he had won, and fell lower than his savage beginning. What brought it to pass? What disaster took their reason away from men? What whip lashed them to their knees in shame and submission? The worship of the word “we.”
ps someone sometime remind me to talk about Ayn Rand’s messed up relationship with sex.