Bonus Ra(w)R: Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Release date: 1938

Publisher: Cassella, UK

Allie Stats:

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.

Review:

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.

Thoughts:

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.

 

Quotable quotes:

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.

 

Ra(w)R: Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Release date: October 10, 1957
Publisher: Random House
Allie stats:
Difficulty level: Holy crap.
Time to completion: I’m pretty sure that this is the longest it has ever taken me to read a book start to finish without any major breaks: four freaking weeks, more or less.
1-10 OR Ugh, Meh, Whatever, Yeah!, or OHMIGOSH: Sigh. I don’t think I can rate this book.

Review:

So as I said before, I read this book at the urging of a friend of mine who stands opposite of me in many, many ways. (In return I gave him A Separate Peace, one of my favorites. Not one of his.) As I said before, this book gave me some serious cognitive dissonance. And as I said before, this book drove me up the freaking wall. This friend and I “discussed” Atlas Shrugged today (and by discussed I mean yelled over each other part of the time and the rest of the time I was incapable of verbally expressing logical thoughts) and at the end I said I didn’t think that I wanted or could post the review I had already written. His response was “I hope you can separate the critic from the ideologue.” And you know what, I hadn’t. So this is my new review.

Atlas Shruggedis a freakishly long book that tells the tale of how the world stopped. Stopped working, stopped turning, stopped functioning, whatever. The idea is that when those on whom the world depends decide that they will no longer do it, the resulting downturn is more brutal and vicious and ugly than maybe one could imagine (I certainly hadn’t). Heroes and villans abound (see: Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden; James Taggart, Orren Boyle), as does the preaching (it’s sort of the point of the book- and yes, that was in my original review).  It is a magnificent book, and I don’t agree with much of it.

This is my hippy-liberalness out in full force. For some reason, I don’t feel the need to change my world view based on reading this. Was I already too far away from it, or am I just confident enough in what I believe? I’m not sure. I did make an effort at the beginning to read it with an open mind, but I just kept coming against this wall I couldn’t get past. Eventually I stopped trying, and I think I began to enjoy it more at that point- reading for entertainment instead of reading for enlightenment if you will. If I got anything out of this whole book exchange, it’s certainly that you can’t change someone’s beliefs by giving them a book. Maybe that only works if a person pursues this belief-changing book of their own accord.

So, I have now read Atlas Shrugged. I think Ayn Rand is a spectacular story-teller, and I wish there were books out there by her that were just stories, but I probably won’t read anything else of hers. And yes, I think it’s worth the insane amount of time it takes to read this. But maybe a better approach is just to read it as a book with no expectations instead of waiting for “a moment” where it all just…makes sense. Maybe someday I’ll have a complete change of heart and mind, but I’m not holding my breath.

Bonus: Atlas Shrugged Update

So here I am, halfway through Atlas Shrugged (57% to be exact; page 615 out of 1069, or so the Kindle says) and I’m still in that I hate it/I love it thing. I am also unclear as to how I should be reacting to this in my daily life. My instinct is to rebel, and I don’t know if that’s me, the book, who referred it to me, or all three together.

See, I have this thing about stubbornness? Sort of. Like, if someone says “OHMYGOSH ALLIE YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE,” I will do everything humanly possible to make sure that I never see that movie. The amount of energy and enthusiasm behind the recommend negatively affects how much effort I put into not seeing the movie. Like, if it’s a “hey, that was a good movie, I liked it” then I’ll probably file that away under “movies to see.” If it’s “Allie, you would love this movie, you absolutely must see it,” I start to dig my heels in a little. And if it’s the first example up there (it’s in all caps, if you missed it you’re blind) then I would rather die than see that movie. I don’t know why, I know it’s annoying- I find it annoying!- and I should probably go to counseling or something to get over it, but it’s a thing. And it’s not just movies, but going to certain restaurants, seeing people, activity-ing, etc. Movies happen to be the best example because I’ve pissed off almost every person I know with that.

(I’ll work on it, promise. I’d like to think that I’ve actually improved over the last year, believe it or not. Well, I hope you do, ’cause if not then…crap.)

The other part of my stubbornness is I really, really like to be right. Big surprise. If someone tells me something cannot be done, I’m going to damn well do it. It’s kind of a way to get me to do stuff. Please note, this doesn’t work with the movie thing.

So, what does this have to do with the behemoth of a book that I’m reading right now? *Spoiler alert!* Well, clearly I’m supposed to be hating on the group of people Our Heroes so lovingly refer to as “the looters.” They have, as of right now, set up a society that is the Robin Hood principle to the max. (PS thanks for ruining Robin Hood for me). That is, steal from the rich to give to the poor, except here it’s interpreted as, the dumb rich steal from the smart rich to give to the poor, then force the smart rich to produce more so that the poor can have more, but do it in such a way that pretty much guarantees the smart rich will fail, and then the dumb rich will punish them for it. Also, communism is cool! *End spoilers.*

What I think this means for me is that I need to really put energy into proving this book wrong. I cannot believe that there are only two ways of doing business in this world, and that one way will lead a country down the path of insanity and destruction, while the other will lead a country to glory and riches. I cannot and will not believe that. So now we’ve established that I’ve reneged on my promise to read the book with an open mind, but at least I’m still reading it. I would so love for this book to resolve with a masterful win for capitalism, but with an acknowledgment that there are those who need help, a leg up, a break, just to be sent in the right direction. A job? even. While I know our system isn’t perfect, we aren’t facing a world where this is happening, and I don’t think we were in 1957 either. I mean, we have lists of rich people. Lists! And so many of them spend so much time giving to others, but I haven’t noticed them giving it all away- not that they should, but the point is, there are people who are using their minds to the best of their personal, business advantage while also managing to help others. Can I read a book about that please?

 

Bonus: Atlas Shrugged Preview

I’m currently reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, at the recommendation of a friend of mine. He and I don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on many political issues, and at one point in time (lies, many times) he suggested that it may help my liberal-hippy self to read this book- or at least that’s how I interpreted those conversations.

I added myself to the wait list for the kindle version from the NYPL and finally got it over break. I attempted to start reading it before I came home to New York, but 2am is not the time to start an Ayn Rand novel, so it took some more time before I finally got in to the novel and became uncomfortably aware of how much 1) I enjoy reading this book and 2) I can’t stand reading this book. I think this is the cognitive dissonance my friend intended for me. For anyone who has never heard of this book, it’s pretty much a love song to capitalism, set in a vaguely undefined time period that pretty much is the 1950s, but could be whenever so far as the story is concerned. The “good” guys and the “bad” guys are murky but it’s clear who is on whose side. The problem my liberal-hippy self is having, of course, is that they people I want to like are actually the people I hate.

What does this mean? I don’t know. I’m confused and upset and this book is taking over my life! I’m just glad the bridge didn’t collapse. More on Atlas Shrugged later.

 

 

ps. Who is John Galt?