Saturday, January 19, 2008

Book Review of Atlas Shrugged by Robert Slade

One purpose of my blog is to consolidate all my favorite Ayn Rand criticisms into one place. Here's one I like by "a grandfather in British Columbia who pities John Galt and his friends" in their childlessness. A former railroad engineer, he knows that Atlas Shrugged is no way to run a railroad.

Hailing from beautiful BC he knows Rand's contempt for the beauty of nature "has to flow from ignorance: on a night only twenty four hours after a full moon the moonlight will easily be bright enough to walk down a railroad track." He goes on to say that her contempt and ignorance extends to the natural workings of the human body. "There would be no need for them [productive movers and shakers] to "disappear:"in the real world they would be dying off at an extraordinary rate. If cancer didn't get them, they would all, Type As that they are, behaving coronaries left, right, and sideways.)"

And my favorite part:
"Marriage vows in an objectivist church would probably run along the lines of "Do you promise to attempt to dominate and subdue this woman until such time as you grow bored?" "Maybe." "Close enough. And do you promise to applaud this man`s production until such time as you find someone with a bigger ... corporation?" "Whatever." "By the power vested in me by having scammed you guys out of a marriage license fee, I now pronounce you man and appendage. May you be unencumbered by small persons."

And there's plenty more that I didn't spoil for you. Also this link isn't even on these two lists of Objectivism criticism.


Moony said...

Well, thanks for the laugh. I shall go to bed happy now!

Jay said...

This relegates to
trivia such considerations as social skills, etiquette, other people's
feelings, any exertion outside of your own narrow focus, and possibly
even personal hygiene. Sounds geek to me!

Gee, I guess I missed Francisco's lack of manners, and the widespread complaints about his lack of hygiene.

Jay said...

It is these straw men who turgidly attempt to express (or caricature)
ideas that Rand disagrees with, so that the Ps may wittily demolish

I am starting to agree with this, however. Imagine if Rand's characters fought against the Church, or even more able-minded nihilists. I think that would've made for more epic conflicts and memorable passages. But alas, no author can do it all. Atlas has flaws like any other book.

Meg's Marginalia said...

Maybe not so much in Atlas Shrugged (also i didn't read every word of that epic novel - that is impossible to anyone other than Objecivists), but in The Fountainhead, Howard Roark definitely exhibited lack of social skills and personal neglect. He is rude to his professors, his landlady, classmates, and just about everyone. And there's the part where he stays up for days working on the architectural drawings and doing nothing else and then collapses in a heap on the floor and spills coffee everywhere.

It also says in Atlas Shrugged that Dagny did not care about her appearance or how people perceived her, and we are first introduced to her as she slouches in a railroad car exposing her effortless beautiful legs that are so perfect even though she doesn't do anything in the way of upkeep of her appearance. The characters of Atlas shrugged weren't didn't have quite as repellent a personality as Roark, but then again they had commensurately less personality overall. If I remember any particular examples i'll comment again.

Jay said...

and we are first introduced to her as she slouches in a railroad car exposing her effortless beautiful legs that are so perfect even though she doesn't do anything in the way of upkeep of her appearance.

Since Biblical times, the masses have tended to see evil as a seductive and powerful force. The original exemplar was Satan himself, who "weak-willed mortals" could, with hope and prayer, learn to resist in favor of the humble forces of virtue.

Rand (and I) found this to be a travesty. In the long run, evil can only keep its foothold when the good fail to eradicate it and assert its rightful claims. A businessmen can succeed without an ambitious litigator; the reverse is not true. In her view evil was not an independently powerful force, but a snarling void of good. A quote from Rearden's trial sums this up well:

He felt as if, after a journey of years through a landscape of devastation, past the ruins of great factories, the wrecks of powerful engines, the bodies of invincible men, he had come upon the despoiler, expecting to find a giant - and had found a rat eager to scurry for cover at the first sound of a human step.

Rand wanted to drive this home in a very powerful way. Hence (in my opinion), her good characters all being immaculately conceived. Tt was less about elitism and more about dispelling the myth of an unbreakable link between glamor and evil.

Meg's Marginalia said...

Who said anything about glamor being evil? The problem with Rand was that she had too much of a stick up her ass to really appreciate much of American popular culture, cinema, and celebrities, and thought much of it was trash because she didn't get it.

Something else Slade mentions in his review, that I was trying to call attention to, was that Dagny is just somehow the most stunningly beautiful woman at the ball even though she didn't devote any effort to learning about fashion, makeup, etc and that is just not realistic. I never said anything about her being beautiful and that is evil, just that the usual natural result of being a railroad geek who never pays attention to her appearance and slouches indecently in railroad cars generally does not lead to stunning beauty.