Samara's Reviews > Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
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Jun 26, 07

bookshelves: theclassics
Recommended for: those who like their books to double as paperweights
Read in October, 2003

I read this book while a teaching assistant in Japan (a semester-long program). I read another of Rand's books, The Fountainhead, as a wee lass (just after graduating from high school, I believe), and I remember being entranced and enraged simultaneously by that book. (I'm sure I'll review it at some point.)

For those of you who do not have the ... pleasure ... of knowing Rand, she believed that all novels should have a sort of philosophical or belief-centered backing, and hers certainly do, based as they are on her philosophy of Objectivism. (Some will say her belief system isn't fit for the term philosophy, but I digress.) I really don't feel like giving an in-depth look at Objectivism here, but I'll say at this point that two of the centrat tenets of Rand's objectivism are that humans should pursue their own happiness and that selfishness is a virtue. (If the idea of that second one angers you, let me tell you that this book will be fun in that sort of burning-with-righteous-indignation way.)

I actually enjoyed this book. I honestly did. I enjoyed the characters, even though the villians were more cariactures than characters and the good guys were akin to Nietzsche's Super Man (tm). I enjoyed the plot, even when Rand's belief system pushed it into the realm of the unbelievable. I even gained a smattering of respect for the idea that selfishness can be a virtue--I know, I know, who'd believe that of me?

However, the novel is far from perfect. Because of Rand's strict adherence to "realism" we are treated to a speech in the book that takes two hours to speak out loud. (Galt's infamous speech is said to be that long in the book, so OF COURSE she actually had to have enough words to fill those two real-time hours.) This wouldn't have been bad except that it was overly pedantic.

I guess that brings me to my next complaint--the imagery that Rand used really annoyed me. Sure, Ayn, we get it--you have a thing for trains and industry. Fine. But does every single piece of imagery have to be cast of that mold? This verges on the pedantic again. (I'm afraid that comment probably only makes sense after reading the book.) I know why she used imagery the way she did, but it made the book too simple for me--which was probably the point, but I don't care. I have my preferences.

Also, there is the flagrant Orientalism. If you are offended by it, you will have a few sections to roll your eyes at. (But be mindful that Rand was writing before Said's Orientalism came out--a long while before.) I will say that it was a hoot to read this book while in Japan. Ah, the intellectual interplay that happened!

Overall, I did enjoy the book. Many people are going to be disgusted because of the message, but that's why I found it intriguing. I honestly enjoy digging into minds that differ greatly from my own. I found her views to be better expressed here than in The Fountainhead, to be honest, and the book to be better written. That shouldn't be much of a surprise since this apparently the more well-known of the two novels.

I guess my final statement is that all Rand-bashers should actually read this book--at least--before the throttling starts. Enjoy it for what it is.
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