Sparrow's Reviews > Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
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Jul 10, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: utopia-dystopia, classic-or-cannonical, reviewed, girls-rule, motherless-daughters
Recommended to Sparrow by: PC library
Recommended for: soviets
Read in April, 2004 , read count: 1

I was visiting an old friend for the past few days, and she showed me this cover of Atlas Shrugged I made for her when we lived in Ukraine:

[image error]

side view showing how beat up the binding is

It was a necessary repair, but it pretty much proves I should be a cover designer.
_____________________________________________

Original review:

I think Francisco D’Aconia is absolutely a dream boat. This book’s like blah blah blah engineering, blah blah blah John Galt, blah blah blah no altruistic act, blah bla- HE-llo, Francisco D’Aconia, you growl and a half. Also, there’s a pirate. So, what’s everyone complaining about?

Okay, it’s not that I don’t get what everyone’s complaining about. I get that Rand is kind of loony tunes of the Glenn Beck variety, and some people (maybe?) use her to justify being assholes, but I just don’t like to throw the bathwater out with that baby. Warning: I think, to make my point, I have to refer to Dostoyevsky a lot, which I seem to always do because he really is some kind of touchstone to me. The point I’m trying to make with all this blabbering is that the debate over Atlas Shrugged brings out something that I might hate more than anything else (more than weddings and kitty litter even). It makes people say that ideas are dangerous. People on all sides of the spectrum do this about different stuff, and whatever the argument, I don’t like it. If an idea is wrong, say it’s wrong. But genocide doesn’t happen because people put forward too many ideas. It happens because people put forward too few ideas.

Anyway, back to the book:

First, story. The third part of this book is super weird. It’s definitely not the actual ending of the book, I’ve decided, but more of a choose-your-own-adventure suggestion. It’s kind of fun that way because any end that you, the reader, come up with will be better than the one Rand suggested. My favorite part of her ending is how John Galt gives the most boring speech possible, and it lasts for about a bazillion pages, and you have to skip it or die. Then, at the end, Rand’s like, “The entire world was listening, ears glued to the radios, because Galt’s speech was the most brilliant thing they had ever heard.” No. Nope. Nice try, liar. So, that’s super lame, I agree, and you should just skip the third part.

But people don’t get as mad about the epilogue in Crime and Punishment. Why? That’s the same situation, where it kills all fun, and you have to ignore that it happened. Is it just because it’s shorter, and it’s called “Epilogue”? Maybe that’s enough. But, on the other hand, maybe people didn’t read all the way to the end of Crime and Punishment. Maybe, because it was written by a crazy Russian man, not a crazy Russian woman, people think they’ll sound deep if they say they like it.

Second, writing. People complain about Rand’s writing, and I always think, “When was the last time you wrote a 1000 page book in a second language and pulled off a reasonably page-turning storyline?” The woman spoke Russian for crying out loud! It most certainly would have been a better choice for her to have written the books in Russian and had them translated, but, I mean, most native English speakers couldn’t be that entertaining. It’s at least A for effort. I’m not going to make excuses for the unpronounceable names she chooses for her characters, but I’ll just say Dostoyevsky again and leave it at that.

I know it made a huge difference in my reading of this book that I was living in a Soviet bloc apartment in Lozovaya, Ukraine at the time and had forgotten a little bit how to speak English. I’m sure a lot of weird phrasing didn’t sound weird to me because it makes sense in Russian. But, also, I feel like I’ve read a lot of translations of Dostoyevsky and other Russians that feel really weird in English. You know, everyone’s always having some kind of epileptic fit or whatever with Mr. D. But, we allow for the weirdness because we picture the stuff happening in Russia, where the weird stuff typically goes down anyway. I’ll tell you right now, Atlas Shrugged takes place in Russia. No joke. She might tell you they’re flying over the Rocky Mountains, or whatever, but this book is a Russian if there ever was one. Just so it’s clear, I LOVE that about it. That’s no insult, only compliment.

Third, philosophy. Maybe I told you this story already, so skip it if you already know it. When I lived in Ukraine, I had the same conversation with three or four people of the older generation who grew up in the Soviet Union. They would tell me, “Things were really wonderful in the Soviet Union, much better than they are now. We had free health care, free housing, and now we have nothing. I mean, every once in a while your neighbor would disappear, but it was completely worth it.” This was really disturbing to me, because it gave me this picture of the people around me – that they were the ones who ratted out the neighbors who wanted a different life. Sure, Rand’s vision is narrow and sometimes inhuman, but I think it is because she was really terrified of this equally narrow and, as far as I’m concerned, inhuman vision. I want a public health care option real bad, and my neighbor has some really annoying Chihuahuas, but if forced to choose between them, I’d probably still pick my neighbor.

Admittedly, the problem with this argument is that it sets up a dichotomy where our only choices are the prosperity gospel and Soilent Green. From what I know of Rand, though, she had seen her neighbors and family thrown out of Russia or killed for being rich. She was fighting something extreme by being extreme. Unfortunately, in America, this rhetoric turns into the idea that having public services = killing your neighbor. To me, this comes from people taking her arguments too seriously on both sides. Dostoyevsky has ghosts and devils coming out of every corner, and people take his stories for what they’re worth. We don’t think that liking his books makes us mystics and hating them makes us inquisitors. Why is it different with Rand?

Fourth, women. I’m not going to lie and tell you that there weren’t other badass female characters when Dagney Taggert came around. All I want to say about this is that the most valuable thing I got from this book was the idea that one person being unhappy doesn’t, and shouldn’t, make other people happy. I think, in this way, it was particularly important to me that the protagonist was a woman. I see a lot of women complain about their lives and families, but say it’s all worth it because they’ve been able to devote their lives to making their husbands or children happy. I’m paraphrasing, I guess. Anyway, that kind of hegemony really creeps me out.

When I read this book, I was just realizing that I had joined Peace Corps with a similarly misguided motivation. I wanted to go to the needy and unfortunate countries of the world and sacrifice myself to save them. It might sound more nasty than it really was when I say it like that, but I think it is a really arrogant attitude to have. We might have hot running water in America (for which I am forever grateful), but if somewhere doesn’t have that, it’s probably not because of a problem a silly, 23-year-old English major is going to solve. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Peace Corps, and it was maybe the best experience of my life so far. But I love it for the things that I got out of it, and if someone else benefited from my being in Ukraine, it was dumb luck.

I don’t know about other women, but I was raised to believe that the more selfless (read: unhappy) I was, the better off everyone else would be. I think it’s a pretty typical way that women talk themselves into staying in abusive situations – that their lives are worth less than the lives around them. This would be the Hank Rearden character in the novel. I love that Rand sets up characters who destroy this cycle of abuse. I love that her female protagonist lives completely outside of it.

So, not to undercut my noble feminist apologetics, but really Francisco’s just hawt, and I think that’s the reason I like this book. There are lots of other reasons to read Rand, but most of those get into the argument about her ideas being dangerous. I just don’t think they are, or should be. I think ignorance is dangerous, but I think it should be pretty easy to fill in the gaping holes in Rand’s logic. Yes, she conveniently ignores the very old, very young, and disabled to make a specific and extreme point. I don’t think her point is entirely without merit, though (in the sense that our lives are valuable, not in the sense of “kill the weak!”). I also think that if we give a “danger” label to every book that conveniently ignores significant portions of the population to make a point, we wouldn’t be left with much.

Anyway, read, discuss, agree, disagree. I’ll be making up some “Team John,” “Team Hank,” “Team Francisco” t-shirts later. I hear in the sequel there are werewolves.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 184) (184 new)


Manny I laughed out loud at least twice. How do I get my "Team Hank" T-shirt?


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 17, 2009 08:15AM) (new)

This is awesome Meredith! What I think is interesting about Rand is that there is something so inflammatory about the writing that it almost seems impossible to have a reasonable debate about it. It gets flamed or cherished, but the middle ground gets lost. You found the middle ground!

Is this the Russian of it? My Russian teacher always said that the Russians believe in acting on belief - on ideas - in a way that the rest of us simply don't understand. Crime and Punishment being a prime example of this, but that's fiction, so I'll point to the Bolshevik Revolution. Americans have revolutions based on trade deficits; Russians have revolutions based on ideas. (I'm being super reductive; sorry. Great review.) (And, it really *is* impossible to not bring up Dostoyevsky!)


message 3: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W One of the best and most sensible reviews I have read of Atlas Shrugged. The comment regarding Russian as an explanation of why the syntax is often weird, I have not seen anywhere else.


message 4: by Buck (last edited Dec 17, 2009 06:42AM) (new)

Buck I'm so impressed--and envious--that I can't even think of a stupid joke to tell. Very, very good, Meredith.

Did you ever read The Possessed? Now there's an epilogue. Actually, I think it was a suppressed chapter, but it's usually tacked on as an epilogue or appendix. It changes your whole perception of the novel.




Marvin Excellent review! Just a couple quick points.

Yes, too few ideas are dangerous. And that might be something to keep in mind when Ayn Rand, in her other writings, states the only philosophers worth reading are Aristotle and herself.

Writing in a second language? Didn't hurt Nabokov much. Of course, I suspect I would get no argument by saying Ayn Rand isn't Nabakov.


message 6: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Difficult to find a compliment without repeating - terrific review.

I see a lot of women complain about their lives and families, but say it’s all worth it because they’ve been able to devote their lives to making their husbands or children happy. I’m paraphrasing, I guess. Anyway, that kind of hegemony really creeps me out.

It is creepy, and unsettling because arguing against this skewed relation of self&others can get one labeled as selfish by the indoctrinated and then dismissed.

Good on you for the Peace Corps stint. I think many go into it with an idealistic fervor. I find the loss of idealism tragic, but most of the people I know who've had such an experience continue to volunteer and organize from here, quietly saving the world or managing other idealistic young folk to allow them the chance for their own epiphanies overseas.


message 7: by Skylar (new) - added it

Skylar Burris I do think this is one of the most sensible Rand reviews I have yet read, and humourous to boot!


Sparrow Thanks, everyone!

Elizabeth wrote: "We don't get a lot of people advocating moderate individualism and also public health care after reading her books, we get the rampant bankers who think she told them to run wild."

I think this is actually why the "dangerous ideas" thing bothers me. I think we should get that, because there should be enough reasonable people saying, "Yeah, that was a fun story and it would be nice, but you see how in a world where economics actually exists, it wouldn't work well, right? Well, let me explain in a few non-patronizing and brief sentences, so that we can all move on to the next romance." If you want a girl to go out with you, do you go up and tell her her mom's ugly? Even if it's true? It seems like there are better ways. . . I guess, I agree that Rand's books are almost ridiculously polarizing, but it takes two sides to be polar, unless you're a bear. Okay, I think vacation is making me crazy, because now I kind of want to make a t-shirt of that. I'm def going to find some kids I can say it to.

Speaking of which: Manny, how about this for "Team Hank"? It's not sparkly, but we don't want Rand rising up as a zombie to teach us a lesson about sparkles, now, do we? brrrr.

Marvin wrote: "Writing in a second language? Didn't hurt Nabokov much. Of course, I suspect I would get no argument by saying Ayn Rand isn't Nabakov."

I never got past the phrase "fire of my loins," so I can't really make a comparison. I think his ideas are dangerous. No, jk. . . But I do. . . No, I don't even know what Nabokov's ideas are. Because of that first sentence.

Ceridwen wrote: "My Russian teacher always said that the Russians believe in acting on belief - on ideas - in a way that the rest of us simply don't understand. Crime and Punishment being a prime example of this, but that's fiction, so I'll point to the Bolshevik Revolution. Americans have revolutions based on trade deficits; Russians have revolutions based on ideas."

I agree with this. I think it's another thing that doesn't translate well into American unless we know it's translated. I mean look at how assumed, even on this thread, it is that extreme ideas are bad.

This also makes me think of the Nabokov argument, though. The thing with him is that everyone always still thinks of him as a Russian, so I feel like we're reading it with that translation allowance in our minds anyway. I feel like people think of Rand as an American, even if we know she came from Russia. I think that's part of her propaganda, and that she would want us to think of her like that, but it makes the books more weird to read.

Eh! wrote: "I think many go into it with an idealistic fervor."

DO IT!!! Just make changing you part of the idealism and don't do it as a sacrifice. It's really an amazing experience.

Buck: I haven't read The Possessed. I'll have to get back into Dostoyevsky sometime soon, but I always have this extreme emotional reaction to him, and I don't think that's a good idea right now. And, I'm always up for a good story-ruining epilogue. Who isn't?


message 9: by Sparrow (last edited Dec 17, 2009 11:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sparrow Abigail wrote: "The notion that somehow the more idealistic, idea-based revolution is superior to the more "prosaic" one, that it is to be preferred, or somehow more "authentic" seems to me to be the assumption here."

I actually think that there is no contest over which revolution is the better way to go. Even written in the funny way Ceridwen wrote it, a trade deficit revolution is better to me than a revolution of ideas. But, I am an American, and when I left Ukraine, I was ready to get the First Amendment tattooed on my body. In some ways I think freedom of speech makes ideas cheaper in the West, but I wouldn't argue that's a bad thing. Anyway, justifying wars by ideas almost sounds like an oxymoron to me, but I think that's just my American practicality coming through.

In one way or another, I think that probably any revolution is about both, though. Justifying revolution by ideals always has that "God on our side" feel that I'm not comfortable with (even if it's the Bolsheviks it still has that, I think). I'm not saying that Rand is correct in what she says, but I think she is very Russian in her delivery. And, where I think it's not possible to truly justify war over ideals, a lot of Ukrainians I know would disagree with me.


Sparrow :) That makes sense. I think I meant to say that I DO assume that extreme ideas are bad, but it's so American of me.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Man, I go to a work thing, and then this thread gets super interesting. (Not that it wasn't before...er...) Just to clarify my flip statement about Russian/American revolution thing, first, I'd like to say that comparing the two is a little silly, and I know that. These are two very different events staged by very different people living under very different conditions. But I do very strongly believe that people are more important than things, and that people are more important than ideas. I don't think there is anything more "authentic" about idealism - of any political stripe - because idealism is so decidedly unreal, and its unreality makes forgetting the reality of people such an easy thing. And that forgetting results in atrocities of good intent and bad results.


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 17, 2009 12:55PM) (new)

And now for a jokey anecdote: Once, roughly 6000 years ago, I took a Classical History class. One (!) of the essay questions on the final was: compare the Fall of Greece to the Fall of Rome. My answer was, "Aaaaaarg! You've got to be kidding me!" (This is only a slight paraphrase.) I got a C.


message 13: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell I’ll be making up some “Team John,” “Team Hank,” “Team Francisco” t-shirts later. I hear in the sequel there are werewolves.

//DIES

Excellent review! Like a lot of other people said, really sensible and right-on. Also, Francisco is hawtness and I was terribly disappointed when she ditched him for Mr Talky.


message 14: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Ceridwen wrote: "And now for a jokey anecdote: Once, roughly 6000 years ago, I took a Classical History class. One (!) of the essay questions on the final was: compare the Fall of Greece to the Fall of Rome. My ans..."

....fall of Greece? Wha?




message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

I know, right?


message 16: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Ceridwen wrote: "I know, right?"

I take it they didn't mean the Thirty Tyrants....




Sparrow Ha!!! I think that was pretty much how all my answers went for my finals last week, too. I'm banking on that C.

I think that's such a great way of pointing out how both justifications for war are pretty shallow if they really just are about the things and ideas, not the people. I was thinking earlier today about how someone should study the rhetoric around the War on Terror and the Chechnyan rebellion, and how the different countries have dealt with those. I feel like in the U.S. there's always that undercurrent assumption that any ideological justification is kind of silly and illusory. We're like, "Whatever, we know it's all about oil." I've gotten the impression that the situation with Chechnya isn't treated like that in Russia.


Sparrow Moira wrote: "Also, Francisco is hawtness and I was terribly disappointed when she ditched him for Mr Talky."

Except the in the epilogue I wrote, Dagney went of with Boring Face and I got Francisco. Everyone lived happily and invented lots of stuff.


message 19: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Meredith wrote: "in the epilogue I wrote, Dagney went of with Boring Face and I got Francisco. Everyone lived happily and invented lots of stuff."

SCORE. I think I actually read an essay once where Dagny was maybe supposed to have a threesome with Hank, Frisco AND Mr Talky Boring Face, but Mr TLF is clearly presented as being so Superlatively Awesome he supposedly eclipses everyone else. Altho no doubt someone has already written that fanfic.

If it hadn't been for Francisco I doubt I would have ever kept going with that book.


message 20: by Sparrow (last edited Dec 19, 2009 09:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sparrow Oh! Also, people who have read this book should be required to read Old School by Tobias Wolff, because there is one part that is really hilarious about Ayn Rand. Also, it's a really good book anyway, but I feel like about a third of it wouldn't be funny if you hadn't read Atlas Shrugged.


message 21: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Also I had entirely forgotten about the Epilogue to C&P, WHOOPS. Except I think I remember getting really irritated at Sonia being such a dishrag and the narrator saying how the prisoners loved her and she baked them pies and brought them mail, &c &c. But Sonia is supposed to be a dishrag, a Griselda. It is her Sonia-ness.

I guess some people might say the Epilogue of C&P is the artist Dostoyevsky warring with the believer Dostoyevsky, except that doesn't make any sense, because his belief and art are so wrapped up in each other. And apparently the whole point of the epilogue is that the entire story we have just read is that it brings him to that state where he's ready to repent, believe, be reborn -- everything after that is a new story, a new life. Which makes me go ARGH because for me personally, it's like that negates everything that goes before it, only I'm not sure whether for a believer it would negate or justify the story. It would be interesting to compare this and Tolstoy's Resurrection, both of which I read ages and ages ago.

But, hot damn:

He was in the hospital from the middle of Lent till after Easter. When he was better, he remembered the dreams he had had while he was feverish and delirious. He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia. All were to be destroyed except a very few chosen. Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, but these microbes were endowed with intelligence and will. Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible. Whole villages, whole towns and peoples went mad from the infection. All were excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know how to judge and could not agree what to consider evil and what good; they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of senseless spite. They gathered together in armies against one another, but even on the march the armies would begin attacking each other, the ranks would be broken and the soldiers would fall on each other, stabbing and cutting, biting and devouring each other. The alarm bell was ringing all day long in the towns; men rushed together, but why they were summoned and who was summoning them no one knew. The most ordinary trades were abandoned, because everyone proposed his own ideas, his own improvements, and they could not agree. The land too was abandoned. Men met in groups, agreed on something, swore to keep together, but at once began on something quite different from what they had proposed. They accused one another, fought and killed each other. There were conflagrations and famine. All men and all things were involved in destruction. The plague spread and moved further and further. Only a few men could be saved in the whole world. They were a pure chosen people, destined to found a new race and a new life, to renew and purify the earth, but no one had seen these men, no one had heard their words and their voices.

Even in a crappy online translation that's hair-raising. 28 days later...., eat your heart out.


message 22: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Meredith wrote: "Oh! Also, people who have read this book should be required to read Old School by Tobias Wolff, because there is one part that is really hilarious about Ayn Rand. Also, it's a really..."

Ha, I second the recommendation of that! It's good.




Sparrow Is that from C&P? I haven't read it in maybe 9 years. That is so 28 days later. Love both. Perfection. Dostoyevsky gets me every time.

Moira said: "Which makes me go ARGH because for me personally, it's like that negates everything that goes before it, only I'm not sure whether for a believer it would negate or justify the story."

I don't see how it really could work well for anyone. It seems to me like everything that builds up to that point in the story totally undercuts what happens in the epilogue. It comes off so fake, especially in contrast to the intensity that goes before it. Weird.

"If it hadn't been for Francisco I doubt I would have ever kept going with that book."

Yeah, bad, shallow, playboy, who's only pretending to be an asshole so that he can bring down the system. I ask nothing more from a book.


message 24: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Meredith wrote: "Is that from C&P?

Yes it is! Because I read your review and was all 'epilogue...what epilogue...?' and asked Auntie Google and there it was, that's probably the Garnett I guess. I bought the new Richard Pevear/Larissa Volokhonsky (I guess that makes them partners in crime) translation several months ago but haven't read it yet.

I haven't read it in maybe 9 years.

God yeah, I forget the last time I read any Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy or Chekhov at all, which is sad.

That is so 28 days later

Such a great movie! I loved it.

It seems to me like everything that builds up to that point in the story totally undercuts what happens in the epilogue. It comes off so fake, especially in contrast to the intensity that goes before it

IT DOES, it feels v fake -- as opposed to the ending of say, The Idiot, which I remember as really harrowing (been forever since I read that one, too).

bad, shallow, playboy, who's only pretending to be an asshole so that he can bring down the system

I KNOW. Presumably in the movie he would be played by Clive Owen, or something.


Sparrow I'm a big Garnett loyalist. I feel like she focused more on the English, and Pevear/Volokhonsky were more literal and loyal to the Russian. (nice pun, btw!)

I adore 28 days. The Idiot was lovely, but I honestly don't remember the end at all. The end of Brothers Karamazov is pretty spectacular, too. You just have to ignore the epilogue in C&P, except that part you quoted is really beautiful. It's just not okay to be like "JK" after something as powerful as C&P.

Moira wrote: "Presumably in the movie he would be played by Clive Owen, or something."

I'm hoping for Johnny Depp, but you're probably right. We get Brad and Angelina to be the Galt/Dagney duo. Then, I don't know, James Franco can be Hank, or something. They'll probably end up casting Kristin Stewart, though, and I'll be at the back of the theater yelling, "Get your hair out of your face, kid!"



message 26: by Buck (new)

Buck I’m a little bummed that everyone on this thread has gotten all lovey-dovey. The last I heard, Abigail was raising some pretty cogent objections, and I was hoping to come along and offer whatever moral support I could, but now that you two have patched up your differences, there doesn’t seem to be much likelihood of a good old brawl. And here I am with all this gasoline…

I was going to say, pace Meredith (yes, I used the word pace in a thread, cuz that's the kind of guy I am): ideas are dangerous, terribly dangerous. As a cynical Pole once said, “In a war of ideas, it’s real people who get killed.” You all know the statistics usually thrown around in these debates, so we’ll leave those aside. But as Abigail so lucidly explained, an aversion to extreme ideas can be a perfectly defensible position, and a perfectly humane one.

Of course, an aversion to extreme ideas can also become a pretext for a complacent, do-nothing attitude, and I sense that’s what Meredith objects to (I hope I’m not putting words in your mouth). That’s a real temptation for some people—people like me—and it needs to be fought. But do you have to be an extremist in order to change the world? To want to change the world? Trying to bring hot water to the Ukraine or peace to Darfur—these are very good things, agreed? But do we need a world revolution to achieve them? I certainly hope not, because that sounds like an awful lot of work, and an awfully high body count, if history is anything to go by.

Well, Meredith and I have been over all this before. Considering that we get along so well in other ways, it’s surprising and reassuring that we can have this fundamental philosophical disagreement. I guess it helps that I’m not American and therefore sort of negligible, politically speaking (no, no, it’s true, and I’m okay with that).

Hmm…that wasn’t so incendiary, was it? Why do we have to be so damn reasonable all the time? Somebody tell me to fuck off or something. It’s been a while and I could really use the charge.

And I didn’t know you were in the Peace Corps, Meredith. It’s like finding out someone you thought you knew well had this massive dragon tattoo on their back…Uh, you don’t have any massive dragon tattoos, do you?



message 27: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell I'm a big Garnett loyalist. I feel like she focused more on the English, and Pevear/Volokhonsky were more literal and loyal to the Russian

I don't remember much about the Garnett at all -- I do think some friends who are far, far more familiar with Russian than I am (wouldn't take much for that!) like it more than I thought. I think most of my Dostoyevsky &c translations were Signet/Bantam editions from the seventies and eighties. I know my Devils edition (probably my favourite Dostoyevsky, not counting the Idiot) isn't by Garnett.

I adore 28 days.

SO GOOD. Plus, Cillian Murphy eyecandy!

The Idiot was lovely, but I honestly don't remember the end at all.

Haaa, I just looked on Gutenberg (I have like three different editions but no idea where they are) (this isn't Garnett -- someone named Eva Martin?) and there's a long, dull, clunky let-me-wrap-all-this-up-for-you last chapter THERE, too. I just remembered it ending with 'An idiot!', altho that might be how it does end in the Penguin ed, I don't remember.

The end of Brothers Karamazov is pretty spectacular, too.

Ohgod yes. He's one of my favourite authors.

You just have to ignore the epilogue in C&P

I had TOTALLY forgotten it, which is really embarrassing.

I'm hoping for Johnny Depp,

OH YES

//drool splashes onto keyboard

We get Brad and Angelina to be the Galt/Dagney duo.

//eyeroll Well, at least Brad is sufficiently wooden....isn't Dagny v blonde, tho? I seem to remember all of Rand's heroines being aggressively Aryan. Too slim, too frail, power contained in an insufficient frame, blonde, pale skin, &c &c.

They'll probably end up casting Kristin Stewart, though

//CRIES

She's apparently starring in some Joan Jett biopic and I was just like, Really? Her?


message 28: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Buck wrote: "Did you ever read The Possessed? Now there's an epilogue."

The Possessed is fantastic, but that epilogue is deeply freaky. However, it was a suppressed chapter, wasn't it? Publishing it separate from the novel is a different later editorial decision, not Dostoyevsky's.



Manny Unusually good comment thread! Though there are a couple of books I'm surprised no one's mentioned so far:

- On the question of whether Atlas Shrugged is really set in Russia or America... Meredith, you might want to check out Nabokov's Ada, where most of the action takes place in a mythical country that's explicitly a mixture of both. It's very nicely done.

- Naomi Klein has some scary things to say about "ideas versus trade deficits" in The Shock Doctrine. I keep telling myself that this book is obviously exaggerating things and that it can't possibly be that one-sided. Most of the time, I manage to believe it.



message 30: by Buck (new)

Buck Yeah, I think it was the Russian censor who suppressed it. Leaving it out entirely would render the whole novel morally incoherent. The Stavrogin character would remain a nihilistic cipher without it.

Also, I don't know what time it is where you people live, but it's 2 am here and some of us have to work in the morning, so let's continue this fascinating discussion another time.


message 31: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Manny wrote: "On the question of whether Atlas Shrugged is really set in Russia or America..."

I was going to link to this song, but couldn't find a decent clip on YouTube. Or how about the Kafka book, or Flann O'Brien's?




message 32: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Yeah, supposedly it was going to be after Chapter 8 in Part II, not right at the end.

Buck wrote: "Leaving it out entirely would render the whole novel morally incoherent. The Stavrogin character would remain a nihilistic cipher without it."

I can see that point, but I know some people for whom that confession just blows up the novel -- esp when apparently Stavrogin was possibly supposed to bet the hero!

Also, I don't know what time it is where you people live, but it's 2 am here and some of us have to work in the morning

Dude, we're all living in Amerika! The capitalist raiders looted the country, so now we're all mooching off the government and being James Taggarts, in a feeble attempt to tie this comment back to the actual review. ....besides, it's only 11 PM here.


Sparrow Buck wrote:"You all know the statistics usually thrown around in these debates, so we’ll leave those aside. But as Abigail so lucidly explained, an aversion to extreme ideas can be a perfectly defensible position, and a perfectly humane one."

I did hear that more people get killed each year by ideas than by vending machines. Newsweek or something...

"But do we need a world revolution to achieve them? I certainly hope not, because that sounds like an awful lot of work, and an awfully high body count, if history is anything to go by."

To steal from Ceridwen, you're not down with the revolution, Buck!

It’s like finding out someone you thought you knew well had this massive dragon tattoo on their back…Uh, you don’t have any massive dragon tattoos, do you?


No, but I do have some plans for some incredibly awesome tattoos to mark my law school experience. Also, you should probably know that I think Charlie Kaufman and bananas are an abomination. Like, literally. I'm not using those as as a metaphor for flaccid penises. Anyway, those are two things that also freak people out about me, so I thought I'd get that out there right away.

Moira wrote: "Plus, Cillian Murphy eyecandy!"

swoon!!!

Okay, it's 6 a.m. now and I have to go to work . . . at Barnes & Noble!!! Yay! Sad on the corporate sellout undermining all my shallow talk of revolution. Happy on the side of discount on new books! Will respond to other riveting middle-of-the-night posts later.


message 34: by Buck (new)

Buck I'm agnostic on Charlie Kaufman and indifferent to bananas. Flaccid penises I don't even want to talk about. But the fact that you work at Barnes & Noble does freak me out a little.

Thanks for responding in the proper, light-hearted spirit to my rambling, late-night comment. Whenever I post something after 1 am and a certain number of drinks, I wake up aghast in the morning, wondering, "My God, what did you write?"


message 35: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Buck wrote: "Whenever I post something after 1 am and a certain number of drinks, I wake up aghast in the morning, wondering, "My God, what did you write?" "

Manny will email a picture of you wearing a 'Team Francisco' t-shirt later on this morning.




message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

She's apparently starring in some Joan Jett biopic

*facedesk*

I once got cornered by a guy who had a whole speech - not nearly as long as Galt's - about how the epilogue in C&P completely made the book for him. I can't really remember it, but it hinged on how the prostitute being the conduit for redemption was, like, so beautiful. He also had a whole unhealthy relationship with Baudelaire. What is it with young men and their fictional prostitutes, man?

Buck wrote: Somebody tell me to fuck off or something.

Fuck off, Buck. No, j/k, why *do* you have to sound so reasonable all the time? I've been trying to come up with extreme ideas I hold, and so far I keep stalling out on things like "Marriage should be abolished." But then, I don't really think this, I just kind of think this, and I don't really think that abolishing marriage would magically solve the very serious problems I have with the way the institution is enacted and enforced, so then I go back to my non-extreme ideas of incremental change and all that.

But then I think about my childhood experience of watching my parents trying to do the "change from within" thing that was all the rage in the 70s, and getting pretty well crushed under the tank treads of progress and the political machine. A lot of the things they were fighting for came to fruition, but I can't tell now if it was because they were fighting for them. They didn't shoot anyone though, which is rad.


message 37: by Buck (new)

Buck If that was the most embarrassing picture of me floating around on the Internet, I'd be a happy man.


message 38: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Ceridwen wrote: "She's apparently starring in some Joan Jett biopic

*facedesk*


I KNOW

[image error]

I can't really remember it, but it hinged on how the prostitute being the conduit for redemption was, like, so beautiful

o.0 ....omg really? For some reason that is rather disturbing.




message 39: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Buck wrote: "If that was the most embarrassing picture of me floating around on the Internet, I'd be a happy man. "

Don't tell me there are pictures of you as Joan Jett!




message 40: by Buck (new)

Buck Thanks, Ceridwen. Even if it was an insincere "fuck off", it got my juices running again.

In just about every way that counts, the world is so much better off now than it was a hundred years ago. There's just no comparison. And it wasn't revolution or terror or even mass demonstrations that brought most of these changes about, but slow, boring, "incremental" democracy. I don't know. I get all giddy with optimism when I look at the world from a certain angle (and I say this on four and a half hours sleep and a slight hangover, so that's real optimism). But then, as long as there are still people holding up signs saying, "absolute desperation", it won't do to get too giddy. (Great review, btw.)


message 41: by Manny (last edited Dec 18, 2009 08:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny About those "absolute desperation" signs: has anyone else read the short story by Thomas Disch, where suicide becomes the latest teen fad? They have a weekly magazine called Blast-off! with a cut-out-and-keep suicide note for kids who are too unimaginative to write their own. As I recall, the most popular one, which is used about 11000 times, goes something like this:
No one cares about me. Everyone's just looking out for number one. I feel empty inside.

(signed)
Disch had a really robust sense of humor.



message 42: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori As everyone has already stated, what a great review! I haven't read Ayn Rand since I was 20 so can't contribute intelligent comments, but your insight into the fact that this was a Russian writer makes me think about this in a completely different light, you are absolutely right!


message 43: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Manny wrote: "About those "absolute desperation" signs: has anyone else read the short story by Thomas Disch, where suicide becomes the latest teen fad?"

Haa, never read it, but that sounds like Disch. Man was incisive as two scalpels.




Sparrow Okay, where was I? *knucklecrack*

Thanks for the recs, Manny! I'll put those on the list. Or . . . I might just read a bunch of reviews of them and call it good. No, I must read a whole Nabokov someday. Maybe it's the fact that I feel like I need to that makes me not want to. I don't know.

Buck wrote: "But the fact that you work at Barnes & Noble does freak me out a little."

Yeah, I have a love/hate with that place. It seemed like a good idea to go back there over the holidays to get book discounts, but then when I went there this morning, I remembered all then annoying things about it. Also, the dude who was showing me around again kept saying stuff like, "Well, hardcover face-outs in bays might be okay in some people's sections, but if I see you do that in my section, I'll be there yelling at you." It kinda made me want to face out all his hardcovers . . . ummm. Except that's not what she said.

Ceridwen wrote: "I've been trying to come up with extreme ideas I hold, and so far I keep stalling out on things like 'Marriage should be abolished.'"

I know. It's just too hard for Americans to be extreme. In Russia, they think you're crazy if you smile; in America, they think you're crazy if you're intense. I've said it before, but the two countries have some natural misunderstandings, I think.

A lot of the things they were fighting for came to fruition, but I can't tell now if it was because they were fighting for them.

I know, I was thinking about the 70's in relation to the fighting for ideals argument. But I think the point of most of the hippie movement was not to kill people over different ideas.

Also, Lori - Thanks!


message 45: by C. (new) - rated it 3 stars

C. Incidentally re: Nabokov, he grew up trilingual in Russian, French and English. Or something along those lines. Whereas (I think, correct me if I'm wrong) Rand didn't learn English until she came to America. At the very least she was definitely much further away from being a native speaker than Nabokov was. In other words, not fair to compare the two.

But more importantly, wow. Amazing review, and I've seen worse comment threads. I keep thinking that there's nothing more to be said about Rand, and then someone comes along and says it.


Sparrow Thanks, Choupette! That was what I thought about Rand and English, but I didn't know about Nabokov. Wikipedia confirms.


message 47: by C. (new) - rated it 3 stars

C. Excellent. And I think that in the right person, who Nabokov clearly was, being fluent in three languages would lead naturally to the fantastic sort of linguistic creativity you see in his works. There's something about knowing multiple languages that can make you more aware of all the little absurdities and loopholes. So doubly unfair to compare them. Poor little Ayn! Always lumped with Nabokov just because they were both Russian.


message 48: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Choupette wrote: "Poor little Ayn! Always lumped with Nabokov just because they were both Russian. "

That's such an unsettling combination. It's like....like....actually I am having a hard time thinking of two equally unalike authors.




message 49: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Choupette wrote: "Whereas (I think, correct me if I'm wrong) Rand didn't learn English until she came to America."

I've also read (don't remember where now, argh) that Rand's sentence structure can be more Russian than English -- something about the adjectives and nouns? I remember it was a lot more evident in her first novel.




Sparrow It's also a little disturbing to say, "Poor little Ayn." I think she's sufficiently rolling over in her grave right now.

I think her structure is very Russian. I haven't read it in so long that I don't have a specific example, but I remember thinking, "This lady speaks Ukranglish, fo sho!"


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