By Ayn Rand
I’m feeling a bit broken down by this book at this point, and I’m only a quarter of the way through it (which, I would like to add, is the length of a normal-sized book). I feel like maybe I’m being brainwashed? I don’t even have the strength for resistance anymore. Send help! What’s the anti-Ayn-Rand?
Anyway, the plot is getting pretty dense at this point, so while I was initially trying to confine my summaries to two or three paragraphs a chapter, I’m not sure that is going to be possible, and I refuse to let you escape hearing about some of the most uncomfortable sex scenes I’ve had to read.
Hank and Dagny continue to have consensual rape, and also engage in the worst pillow talk I’ve ever read, starting with Hank kicking it off with “I want you to know this. What I feel for you is contempt. But it’s nothing, compared to the contempt I feel for myself” and Dagny ending with “Did you call it depravity? I am much more depraved than you are: you hold it as your guilt, and I—as my pride…If I’m asked to name my proudest attainment, I will say: I have slept with Hank Rearden. I have earned it.”
I’m not even sure what to do with all that, really.
Anyway, as a foil to Dagny’s very violent sex, we also see James Taggert limp-dicking his way through a platonic conversation with an idolizing nineteen-year-old shop girl, who is definitely the most interesting character in this chapter, and possibly the book. (She grew up poor! She ran away to New York to make something of herself! She is smart, ambitious, and, most importantly, happy!)
We also get a bit of awkward exposition between two random characters talking about the Equalization of Opportunity Bill (which I believe is the much improved name of the Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Act), and how it is forcing business to close some branches in order to keep others open (since in addition to not being able to have multiple businesses, companies now can’t have multiple branches open, I guess?), and is causing all kinds of havoc in various small towns.
Just in time for Dagny and Hank to go on vacation to visit these small towns, leading to another baffling conversation in which they complain about the lack of billboards in the countryside (no, seriously). They decide that as good industrialists, they should also use their vacation time to go visit abandoned factories (which, in fact, I can sort of understand, since our family vacations always included checking out nearby dying industrial towns, for which both parents had quite a passion).
In one of the factories, Dagny runs across a basic model for an engine so advanced that she doesn’t totally comprehend how it works but at the same time immediately recognizes that it will revolutionize her trains. Don’t you worry, we hear A LOT more about this motor in Chapter 10.
Dagny spends much of this chapter trying to track down anyone who would know anything about her motor, and I actually kind of enjoyed this part because it was a bit like a detective novel. It also brought me back around to the understanding I was starting to get in Chapter 7 (before I got perhaps a bit hysterical à la James Taggert).
Dagny is questioning some failed banker, who has now became a government official, about her motor, and the banker/bureaucrat is giving the usual bullshit about how his failures weren’t his fault since he was never given a chance to succeed, blah blah blah. But, he’s sitting there, whining about it, and I’m thinking, this guy seems pretty comfortably off, and it occurs to me that I was being all defensive about Rand’s treatment of the lower-income class, but in fact, she barely discusses them at all. Much like the Wall Street Journal, she doesn’t really recognize people who make below an upper-upper-middle-class income, so her antagonists are all wealthy, as well.
So, here’s the crux of my epiphany: We all love “makers” and hate “takers;” we just define them in different ways. America does not hate the wealthy; hell, we love our famous actors and musicians, and our Steve Jobs and whoever owns Starbucks, because they provide services that we recognize as making our lives better. The one-percenters we hate are the ones that truly don’t make anything except money, and that is really more of taking, when you come right down to it. They take money to make more money, and then just sit on the whole kit and caboodle, and no one really benefits from it at all.
Anyway, so while Dagny is tracking down the origins of her motor and I’m coming to a semblance of understanding of Randian philosophy, Hank is having a quintessential pity party for himself. He feels like he should feel guilty about cheating on his wife with Dagny, but he doesn’t really feel guilty, so he is sort of moping about not feeling guilty, and how now he can’t participate in his favorite pastime of judging others since now he too can be judged.
It is all very stupid and annoying, except that Lillian (whom I’m starting to love) comes in with a few well-placed verbal shots, where she accuses him of reneging on his marriage contract, which is something he would never do in a business practice.
Chapter 10 closes out Part 1 (of 3) with calamity! The government has established a Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources, which ruled that all companies must limit their production to an amount equal to the production of all other companies. It is all a bit convoluted and confusing. In order to prevent stockholders from losing money, however, the Bureau imposes a tax on companies in Colorado in order to compensate the stockholders. Colorado is singled out because the natural resources are plentiful there, but having come from Colorado, I’ll tell you what else is plentiful there: gun-nut survivalists who barely pay a minimum of taxes now and would have gone completely off-the-grid crazy with such a taxation. In fact, Ellis Wyatt* does just that, and the chapter ends with him burning down his entire oil processing plant and disappearing.
So, that’s that for the first part, and at this point, I have to say that while I’m starting to see a bit where Rand is coming from, it is totally bumming me out. Because I’m starting to agree with her in some of the ways that she describes our world as being in trouble, but I absolutely don’t agree with her offered solutions, so now it just seems hopeless, and it is all very depressing (and long).
*So, looking back over posts, it looks like maybe Rebecca and I have failed to mention Ellis Wyatt yet. We can’t keep up with all the industrialists in this book! He has also mainly been in the background, but he is an oil tycoon, who has, of course, revolutionized oil production, and is one of the main customers for Taggert Transcontinental. (She built her fancy new railroad out of Rearden Metal in order to transport his oil from Colorado to the East Coast.) Dagny likes him a lot, even though he has some serious anger issues, though that has also been shown to be kind of her type.