By Ayn Rand
Have we already mentioned how we are getting through this book? Rebecca and I have both found that the best place to read is at the gym because it combines two very unpleasant activities. Whenever Atlas Shrugged gets too much for me, I put it down for a bit, but then I don’t have anything to distract me from the stationary bike, so I just pick it up again. I did a lot of bicycling for these two chapters.
We open chapter 8 with Dagny enjoying the wilderness around her hunting lodge (unexpectedly, considering her previous lament for more billboards in the country side). She is keeping busy with repairs around the cabin, fixing the pathway, shingling the roof, and is contemplating rebuilding the nearest highway (no, really) when Francisco shows up.
He is so happy that she has finally given up on her trains that he grabs her and kisses her violently (you know, the usual greeting in this world). She submits (naturally) until she remembers that Francisco is a bit of a douche. He then explains how he has never been the playboy (douche) that we all thought him, and that by destroying his company so that the ever-present ‘looters’ and ‘moochers’ couldn’t profit was more honorable than any act Dagny was doing to keep Taggert Transcontinental running.
She listens a lot more patiently that I would have, and even seems to be coming around to his side, when the radio breaks in with the news story of the Taggert coal engine. The train apparently not only asphyxiated everyone but then blocked the tunnel for an oncoming military train carrying explosives. The resulting crash brought down the entire mountain, and Dagny screams (there is A LOT of screaming in this book) and runs back to New York.
Jim Taggert is alternating between contemplating resigning the company and trying to force Eddie willers to tell him where Dagny is. Eddie takes a stand that would have been a lot more impressive if we didn’t know he’d already spilled the beans to some stranger in the previous chapter. Dagny breezes in during this confrontation and takes charge, rerouting tracks around the now-fallen mountain, going back to tracks that were abandoned several generations ago. She also gets to brush off the government people when they call, saying that she’ll only fix this if they stay out of her way.
In order to lay new track, she calls Hank to order metal for new track, and also absolves him of any blame in signing over his patent. And here’s where we get the most important take-away from this chapter: I have won our bet and Rebecca will be seeing “Life of Pi” with me this weekend.
Dagny is all tuckered out from fixing all the train problems, and is trying to relax in her apartment when Francisco shows up again, and my heart just sinks because I don’t think I can listen to his arguments all over again.
Just as Francisco is getting warmed up again, though, Hank Rearden lets himself in with his key, and the most ridiculous love triangle ensues. Francisco immediately realizes that since Hank had his own key, he is Dagny’s lover. Hank, however, is still all pumped up with chivalry and tries to thrown Francisco out before he can corrupt Dagny, who waits silently in the corner like the most wilting damsel in distress. It is all so melodramatic that a soap opera would be ashamed to show it.
Before leaving, Francisco admits that he loves Dagny (earning a slap from Hank), and after he’s left, Dagny admits that Francisco was her first and only other lover. We are then exposed to a sex scene so appalling that no words of mine can express it, and I’m going to impose Rand’s description on you:
“He seized her shoulders, and she felt prepared to accept that he would now kill her or beat her into unconsciousness, and in the moment when she felt certain that he had thought of it, she felt her body thrown against him and his mouth falling on hers, more brutally than the act of a beating would have permitted.
“She found herself, in terror, twisting her body to resist, and, in exultation, twisting her arms around him, holding him, letting her lips bring blood to his, knowing that she had never wanted him as she did in that moment.”
Post-coital, the apartment manager comes to her door, and for a second I seriously expected him to issue a noise complaint, but he is merely passing along a letter for her that had come while she was at the hunting cabin.
The letter is from the engineer in Utah that she hired to work on her mystery engine, announcing that since the new policy, he can’t bring himself to work on anything anymore and he must quit. Dagny immediately calls him up, and makes him promise not to disappear in the five days that it will take her to ride her still-being-repaired train over to Utah, so she can try to change his mind in person. She summons Eddie Willers to her apartment to help her plan her trip and his coverage of her work, and while there, he sees Hank’s robe (monogrammed for helpful identification) in her closet, and our love triangle has become a love square (is that a thing?).
Devastated, Eddie stumbles out of the apartment, and retreats to the only place he finds comfort, the lunchroom at Taggert Headquarters, where luckily the stranger has been waiting for him. Eddie, who has a mind-boggling disregard for confidentiality, not only tells the stranger other people’s secrets (that Dagny is headed to Utah to try to save her engine, and that she is sleeping with Hank), but also his own secret (that he is in love with Dagny).
I cannot imagine that Rand is anything but vehemently opposed to the idea of therapy, but she makes a very good argument for it with Eddie, who clearly just needs to be able to unburden himself to someone who can’t then use that information for ulterior motives.
And that concludes my week of recaps, and once again, I am much relieved to pass the duties on to Rebecca for next week.