Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

AtlasShruggedAtlas Shrugged
By Ayn Rand
1957

This is a difficult book to sum up. I have 89 pages of single-spaced, typed notes, made over the course of nine-weeks of reading. The one real strength to this book is that it makes me think. It presents a lot of ideas and a lot of arguments and it was the rare conversation in the last two months that did not involve the phrase, “that makes me think of how, in Atlas Shrugged, …”

In live-blogging our process through this book, Anna and I had a lot of thoughts.

Part I: Non-Contradiction
I.      The Theme
II.     The Chain
III.    The Top and the Bottom
IV.    The Immovable Movers
V.     The Climax of the D’Anconias
(extra bit: first impressions)
VI.    The Non-Commercial
VII.  The Exploiters and the Exploited
(extra bit: VII. The Exploiters and the Exploited)
VIII. The John Galt Line
(extra bit: Atlas Shrugged theme)
IX.    The Sacred and the Profane
X.      Wyatt’s Torch
(extra bit: Kurt Vonnegut short stories)

Part II: Either-Or
I.       The Man Who Belonged on Earth
II.     The Aristocracy of Pull
III.    White Blackmail
(extra bit: Atlas Shrugged in the news)
IV.    The Sanction of the Victim
(extra bit from President Obama)
(extra bit on John Galt)
(extra bit on Greek Mythology)
V.      Account Overdrawn
VI.    Miracle Metal
VII.  The Moratorium on Brains
VIII. By Our Love
IX.    The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt
(extra musings)
X.     The Sign of the Dollar

Part III: A is A
I.      Atlantis
II.    The Utopia of Greed
III.   Anti-Greed
IV.   Anti-Life
V.    Their Brothers’ Keepers
VI.   The Concerto of Deliverance
VII.  “This is John Galt Speaking”
VIII. The Egoist
IX.    The Generator
X.      In the Name of the Best Within Us

It would make a really fabulous book club book or the subject of a college seminar.

That said, it is also a book in desperate need of an editor to smooth out some of the rough patches and it showcases a conflict between two sets of irrational idiots: spoiled children on one side and vengeful true-believers on the other side. For the most part, I didn’t like or respect any of the characters. Both sides would come out with statements, some of which I agreed with, most of which I disagreed with, but would then back them up with the wrong arguments. Continue reading

Atlas Shrugged (Part 3, Chapters 8-10)

By Ayn Rand

Cover: Atlas ShruggedChapter 7 broke me, people. I only got through it with a generous bribe of Starbucks. I would go into the Starbucks, get my mocha, and force myself to sit there and read Chapter 7 until I’d finished at least 15 pages. You are lucky that Rebecca recapped that section because my idea was to just post:

Atlas Shrugged (Part 3, Chapter 7): tl;dr

Anyway, I’ve gathered the shards of my broken psyche together enough to just get through the final three chapters for you, dear readers. They were actually pretty fast-paced and action-filled, and I would have enjoyed them a lot more before my aforementioned breakdown. Continue reading

Atlas Shrugged, part 3, chapter 7

AtlasShruggedSection 3, Chapter 7: “This is John Galt Speaking”

Writing up this chapter gave me a sharp reminder that this blog is a book-review blog rather than a philosophy forum. Anna has had to hold me back from writing a 500-page response rebutting this chapter, line by line. Reading this chapter was an exercise in patience, allowing a mixture of irrationality, hypocrisy, and lies to just pass on by me.

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Atlas Shrugged, part 3, chapter 6

AtlasShruggedSection 3, Chapter 6: The Concerto of Deliverance

This chapter is a lot more palatable than the last one. The bad guys are just as irrationally hypocritical as the good guys, but they are acknowledged as bad guys, and someone finally addresses their logical flaws directly, verbally, and to their faces. Thank you! Reading this book and being inundated by irrational philosophy from all sides has really increased my argumentativeness (rarely in short supply to begin with.) This chapter, though, successfully refutes a lot of the proposed idiocy by itself without needing me to do so. For the first time in the whole book, there is a serious demonstration of someone promoting rationality and logic. I approve.

I think the first two-thirds of this chapter go up there with the scenes of the first train ride on the John Galt line and of Dagny’s aerial chase as being parts of this book that I actively enjoyed.

So, without further ado:

A summary of the events of the chapter, and then some brief discussion of a few specific points.

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Atlas Shrugged, part 3, chapter 5

AtlasShruggedPart 3, Chapter 5: Their Brother’s Keepers

The sheer hypocrisy of this book is wearing me down. The reader is given in-depth looks at the thought-processes of our protagonists. The protagonists have full-life backstories and motivations and ambitions. The lack of similar detail for the antagonists and secondary/tertiary characters is not only reasonable but necessary given the limits of a book. But to then denigrate and scorn the antagonists/secondary/tertiary characters FOR THE EXACT SAME ACTIONS as the protagonists BECAUSE THEY LACK ANY STATED MOTIVE infuriates me.

Arg! This chapter is an illustration of the phrase: “We judge others by their actions but judge ourselves by our intentions.”

Anyway, first there is a description of the events of this chapter, and then a series of five brief rants, mostly centered around hypocrisy.

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Atlas Shrugged (Section 3, Chapters 3 and 4)

By Ayn Rand

Cover: Atlas ShruggedMuch appreciation for Rebecca, who took over for me for Chapter 2 this week since I fell so far behind in my reading because of my head cold. Also, I found Section 3’s first two chapters, set in Galt’s Gulch (yeah, that’s what they call it – try it out loud) almost unbearable. You know how hearing someone describe a dream is pretty much the most tedious thing ever? It was that for over a hundred pages.

This weekend, however, I was on a strict schedule of reading in order to catch up, and I’ve plowed through Chapters 3 and 4, which were thankfully back in the quickly decaying outside world and much more to my liking. Continue reading

Atlas Shrugged, part 3, chapter 2

AtlasShruggedPart 3, chapter 2: The Utopia of Greed

There’s a weird dichotomy in this whole book between what the characters are actually doing and what they (and Rand) describe them as doing.

The level of hypocrisy is pretty much on par between the good guys and the bad guys, it’s just that Ayn Rand castigates the bad guys for their hypocrisy while joining the good guys in theirs. The good guys are also happier with their hypocrisy, which makes me happy. While I sure would appreciate a few sincere people, I definitely prefer happy hypocrites to unhappy hypocrites.

Plus, I also prefer people who act in a way I can support, even if they mouth words I disagree with, to people who mouth words I agree with while acting in a way I dislike. Thus, even though Ayn Rand is saying “Greed is Good,” what she’s actually showing is closer to Marianne Williamson’s quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

— Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles

This, I can agree with whole-heartedly.

Be successful, not by dragging other people down but by building yourself up. Yes!

Anyway, the summary is going to be vague because it’s less a series of events and more a lot of description and philosophy. After that, I’ll have a few comments and a small rant.

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