In Lieu of Books . . . Links

Last week everything I had on hold at the library came in all at once, and every single book is big and giant and something I desperately want to read (Clockwork Princess! Life After Life! The Interestings!). So right now I’m wishing I could take a few days off work to hibernate with my books. While I make way through my teetering pile of hardback novels, here are a couple of links where you can actually read new content.

I first stumbled across the Bookavore tumblr when someone linked to a series she did on getting organized. That may sound like the dullest thing you could read on the internet, but it was actually fascinating and personal and helpful. Then I realized that the the author, who used to work in a bookstore and is now at a library, is a fantastic source of book recommendations. Maybe it’s a professional requirement, but she reads a much broader range of things than I do, so when I follow her guidance I end up places I never expected. For example, I just finished reading Sum It Up, the autobiography of Pat Summitt, the incredibly successful coach of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team. Does that sounds dull? IT IS NOT. I originally read it because Bookavore said it was really a book on how to manage people, which it is, but also Pat Summit is a kind of superhero. I would highly recommend both Sum It Up and Bookavore.

The second link might be my new favorite thing on the Internet. After a friend and I had a conversation this week about The Great Gatsby, she sent me a link to an article about Zelda Fitzgerald. The article is smart and informative, but also fun, which I think comes across in its title: Zelda Fitzgerald – Just A Total Mess Or What? It’s actually part of a series called Shelved Dolls, which I believe is about misunderstood/ignored women in history, from an online magazine called The Gloss. The other Shelved Dolls articles I read were great too, including this one that is relevant to Biblio-theray: Ayn Rand – I’m Going To Make You Like Her. Now, I’ve not thoroughly vetted The Gloss, so I don’t want to make any blanket claims, but it seems like a smarter, less obnoxious version of Jezebel. Which would be a good thing, because I used to adore Jezebel but don’t read anymore, since at some point it started to feel like getting yelled at about celebrities and the worst kind of sensational news stories. I intend to read more of the Gloss and see if it can fill my need for fun, informational, feminist news source, even if I still don’t like Ayn Rand.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

AtlasShruggedAtlas Shrugged
By Ayn Rand

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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Atlas Shrugged, part 3, chapter 1

Part 3, Chapter 1


Just… I can’t even…

Ha-ha-ha! Ha! Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha!

This is awesome. It is so incredibly ludicrous. This is John Galt’s solution? Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha!


It’s just, okay, the internal contradictions are pretty extreme, ranging from specifics to whole societal structures.

For some non-spoilery specific examples:

“There were no superfluous objects, but she noticed a small canvas by a great master of the Renaissance, worth a fortune, she noticed an Oriental rug of a texture and color that belonged under glass in a museum.” (I don’t think “superfluous” means what she thinks it means. Plus, it’s a run-on sentence.)

“The streets were empty when I left that theater, I was the last one to leave—and I saw a man whom I had never seen before, waiting for me in the light of a lamppost.” (How many people does it take to have a street not be empty?)

Anyway, first a summary of events, short and sweet:

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Atlas Shrugged, part 2, chapter 10

AtlasShruggedIn many ways, this book reminds me of reading Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. I read that book as assigned reading in college and it was just painful. It was well written, but that actually made the pain worse, because I spent several hours reading about this one character making bad decision after bad decision. Up until the very end, there was always a chance for her to change directions, to fix her problems, or at least mitigate them.  She just never managed to act on those chances.

I see Dagny in much the same way. She has these opportunities to turn things around. She has the connections and the opportunities to force people—in industry, in government, and in the general population—to listen to her.  These opportunities keep on coming up and she wastes them, time and time again. It’s painful to read.

The one time that she actually deigns to explain herself, back when she was introducing the John Galt line to the press, she explains herself in the most useless way possible.  (A hint: if you’re trying to convince either a person or a large group of people to side with you, explain why it is to their benefit to do so rather than to your own. For instance, don’t write a job application saying why you need a job, write a job application saying why the company needs you.) For all that Dagny and Rearden look downs at the idiot masses in this book who beg for money and goods, they don’t do anything different themselves when they talk about money and profit.

Anyway, I think this may all be over! This is the last chapter of the second section and not only does it contain my second favorite scene so far (right after Dagny’s ride on the first train on the John Galt line), it sets up the next section to be quite different. I am very excited.

First a summary of events:

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