Thursday, January 06, 2005

Aaron Shrugged

I "read" six audiobooks over the past months, and today I begin a series of book reports with the novel I least enjoyed: Ayn Rand's stiff, heavy-handed, telegraphic, stark-raving right-wing diatribe of a novel, "Atlas Shrugged." My curiosity dated from my teen years, when the dog-eared paperback lay in my parents' basement. That back cover intrigued me with questions such as "Why did a philosopher become a pirate? Why did a brilliant businessman become a worthless playboy, and why does he fight his greatest battle against the woman he desperately loves?" However, the book's epic length dissuaded me.

Rand believes that the talented elite drives all human progress and that selfishness and profit are this elite's natural reward. In "Shrugged," this elite 'goes on strike' when the 'looters' of socialism force them to use their talent only to satisfy other people's needs, rather than their own profit; this 'strike' brings the world to a halt. Political objections aside, I think "Shrugged" is bad literature and is better filed under "philosophy." This is because the characters behave like walking concepts and principles, not flesh and blood human beings - the heroes and villains are cartoonish, and given to long expository speeches that underscore Rand's beliefs. Though "Shrugged" is breathlessly paced, and vividly written, its propagandistic stridency was too much for me, and I myself "shrugged" and abandoned ship after 7 of the 10 CDs.

Rand's pro-capitalist fervor made her a hero of the right during their long dark exile in the FDR and post-FDR era (1933-1980), until captialism was championed by Reaganism-Thatcherism and perhaps vindicated by collapse of the cold war. But oddly, "Shrugged" seems even more cartoonish today, since it goes so far to the other extreme - even George W. Bush might be too liberal for this late lady.

this entry's permalink
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?