Monday, December 07, 2009

Old Book, New Book #14: Atlas Shrugged -> The Dark Frigate

Atlas Shrugged

It's over! Our long national personal nightmare is over! And by that I mean that on Friday after work, I finally finished reading Atlas Shrugged, a book I started reading back in March. I know. 9 months seems like a ridiculously long time to be reading a book (we'll save the discussion of how it's taken me 12 months to read Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus for another day). But here's the thing: Atlas Shrugged doesn't fall into the same category as most books. In fact, I'd say that in many ways, the plot points of Atlas Shrugged serve as a framework for Ms. Rand to present a collection of essays, thinly veiled as the kinds of things that a character in a novel might possibly say. Which means that the plot moves along at a relatively snail's pace. I would definitely not classify this book as a "page-turner". The speechify-ing reached its pinnacle near the end when one of the character proceeds to make a speech that lasts for 70 pages.

That said, I wouldn't say this was a "bad" book, or that, for the most part, I didn't enjoy reading it. It just didn't have a lot to make me hurry back and see how things turned out.

In reading Atlas Shrugged, I think what I will take away is a stronger conviction that governmental redistribution of wealth is not good for the country, and a bit of a change in philosophy about the wealthy. This change had already begun when, during President Obama's campaign, he would often ask if anyone in the audience made more than $200,000. Because he was only going to raise taxes on those people. Because that's too much money, I guess. And anyone who makes that much money must be a bad person and deserve to be punished. In reality, probably because there are fewer voters who fall into that group than not. (Kind of like how the AARP is going to bankrupt America's future because young people don't vote). I can understand that people who make more money can afford to pay more taxes, but a flat tax would also provide that. Anyway, the idea that taking money away from people who worked to earn it and giving it to people who didn't seems pretty unfair. I know I'm certainly oversimplifying things a lot, and I can understand there are many shades of gray here that I'm glossing over. Just trying to summarize a bit of the thoughts that I had while reading this book.

I'm not sure I would wholeheartedly recommend this book. Ayn Rand's got to have a shorter book somewhere that does a better of job of describing her philosophy succinctly. Haven't read the Fountainhead. Maybe that one does.

The Dark Frigate

In any case, it feels good to have finished Atlas Shrugged. Maybe I can enjoy some lighter reading for a bit now. The next book I started is "The Dark Frigate", the next of the Newbery Medal winners that I happened to pick up last time I was at the library. Not as famous as the other two that I've recently read. In fact, in trying to find a decent link for it to put in the my sidebar book list (way down at the bottom), I had to look hard for a paperback edition that was still in print. Anyway, I just found it on the shelf at my local library, so if you wanted to read it, I assume it'd be relatively easy to find.

Another old one, written the year after The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle. It appears to be the story of a young man, recently orphaned who gets into some pirating adventures. Had never heard of it prior to looking at the list of award winners. Guess I'll find out why.


CJ said...

The Fountainhead is about 750 pages, depending on the version, so... :)

j said...

So...about 450 pages shorter than Atlas Shrugged. :)

Dopp Family said...

Okay, so I read about the the first 5 pages of the 70 page philosphy lecture by John Galt. I said I'd go back and read it, but it's looking doubtful. It is a good book, but it can take a long time (took me 2 months). I'm planning to read the Fountainhead so I'll let you know. Good summary on it... My husband is trying to read it now and it's definitely no Ender's Game. :)

Sakievich said...

Atlas Shrugged was never intended to be regular literature, but a vehicle to demonstrate the various facets of Ayn Rand's Objectivism philosophy. It's a book that continues to disturb me when I read the news or listen to people talk about what's owed them. I've read Atlas Shrugged, the Fountainhead, We the Living and Anthem. The Fountainhead is about maintaining integrity in the face of monetary gain and popular fame. It's a favorite of artists, since it's about an architect. We the Living is a fictional narrative about the transition from revolutionary Russia to communist Russia and it's various corruptions. This was something she personally witnessed, since she was born, raised and educated there before emigrating to the USA. The book is seen as a quasi autobiography. Anthem is a Dystopian book in the vein of 1984 or Brave New World. It's about a future where there is no individual, everyone refers to themselves as "we". Until one person breaks loose. These last two are much much shorter.

Technically speaking...I've only "read" We the Living, the others I've listened to from my audible account.

There's a lot that I love about Rand's philosophy and there are several things that I don't (atheism being one of them). She herself was an odd duck. What I love most is her ideals of integrity in the pursuit of positive self interest (she has a book called the Virtue of Selfishness that I'd like to read) and how that search can benefit so many people. People tend to focus on money when they critique her, but self interest for her is not always monetary. It has more with being able to do the work you want to do, to achieve your values. Money is a recompense and is there for the equal exchange of values. It holds no worth except for your ability to develop it into the expression of your values.

Anyway, that's my two bits. I'll shut up now.

Julie said...

I am so proud of you....for finishing the book, not for starting the next newberry book.

Jon said...

Great review! I think politics would be a lot different if more people at least considered the economy from that point of view.