Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged?

Just a quick note to let people know that I do plan to eventually return to the Atlas Shrugged project. The problem is that I have moved and I can't find my copy of the book. At some point I'll break down and buy another one. But spending money on that trash weighs heavy on my heart and there are so many good books to read...

that having been said, to the jackasses on the Dune forum who were talking about me behind my back? Frank Herbert still couldn't write his way out of a paper bag. Dune is bad because the story stripped of the admittedly wonderful sci fi setting is predictable and boring, the quality of the prose is extremely poor, and the characters are wooden and one dimensional. there's much better space opera out there. Or at least there ought to be because really, there isn't.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1, Pages 12-18: Enter Mary Sue Rosenbaum

In 1973 Paula Smith, the editor of a Star Trek Fanzine, wrote a story called "A Trekkie's Tale" as a satire of the kind of strange wish fulfilling fan fiction that she received from people writing themselves in to the crew of the Starship Enterprise. The story featured a character named "Mary Sue" who was a fifteen and a half year old wunderkind who in the course of a few brief paragraphs earns Captain Kirk's love, Mr. Spock's respect, is revealed to be half vulcan, and then runs the whole ship while the main characters from the TV show are languishing with a sickness. In the end she dies of the sickness herself, mourned by the entire crew, and is given her own "national holiday" aboard the enterprise. The story spawned the term "Mary Sue" as a pejorative term for an authorial surrogate whose primary purpose is to live out the fantasies of the author in a fictional world. This criticism has worked its way into the sort of collective unconscious of amateur writing, and admonitions to avoid writing Mary Sue characters is well known in the fan fiction world.

The Open Sentence: A Statement Masquerading as a Manifesto

I say this now because as I'm continuing to write my extended, in depth criticism of Atlas Shrugged, there are going to be times when the close reading will require the engagement of aesthetic rather than political or philosophical concerns. As I'm trying to show that it is the worst book ever written, it is necessary to take on not only the bad ideas in the book and the quality of the storytelling, but also the quality of the craftsmanship at the level of the language. In order that people know where I'm coming from, I figured it would be better to lay it all out here in a brief abstract rather than have to constantly re-state things about what I think makes for good and bad writing within each individual piece.

In writing, where the content is not primarily concerned with the communications of facts or criticism of some form whether it be literal or cultural—that is to say, where it is not political/philosophical treatise, some sort of non-fiction, or the interpretation of other work—I take to be primitive several statements by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Among them:

"Philosophy ought to be written only as a form of poetry."

"What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence."

"What can be shewn cannot be said."

"There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical."

"We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense conditions are ideal, but also, because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk, therefore we need friction. Back to the rough ground."

"If a lion could speak, we could not understand him."

"In a large number of cases, though not for all, the meaning of a word is it's use in a language-game."

Atlas Shrugged update

JF Quackenbush will not be posting an Atlas Shrugged update today because he is too damn sick of reading the book and cannot read anymore at the moment. Please stay tuned.

We should all give thanks to Mr. Quackenbush for reading this crap so we don't have to.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1, Pages 3-12: Who is John Galt?

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is the worst book ever published. The characters are poorly drawn, the story is ridiculous, the philosophical underpinnings are incoherent and morally repugnant, and the writing is incompetent. Quite frankly and put as simply as I possibly can, there is no value to this book, it should not be read by anyone for any reason. And yet it is. By millions. It has sold a bajillion copies and is a touchstone of political thought for a wide swath of the American public who for some reason have come to the conclusion that it has something to offer. I offer in return the thesis that these people are fucking idiots. As a public service in order that no one else should ever have to read this garbage, I am undertaking the following analysis, in detail, of the book in its entirety, page by excruciatingly awful page. If you're interested in following along, it will be useful to know that all page references and quotations are from the 1999 Plume Paperback edition with a new introduction by Leonard Peikoff. But I discourage anyone from following along. It's my hope that this summary and close reading will be more entertaining than the actual text, and that one can read this instead of ever having to suffer through the actual book.