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Author Topic: Ayn Rand
rcorporon
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I'm about to start reading "Atlas Shrugged," and was wondering if anybody here has read anything by Rand. I haven't, and "Atlas" will be my introduction into her world.
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TaleSpinner
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I have never even heard of her and I think I should probably be ashamed of that. Ayn and her books sound interesting (if long--sustaining interest might be a challenge) so thanks for mentioning her.

Pat


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Robert Nowall
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Also her philosophical writings pale compared to the cult she founded based on them. It's said that it was like living in a Communist cell, but without the FBI agents. (Alan Greenspan was reportedly one of the ringleaders.) It was popular for a while, but foundered on the personal quirks and pecadillos of Rand and her closest associates. The cult schismed (if that's the right word), a lot of members fell away (including Greenspan), and Rand died. It continues at a much-reduced level.

Some of the details make for fascinating reading in their own right. For instance, Rand was a chain-smoker, and the members smoked in imitation of her...also, she had a thick accent, and it's something to behold when her followers try to speak like her...


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arriki
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I read one book by Rand, and it was ATLAS SHRUGGED. That was thirty (?) years ago and I still remember parts. The name, John Galt, for one. He was the hero I believe. I didn't quite buy the idea of the "real" workers finding a place to retreat to, but then, this was written a long time ago when maybe -- with advanced tech -- it might have been possible.

It reminds me of several sf short stories (I think they weren't novels) about something related -- the world overtaken by stupid people and the "real" workers, kind of like Wells' morlocks living hidden away. The pov character, when asked, was directed to go down to the bathroom attendant to find information...the real rulers...something. Can't remember what precisely.

Oh, wasn't THE MARCHING MORONS a novel by Pohl (?) along the same idea?


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Robert Nowall
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Kornbluth, not Pohl...
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arriki
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Thank you. It's a paperback and buried in bookcases full of old paperbacks. I can't even remember the story...or...wait, was that a collection of Kornbluth's short stories?
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psnede
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Funny, I just started reading Atlas a couple of days ago. I'm only 70 pages in or so, but it is interesting so far. It seems like a pretty easy read, which is good considering its length.
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rcorporon
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I'm 50 or so pages into Atlas Shrugged, and even though I know that I don't agree with Rand's personal philosophy (Marxism can't reconciled with capitalism in any way, shape or form, "rational self interest" or not).

I'm enjoying it so far, and the writing is easy to read.


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KStar
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I'm not a fan of hers. Maybe because I once read a book called "This Boys Life" and she was in the book, and I couldn't stand her character? Yes, that must be why. I read "Atlas Shrugged" about five years ago, but hardly remember it.

[This message has been edited by KStar (edited January 24, 2008).]


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madsjchic
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atlas shrugged is def epic. i read it about a year ago, and it changed my entire perspective on what our society would probably dub grotesque selfishness. toward the middle/end there got to be some monologues that when on for pages and pages and pages, and i'm ashamed to say, i kind of skimmed once i got past the third page o a speech.....
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kingtermite
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I really like the few books by Ayn Rand I've read. I first discovered here when I was "forced" to read her book "Anthem" in high school. It really moved me and is still a tie for my favorite book of all time.

I tried reading "Atlas Shrugged" when I was about 19, but it was too deep for me. I later listened to it via "book on tape" during long drives and was AMAZED at the depth of the story. It's probably the most complex plot and story that I've ever read. I'd guess there are 50-100 major characters, but it is a phenomenal story.

You don't have to agree with her philosophy (she makes Ronald Reagan look like a liberal) to enjoy her stories.


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Swordsman
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Never been able to slog through ATLAS SHRUGGED but THE FOUNTAINHEAD I've read three times (approx. ages 15, 30 & 50) enjoying it more with each subsequent reading. Maybe a little preachy with a super unrealistic ending (SPOILER: the architect hero dynamites an (empty) apartment building he designed for an inept architect with the proviso nothing in the design would be changed, the inept architect changed the balconies slightly, and a court of law finds the hero not guilty because his principles were compromised: END SPOILER).

ANTHEM is sci-fi, LOGAN'S RUN took Rand's premise from ANTHEM and improved on it.

[This message has been edited by Swordsman (edited September 16, 2008).]


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Robert Nowall
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quote:
and a court of law finds the hero not guilty because his principles were compromised

And they say science fiction is unbelievable!


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Reagansgame
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Ayn Rand is inspirational. I read Atlas Shrugged when I was seventeen and had just joined the army and moved 3000 miles from home. I can't belive I'm about to say this, but... Atlas Shrugged changed my life.... or at least my perspective.

Very empowering for the ladies.


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debhoag
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Ayn Rand was a white russian who escaped the pograms with her family. Her hatred of communism was based on personal experience as a child, and she was never able to develop an objective stance (although I'm sure she would think we are the ones who are not objective). She was famous for wearing a fancy black cape around new york that had green dollar signs all over it (for capitalism). She had quite the scandalous life and had a very public affair with Nathaniel Brandon, who is now about 200 hundred and still travels and speaks about his life with Ayn. (I saw him at a mental health conference last year-he's a psychologist).
Her books got really popular during the cold war, and Robert Heinlein refers to the "Randists" in several of his book, as a very right wing political party.
The Fountainhead, one of her earlier books, was based loosely on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was made into a movie starring . . . Cary Grant? I think.
And there are rumors that a movie of Atlas Shrugged is in the works with Angelina Jolie starring as Dagny Taggart (the heroine and lover of the aforementioned John Galt). She was a great proponent of a kind of intellectual/Entrepenurial caste system, the abolishment of government assistance for the poor and needy, and for equality for women.
She was scary, cool, dangerous and flamboyant. At fourteen, I thought she was about the smartest woman on the planet.

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Swordsman
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debhoag, the Howard Roark/Frank Lloyd Wright connection in THE FOUNTAINHEAD is so obscure it's a pleasure to find someone else who knows about it. The Roark character has more in common with Wright's style of architectural composition than his life; he was a rich, respected, famous man in his lifetime, the Roark character wound up that way in the book but he enjoyed none of Wright's early success.

On a side note Gail Wynand, the tycoon publisher character in THE FOUNTAINHEAD, was similarly fashioned after William Randolph Hearst.

Gary Cooper is cast as Roark in the movie, an exact duplication of the book with the dogma excised.

THE FOUNTAINHEAD novel is a wealth of riches. Each time I re-read it I think it's gonna be trite and tired, but it's gripping. And I know what's gonna happen!

[This message has been edited by Swordsman (edited September 16, 2008).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I couldn't finish ATLAS SHRUGGED, even though I wanted to find out "Who is John Galt?"
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Swordsman
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John Galt's speech at the end of ATLAS SHRUGGED must be 40 pages in the Signet edition; Roark's speech at the end of THE FOUNTAINHEAD is about a tenth of that. I've read the Galt speech and maybe it just didn't have the punch because I hadn't read the preceding 800 pages but it was yawn inducing---if you'll pardon my warty exterior.

When I was 15 I respected Ayn Rand ALMOST as much as Mickey Spillane and that's high praise indeed. And I much prefer Rand to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and I'll suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for saying as much. But I've read them all, but never if I hadn't been a wannabe serious novelist. Except for Spillane of course.

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debhoag
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Nah, Roark isn't the Fountainhead guy. He's the Atlas Shrugged guy. I can't remember the name of the guy in Fountainhead, but Wright actually was arrested once, I think, for sabatoging a building site that changed his design.

And Kathleen, you reveal what a well-adjusted childhood you had if you didn't get into Atlas Shrugged. It was a major hit with disaffected nerdy youth who thought the social hierarchy should depend on IQ. Although, in a lot of ways, she was talking about codependency, which I think is part of the reason she hooked up with Nathanial Brandon, who was then a very young psychologist. She was in her forties or fifties, and left her husband for him. It was quite the scandal. One of the first cougars.

I loved Galt's big rave. I think it was actually eight pages, but the bit about how cigarettes were the ultimate symbol of man's triumph over our caveman ancestry - I bet I read that a couple of hundred times. I thought it was the best, ever. Mostly when I was feeling very, very sorry for myself. Then I found Robert Heinlein, and life changed.

[This message has been edited by debhoag (edited September 16, 2008).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Heinlein had a life-changing effect on me, too, at one point.
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Swordsman
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Nah, Roark is the Fountainhead guy. Galt's the Atlas Shrugged guy. You might want to double check the books, deb.
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debhoag
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You're right, I'm an idiot. It was Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged. but I did pick up a nifty quote on The Fountainhead:
"Man's ego is the fountainhead of human progress."
And it was Gary Cooper that played Roark in Fountainhead.

[This message has been edited by debhoag (edited September 17, 2008).]


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Robert Nowall
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Well, Heinlein's Space Cadet is the fulcrum on which my life turns...
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Brad R Torgersen
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On Ayn....

Rand's two best-known works, "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged", are somewhat Freudian, in that both books feature central female protagonists that are independent, wealthy, powerful, willful women, and yet each of these women ultimately yearns to be "taken" by an even more powerful and willful, not to mention creative, male protagonist.

For "Shrugged" it was Hank Rearden, the metalurgist genius and steel industry magnate.

In the case of "Fountainhead", it was Roark, the architectural genius.

Both men were specifically "self made" and were often contrasted with other male characters, all of whom suffered some kind of Wimp Syndrome that made them whiny, catty, cowardly, craven, or otherwise lacking in Rand's preferred blend of Moral Fiber.

Personally, I couldn't read either book all the way through. Rand tended to hit you between the eyes with The Moral Message, and never let up. Her worlds she paints are bleak, on the downward spiral, and populated by ugly, petty human beings whose only purpose seems to be that of sabotaging the lone, brave, sexy protagonists who stand, "athwart history, yelling 'Stop!'", as William F. Buckley once said.

But the longevity of Rand's work is evidence that her Moral Message does ring true in many ways, even today.

Given the truly craven nature of certain 21st century politicans, and certain corporate and business leaders, as well as the creep of Statism (corporate bailouts anyone?) it would seem Rand will continue to speak to many readers in ways that go beyond mere fiction entertainment.


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debhoag
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It's contextual, I think. I loved her writing when I was younger. A lot, lot younger. But she was writing as society was wrestling with what funding social programs would mean, with income tax, and as a childhood escapee from the revolution in Russia. People were worrying about the cold war, about communism and fascism, and she gave them what they wanted - because she had bushels of it - in a very clear and strong voice. She rather reminds me of you, actually. Not your opinions, but your strength of expression. So it kind of tickles me that you don't see that.
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Ruskin
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Ayn Rand is considered by many to be the Ann Coulter of the 50s and 60s. Simply put, her philosophy was that a person should be as rich as he is able; that if a person makes something that is truly beneficial to mankind, he should sell it for an extraordinary amount of money, because that's what he deserves. At the same time she criminalizes people who think that the "sweat of a man's brow" should be for the benefit of all. Where Marx was the extreme of generosity and sharing, Rand is the extreme of selfishness and ambition. She's very, very good at playing devil's advocate and reading Atlas Shrugged (which I am also in the middle of) has sparked some very interesting debates with my friends.

Frankly I agree with her to a degree, though I don't think any modern businessmen prescribe to her philosophy, as they would rather disable their rivals' ability to compete than to produce something worth competing with.


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debhoag
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amazing but true:

http://www.johngaltgifts.com/


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Robert Nowall
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I'm borderline disgusted.
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Wordmerchant
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I own and have continue to read extensively everything Rand wrote. Ultimately, her vision of laissez-faire capitalism is as pie in the sky utopian and unworkable as communism, socialism or any other ism I can think of. Her concept of morality and self actualization is where her ideas become interesting and, for me, useful.

As a fiction writer, she leaves a lot to be desired, as her characters are without exception one dimensional archetypes of specific traits she deems either desirable or undesirable. As people, they are unbelievable, but her desire was to make a specific philosophical point, not accurate depictions.

Philosophers should not dress their ideas up in fictional guises.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Or as Sam Goldwyn (of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studios) is supposed to have said, "if you want to send a message, use Western Union."
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Robert Nowall
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Well, I've never been able to do more than browse through Rand's works in bookstores, but I gather from commentaries that her heroes are all serious chain smokers. I'd be hard put to find something in real life that I'd find less appetizing...
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psnede
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Looking above, my first reply on this topic was back in January. At the time, I had just started Atlas. Since then I have finished that novel and am just finishing up the Fountainhead (60 pgs left).

I am absolutely fascinated with Rand's writing. While her style may leave a little to be desired, I find the novels highly readable and Atlas is perhaps the best "plotted" novel I have read.

I find it humorous that many object to the projection of her philosophy in her writing. While she is more blatant than most, I constantly see an author's viewpoint being expressed in his/her writing. Just because one doesn't agree with it doesn't mean that the author was wrong for writing it.


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