All shrugged out

I MET AYN Rand, briefly, at a talk she gave in 1963. It was in a smallish meeting room in a second-floor walk-up in San Francisco. I was 19 years old.

I do not recall the circumstances of being there. I had not read Rand and only knew she was famous, and the talk was free. She was there with her sidekick Nathaniel Brandon.

Flash forward more than half a century. About a month ago, I decided to read Atlas Shrugged, her magnum opus. I skipped the warm-up novel, The Fountainhead, which is somewhat less wordy, and went directly to the 1,188-page Shrug.

One of my few conscious objectives on retiring 17 years ago was to read more books. I have always been a reader, but I decided to do even more. Before retiring, I had generally avoided extremely long books for no better reason than shiftlessness.

Plus, it interfered with my drinking.

Since moving over the Rio Bravo, however, and sobering up, I turned to some really lengthy works. War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, etc.

All great books and, brother, are they long.

Tolstoy, I like. Dostoyevsky, not so much. I bogged down in Crime and Punishment. I made even less progress with One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I tried to read long before moving to Mexico. Maybe I should try again, but doubt I will.

Back to Ayn Rand. She’s famous, so I thought I should read her main work. I bought it on Kindle for under $5.

And I dove right in.

A wag described Rand’s works as twice as long as phone books and half as interesting. Shrug was interesting enough to hold my attention but just barely. A couple of times I decided to abandon the effort, but I soldiered on … and on … and on …

Until this week. I made it 67 percent of the way through. Kindle tells you that. I can go no further, pooped out.

Rand’s take on things is not complicated. She calls it Objectivism. You owe nobody anything, and nobody owes you anything. There is nothing metaphysical, no afterlife, no way to know anything except by reason. Your main interest should be yourself.

* * * *

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

* * * *

It was surprising to see her curse notions (in 1957) that today are known as political correctness. For instance, the requirement to embrace the “correct” opinions and even, to a degree, the proper personal pronouns.

Rand and I do, however, share quite a few values of the libertarian stripe —  an aversion to taxes, a love of capitalism, minimal government and a dislike of obligatory altruism, something that should be a personal choice.

But I also believe in an afterlife. Rand did not.

Rand and I are polar opposites of Pocahontas Warren, Red Bernie, Crooked Hillary, Screaming Dean, Weepy Barry and all the other heroes of today’s Democrat Party, the party of income redistribution and pink “pussy hats.”

But if you’re ever tempted to read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, I suggest you go instead to CliffsNotes.

22 thoughts on “All shrugged out”

  1. Never tackled Atlas but did plow through The Fountainhead, and I remember it being terribly repetitive. She introduces the architect guy and you pretty much get her thesis in the first third of the book, but she keeps going on and on and on, pretty much driving a four-inch nail into your skull, ever so slowly.

    I got a kick reading about Paul Ryan once giving out copies of, I think, Atlas Shrugged to his staff as if it were a sort of scripture. Problem is that Rand was a true libertarian who was in favor of abortion, gay rights and many other nuggets that the evangelical GOP nowadays would gag on. She really believed in the rights of the individual. She was a mean atheist and proud of it.

    If you want to read some libertarian tract that’s not so heavy-duty, try some of Milton Friedman’s books, such as Freedom to Choose.

    I have read about and appreciated libertarianism. It would surprise you. I even have a picture of myself at the GOP convention in NY that nominated Barry Goldwater.

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    1. Señor Lanier: The four-inch nail into the skull is pretty much where I was when I reached the 67 percent point. I’m rather surprised I made it that far.

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  2. I agree. Everything Ayn has to say could be summed in one chapter. If you want the long version, get CliffsNotes.
    BTW, sometime back a comment posted an interview of her with Mike Wallace. While I agree with most of her libertarian politics, I did find her kind of nutty on others.

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    1. Carlos: Yes, Kim G. was the fellow who left the video here of the interview between Rand and Mike Wallace. And that was what got me thinking about reading her book. It was an interesting interview.

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  3. Every time I think that I don’t want go through the slight hassle to RV in Mexico again (insurance, mainly), you post something like this, and I say that we loved Patzcuaro so much, so we must return and another reason is: our Mexican friend Felipe.

    Felipe … a geographical cousin from Duval County in the same, long ago era. I was a Robert E. Lee High School guy, and Felipe … I forget. I guess they will soon bulldoze RE Lee High School, just because.

    OBTW: small world. Patzcuaro citizens have just opened a restaurant in my fair city: Lenoir, NC. It’s the real deal. I wish it had the views from Patzcuaro’s Rancho La Mesa.

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    1. Steve: Yes, we talked about this way back. My sister went to Lee High, and I went to Terry Parker. As far as Lee High is concerned, if they don’t tear it down they’ll have to at least change the name to something other than that of a Rebel general. Just not acceptable anymore.

      Small world indeed. I wonder how my neighbors happened to land in Lenoir, N.C. Enjoy the tacos!

      Thanks for the nice words, and buy the insurance.

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  4. Never have made it through either.

    Currently reading “The Civil War” by Shelby Foote. They say it took him seven years to write it. It may take me that long to read it.

    Nevertheless, Shelby was one hell of a writer.

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    1. Ray: I just took a peek at that book(s) on Amazon. Three volumes, I see, and the first alone is 850 pages, so the grand total of three books will surpass the total of Atlas Shrugged by a tidy sum, I suspect. Never read anything by Shelby Foote (I am sometimes a lamentable Southerner) but it sounds like he has a more interesting grip on things than did Ayn Rand.

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  5. I have averaged reading two books a week most of my life until I moved to Mexico. I now only read about eight books a year which I find in a used bookstore. I will not read anything I do not enjoy.

    Fortunately, there is an enormous amount of reading material free online. Since I moved here I have vowed to experience life instead of reading about it.

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    1. Andrés: Just found this comment of yours mistakenly in the trash file. Who knows why?

      As for reading, I think you can both experience life and read about it too. They are not mutually exclusive. It’s not like we have full-time employment that eats up our hours.

      I recommend a Kindle to you, a wonderful device.

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  6. Please don’t get or stay too sober, amigo. It can take away all the reasons for being on the planet.

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    1. Ricardo: I’ve been sober as the proverbial judge since March 1996. As for it taking away all reasons for being on the planet, I found it did precisely the opposite. My life did a 180 and improved 1,000 percent.

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  7. I’ve made it through about a third of Atlas Shrugged a few times, but have never made it farther. But it’s still one of my goals, and someday, hopefully on the terrace of my future Mexico City penthouse, I’ll finish it.

    As for Objectivism, America was built more on such a philosophy than what is common these days. I’m all for enlightened self-interest. It’d be nice to see our culture push a smidgen back toward that, rather than the endless brother’s-keeper-statism that we’re now suffering through.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, Ca
    Where freedom is being celebrated today with lots of fire hazards.

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    1. Kim: Why you would want to keep struggling with that book is beyond me. The message is no mystery. It just keeps getting repeated ad nauseam. You are quite right that it was Objectivism — before it was called that — that made America great, to a large extent. I don’t see the U.S. tilting back in that direction. I see it continuing and worsening on its current course … right down the drain. I am not optimistic.

      I hope I am mistaken.

      Happy Fourth!

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