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.
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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.
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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.