Wednesday, April 24, 2013

More Randiness

As I said, I couldn't resist reading the New Yorker's review of Atlas Shrugged before diving into the novel. I already knew the basic outline of the plot, but even so the review contains a few surprises, so


I had to LOL at this bit:
...with the country tumbling into ruins around their ears and armed marauders laying waste to whole states (the liberals) offer (John Galt) the post of Economic Dictator. He curtly declines. The desperate liberals, including Dagny's brother, are completely at a loss before a man like Galt. So they torture him.
"We want you to take over!... We want you to rule!... We order you to give orders!... We demand that you dictate!... We order you to save us!... We order you to think!..."
This sort of thing doesn't accomplish much. The electronic torture machine breaks down before Galt does (no fooling, these liberals can't do anything right), James Taggart goes out of his mind, and the Utopia branch of the N.A.M., revolvers drawn, dashes to the rescue, scattering terror and confusion through the ranks of the liberals.
"God damn you!" yelled the (liberal) chief, seized a gun with his left hand, and fired at the deserter. In time with the fall of the man's body, the window burst into a shower of glass - and from the limb of a tree, as from a catapult, the tall, slender figure of a man flew into the room, landed on its feet and fired at the first guard in reach. "Who are you? screamed some terror-blinded voice. "Ragnar Danneskjold."
I forgot to mention Danneskjold, because he is only a pirate. Anyway, John Galt and Dagny escape from the doomed world of liberalism and return to the valley of unfettered enterprise...
The bit "because he is only a pirate" killed me.

As I said, this is the last time The New Yorker mentioned Rand until 1995. No doubt after this review the New Yorker figured it was all up for Rand - who could take such literarily-challenged nutjob seriously?

Funny thing about that...  when they do finally mention her again in it's in "Twilight of the Goddess" marveling at how popular her work is after all these years:
Thirteen years after Rand's death, her books still sell more than three hundred thousand copies a year; "The Fountainhead," her slow-building blockbuster of 1943, was made an honorary Book-of-the-Month Club selection to mark half a century of unabating demand. But the size of her ever-renewing audience is only a part of the story. At a "Fountainhead" anniversary banquet held by the Ayn Rand Institute, nearly two hundred people paid a hundred and twenty-five dollars each to listen to excerpts from Rand's private letters, and to watch one another bid more than five thousand dollars for her blue-green metal ashtray with matching lighter and twenty-five thousand dollars for the manuscript of her last speech, for which Rand herself had been paid in gold. Throughout the festivities, responsibly conservative business executives, teachers, secretaries, lawyers, and a scattering of college students who'd been barely old enough to read at the time of Rand's death discussed the principles of heroic individualism by which she had taught them all to live..."
Speaking of delusional suckers, on one of the pages of the 1957 New Yorker review is this ad:

You just can't keep bad ideas down. 

And now it's time for that great quotation about novels that inspire cults (Krugman also likes to quote it):
-- There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.