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on April 19, 2004
Well this is a 1000 page novel that could easily have been 300. You know from the backcover of the novel all that will happen up to page 650, and you can guess the end from there.
Rand's voice and idea that collectivism was more brutal and inhuman than competition is interesting and valid, but I wonder why she tried to masquerade what is clearly a political manifesto behind a character story. Her characters are horrible from any artistic standpoint, they are inhuman themselves. The novel's view of humanity seems to be that you are either a useless, whining slob or a perfect independent specimen (note how all "bad" people are ugly, and usually fat). No middle. By the way I would love to hear one historical example of a genius inventor/administrator/financier/etc that Rand makes some 50 characters into. I can only assume she meant the story to be an allegory, but it is far to long for an allegory; and far to inhuman for a novel.
Even thought I agree in many aspects with Rand's thought I would truly wish for the novel to be more compact and less repetitious. This could truly have been another 1984 if it were 300 pages long instead.
The most excruciating moments of the novel seem to be when her superficial idealized (or demonized) characters discuss love or try to have an emotion. Other than that the ideas of truly meritocratic system of values is interesting (specially coming from the 50s), and for all its failed characterization the prose moves at a reasonable speed (although it goes nowhere at a reasonable speed most of the time). Sadly the fact that some comments on Amazon mention the "lack of a moral system" indicates how perhaps even 1000 pages of discussion wasn't enough to penetrate some pre-conceived ideas which she wished to challenge.
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on March 22, 2004
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, presents a story about the struggle between good and evil. In doing so, an entire philosophy about business and life is developed. This philosophy teaches that the mind is the ultimate tool and power of civilization, and that reason is the world's only constant. Economics especially is highlighted by these ideas. Rational self interest and the pursuit of success are shown to be the only way people can achieve happiness. Rand uses brilliant, motivated industrialists as her protagonists in order to show the evils of charity and collectivism. Her book succeeds in getting across her points because of the way she employs logic, reason and intelligence into her characters and their actions.
Who is John Galt? This strange question eventually comes to represent the central themes and events in this incredible book. Atlas Shrugged is mystery about the significance of this phrase and what it truly means. Telling the story of a railroad tycoon, a steel industrialist, an overly wealthy playboy, and several other characters, this book shows how they all play a part in the unraveling of the mystery.
Many of the ideas presented by Atlas Shrugged focus on the central importance of the mind in human civilization. The protagonist of the book is Dagny Taggert, a young, brilliant railroad owner who succeeds because of the way she overcomes her problems through rational thought. Most of the other main characters are also extremely intelligent businessmen who have gained their place in life because of the way they use their minds. These characters are contrasted by the "looters", people who expect to be carried by the successful people and seek moral sympathy because of their positions in life. In one passage Rand writes, "Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce(806). This is shown by Rand as the only real evil of the world. Rand's ideas of the difference between right and wrong is very black and white in this book. Characters are either good or they are bad and this judgment is usually based on how they use their minds. This sharp contrast is helpful in the book because it makes the ideas presented clearer, however it also makes it seem a bit less realistic. Overall the book does well at showing that the mind is the most important aspect and also the driving force behind civilization.
Rand's economic principles shine through very brightly in Atlas Shrugged. Capitalism and free trade are shown as the tools of success and happiness. Many of her ideas about how people should act towards themselves and others in dealing with money are also explained through the story. Charity is viewed as evil and degrading. In one point in the book, Rearden, an extremely successful industrialist, is asked by his mother if he will give his incompetent younger brother a job, just because he is his brother. Rearden then says, "Are you asking me to stage a fraud of that kind? I don't know what it is that you call morality. If I gave Philip a job, I wouldn't be able to face any competent man who needed work and deserved it(196-197)." In this book, personal achievement and self-interest are stressed as the right way to live while thinking of or giving to others is viewed as the root of evil. John Galt says at one point, "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine(622). Rand believes people have no obligation towards others, except to not impede on their rights of free will and self interest. In this way, selfish behavior is shown as a virtue, while giving to the undeserving is blamed as the source of many of society's problems. This idea is very different from what is normally taught and its uniqueness makes it interesting. Even though it may go against certain beliefs and moral values, the teachings of this book are hard not to share because of the reason and intelligence that Rand gives them.
Atlas Shrugged is well worth reading, even at 1100 pages, because of its intelligence and unique outlook on life. Everything in this book makes sense and is logical, even if you don't agree with it. Views and opinions are explained and backed up using the story as a guide. The way this book is written does not allow for someone to be neutral on what is put forth. Either you agree strongly with what is being said or you disagree strongly. Either way, Rand's writing is gripping and interesting. It forces you to think about what she is saying and form your own opinion about it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something that will make them use their intelligence.
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on March 15, 2004
Wow, this is nasty! I have to admire a writer passionate enough to say what she really believes, with absolutely no consideration for political correctness or intellectual fads. It reminds you that there was once a time when it was OK to create dialogue with offense. It's crude, but it's fascinating. Now, you'll hate this book if you think the term 'conservative intellectual' is an oxymoron. That's basically it in a nutshell. If you think that, by definition, intellectuals MUST be open-minded, politically-correct, liberals you're gonna hate this. It's none of those things. If you can look beyond the fact that polemical writing is a legitimate literary device used by many of the world's finest writers and not just by 'pop philosphers', you may actually get something from this book. I challenge you to ignore the hackneyed claim from many a review that Rand is nothing more than a philosopher for teenagers and really THINK about what she is saying. You may find that it's possible to be conservative AND intellectual too, God forbid.
And if you like this book, you'll also like the more arcane and subtle Czeslaw Milosz work called THE CAPTIVE MIND.
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on March 14, 2004
I first read Atlas Shrugged 42 years ago, and have read it 4 or 5 times more over the decades following. I found it to be a powerful influence on my life, probably more than any single other book I have read.
I recognize as well as anyone its shortcomings and imperfections, but see through them to a powerful message that has been a rock for me. It is something like this: the world is real, and your ideas about how it functions matter, and influence the sort of life you will live. That heroes, producers and achievers are more worthy of admiration than victims; that moochers and mystics, quacks and charlatans are only to be scorned; that to believe in the salvation of a sky god is nothing but superstition; that a hard-headed, objective point of view is superior to a fuzzy sentimentality and that hard work is a virtue that eventually leads to a better life than one that concentrates on satisfying the whims and indulgences of the moment.
While Ayn Rand's prose style never approaches that of another hero of mine, H. L. Mencken, it is certainly respectable enough to produce a novel of great originality and is, for many people, very difficult to put down once well started. It is well suited to her primary goal to communicate a coherent world view, an epistemology, and a derived ethic that can actually be lived. A mathematician struggling after a theorem hardly uses humor as a tool, and Rand has no room here for it either.
As for Rand's analysis of Capitalism, I find it superior to Marx's. But I know that economics is complicated, and hardly a science yet, so her appreciation of the laissez faire variety is probably a bit of an oversimplification. And a naive libertarianism, much influenced by her objectivism, while hardly sweeping the world for now, has something to contribute too. Her biggest failure to me, though, is the problem of race, which she never discusses. It is no easy task to apply her approach to such a difficult problem, and I am not aware of any. The alternative basis in a hard-headed sociobiology, though, would probably have been quite comfortable for her, had it been available then.
Rand's message is powerful and a positive contribution to the progress of the world. Take a look--I doubt you will be disappointed.
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on March 4, 2004
This book is about people who love to think and create useful ideas and processes. They decide to go on strike because they are tired of being used and attacked for being alive. Moochers, thieves, governments, and other looters go crazy and lose out in this story.
Prior to reading this book the first time (I've re-read some passage 2,3 or more times), I had always found myself with few people worthy of my full friendship and value. After reading this a couple of years ago, I finally knew what kind of people I prefer to deal with. This is not some book that will do anything to you at all. It may spark your mind or piss you off. Had I read this in middle school or high school, it would have little effect on me. Of hundreds of books read, this one made the biggest influence (that includes the Bible).
To not deal with heroes of the story allowing contradictions, was great. You will most likely enjoy this book if you have problems with any of the following: welfare, taxes, loss of freedom, increased powers of police, increased power of government, democracy (U.S. is NOT a democracy), helping the needy, liberalism, use of force (not in defense), non-thinkers, the U.N., censorship, liberal arts, cultural supremecy, and those that say there is no "right" or "wrong".
If you hate rich people, businesses, those that disrespect nature, and hate people that are greedy. If you think we should all love and/or serve others, repent, follow a higher power, give more to the "unfortunate". If you are any of those just mentioned, don't waste your money, you will hate it. Don't buy it because it will make your brain hurt.
This book helped me realize a couple of important things: I have a right be happy. I have a purpose. I will pursue my goals and dreams to make as much money as I can earn from my ability. I am, therefore I think. Best of luck to you all.
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on March 2, 2004
I have read all of Ayn Rand's fiction, and all of it has the same plot: one flawless, free-thinking person's struggle to thrive in a collective society. This is repeated in "Atlas Shrugged," but with added elements of mystery.
Here's the story in a nutshell:Every industrialist who's productive is slowly disappearing without explanation. This leads the government to declare all sorts of laws tying people to their jobs. It chronicles what happens when useful people go on strike. Thrown into it we have numerous subplots, stock characters, and the query "Who is John Galt?" is repeated ad nauseum.
So why does this book make me laugh aloud every time I read it? Because Rand takes this "philosophy" entirely too seriously. It is funny to slog through 10 pages of a "worthless" playboy extolling the virtues of money AT A DINNER PARTY. Who does this?(Word to the wise: skip Galt's 80-page preachathon radio announcement. It's under the heading "This is John Galt Speaking.") It's great that Rand has so little respect for her reader's intellect that she creates transparently archetypal characters and stuffs their mouths full of unbelievably preachy and sanctimonious dialogue.
There are certain good points to her way of thinking. I agree that people should have jobs based on their competence, not their "need" for a job, and I too love and appreciate individuality. Most businesses already follow this pattern of hiring based on ability. When was the last time you were hired to do a job because you "needed" one? Chances are you were hired because you were qualified and you wanted to work. How radical is that?
So why read Rand? To feel a sense of accomplishment for having read something so mediocre and repetitive, and to have reasons to laugh aloud.
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on March 1, 2004
There are two books everyone should be required to read in their lifetime: "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged." Both are eye-openers and there's no way you can experience these two books and not have them change your life. While "Fountainhead" is a much easier read and shorter, "Atlas" is by far the better book. The thing that most amazes me about "Atlas" is that I read it when I was twenty and it changed my life, then I re-read it at thirty and it did the same thing again (in a different way). But the sad part is that life in America, or anywhere for that matter, hasn't changed very much since Rand put pen to paper and created this masterpiece.
This is not a quick easy read, but do yourself a favor and try to get through this book. It's more than just temporary brain candy--it's food for thought for the rest of your life.
Also recommended: Steinbecks "East of Eden," and McCrae's "Bark of the Dogwood."
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on February 16, 2004
I have to respond to a reviewer a few places below on the page. First of all, ending the review with "Go Howard Dean!" shows that you had no interest in writing a review but only in championing a politician. Then you give advice to Rand for when she writes her next novel. Rand is dead; Atlas Shrugged was written in the 50's. Finally, why should Rand include God and family on her novels? Atheism was one of the core tenets of her philosophy. You may not agree with her, but why should she have included something which she clearly states in her philosophy is something she rejects?
That said, I did enjoy this book. It shows the logical extension of liberalism that could occur if it were allowed to flourish to its conclusion. This book and The Fountainhead were the two reasons that my political idealogy changed from that of a liberal to a libertarian. For a thought-provoking book that might challenge your beliefs, in addition to an excellent story with gripping characters, read Atlas Shurgged. Although I give it 5 stars, I must voice the most common complaint against Rand's writing. Her characters, with very few exceptions, are black and white. People are either all good or all bad, and while I enjoyed her capitalistic politics, I disagreed with her A is A, B is B "rational" explanation for all things. She attemps to justify this part of her philosophy by making the characters extremes, so much so that they hardly seem human.
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on February 10, 2004
All the Ayn Rand fans are going to ding me for this, but I have to be honest - this novel didn't survive my "100 page rule" (translation: if you're not hooked by page 101, don't bother finishing the book, there are too many other novels to consider instead). Believe me, I wanted to read and love this book. I've heard nothing but rave reviews about Rand and picked this novel up with much anticipation. But the novel is over 1000 pages and after cracking 10%, I knew there was no way I was going to force myself to plow through it to the end. If you're like me and thinking to buy this because so many others have told you about it, please consider - this book is categorized as fiction but it reads too much like a textbook to just kick back and enjoy. The characters (at least as far as I got) are very one dimensional. Perhaps they get better and I missed out. I admit this "classic" did have an interesting plot and I'm sure it has many fine points & hidden meanings if the reader is into such topics. The tone of this novel was much like some L. Ron Hubbard fiction I've read.
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on February 5, 2004
Atlas Shrugged is without a doubt one of the most important books of the 20th century, and is still entirely relevant today. It addresses a subject (individualism vs. collectivism, in economics, philosophy and culture) that wars have been fought over, and which millions perished and suffered because of (the communist, socialist and fascist regimes of the 20th century). Even today, while most of these collectivist states have collapsed, the debate over the proper role of the government and the degree to which wealth should be taken from some to be given to others continues unabated. All of the arguments that politicians use today to justify their positions on tax policy, or regulation of businesses, or new health and welfare programs, or the evils of big businesses and powerful industrialists (e.g. the U.S. government�s attempt to punish Microsoft and Bill Gates), appear in Rand�s masterpiece. You could study these subjects by reading dry economics textbooks, but Rand has taken both sides of each argument, illustrated the conflict with dramatic images and events, and drawn the logical conclusions.
Atlas Shrugged is a 1000+ page refutation of Karl Marx�s dangerously alluring statement: �from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs�. Why doesn�t this work, and why does it actually destroy societies? Why would a cradle-to-grave welfare system (government guaranteed housing, medical care and food) fail? Atlas Shrugged shows why, in incredible detail. If only more people in the 20th century (and today) had been able to read and understand Ayn Rand, who knows how many lives could have been saved.
Atlas Shrugged is also an inspirational guide for how to conduct one�s own life. The top people I�ve met in U.S. businesses more closely resemble Hank Reardon and Dagny Taggart than they do Jim Taggart and Wesley Mouch. So, if you want some ideal role models on how to succeed in business, Atlas Shrugged provides them. It is one of the few works of art to present engineers and applied scientists as true heroes. Also, the book teaches the most important lesson about personal responsibility: each individual, not others, is responsible for his/her own happiness.
Finally, there are other more trivial reasons to read Atlas Shrugged. The plot is a page-turner; you�ll want to keep reading to find out what happens. You�ll feel a major sense of accomplishment when you finish. You will find many interesting, amusing tidbits (I was surprised to learn that American academia was a collectivist, relativist hotbed in the 1950s � I had thought that was a phenomenon induced by the Sixties).
It�s amazing to realize that Ayn Rand had this all figured out in 1957. It�s also heartening to see that Atlas Shrugged continues to be a top-seller (ranked in the top 1000 on Amazon right now) nearly 50 years after it was first published. Why is this so? Read the book!
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