Reading Atlas Shrugged.
Tis an arduous and intimidating journey of 1167 pages, more if you want surrounding criticism. I’m plugging away at it presently, and you know what? I have a love-hate relationship with it. Here’s why.
My LOVE for it is comprised of its respect for the reader – a respect easily misjudged as disrespect in its mind-directing, even hypnotizing narrative techniques. Ayn Rand expects her reader to be intelligent, hard-working, and dedicated to his or her own life, and this is evident in the way she tells the story. John Rogers said in a blog once, “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.” I think, had Ayn Rand heard this criticism, she would have been delighted to have been understood so well. Atlas Shrugged is a strange fusion of utopian and dystopian narrative and the oversimplification that comprises this strangeness is obviously fantastical.
On this level, it’s a fantasy novel. Ayn Rand always claimed to write for herself – She is her own reader and that is why her reader receives the respect of great expectations. Of course, her writing would be her fantasy.
She was far too intelligent to have been deluded into believing that the realm she envisioned was realistic; its purpose was a fantastical forum through which she could explain very realistic (in the reality-relevant sense of the word, not in the feasible sense, necessarily) ideas and ethical postulations.
Reading such a novel at fourteen and failing to distinguish the fantastical and the realistic elements would most certainly be dangerous.
So with John Rogers’ words I completely agree – yet not with his tone.
My HATE for it is comprised of its AWFUL HORRIBLE TERRIBAD DREADFUL ~LENGTH~. And yes, I know Ms. Rand would have rolled her eyes at me for my saying so.