I have the overwhelming desire to turn a cartwheel, to celebrate the completion of the chore of reading Atlas Shrugged. And there’s no mistaking it. Reading this 1168 page tome was a CHORE.
Why did I take it on? Number one: It was the October selection for my book club, a group of women I cherish. Number two: It’s been on my bookshelf gathering dust since 1992. (Do the math. That’s 17 years).
So, it took me 17 years to think about reading this monumental piece of literature, and six weeks to plow through it. Until yesterday, it took over my life.
Perhaps slightly changed by reading this rich story of American industrialists in a capitalism vs. communism struggle, regardless, I want my life back—my productive, happy life. Because I had both the hardbound version and the audio version, the story and the characters rarely left me. The good news is that I didn’t just sit on my arse and read. While listening, I was a productive member of society and created an entire jewelry line using precious metals and copper. I’m not sure, however, if it would have earned me an invitation to “Galt’s Gulch” (Rand’s version of Atlantis). In fact, I had a hard time sorting through all the larger-than-life characters to find someone to whom I could relate.
The heroes are all, perhaps, too perfect and the “looters” are all too pathetic. Dagny Taggert is a brilliant and beautiful engineer who runs a railroad. One of her many lovers is Hank Rearden, who creates a new, industry-changing metal. Another is Francisco d’Anconia, of the d’Anconia Copper family. And then, of course, there’s the most significant character of all, about whom we are asked from beginning and throughout the story, “Who is John Galt?” The king of the pathetic looters is James Taggert, Dagny’s moronic brother, who is one among a host of government-directed 'officials' who systematically take steps to destroy the country by imposing and acting upon a series of directives/acts.
The story is fascinating and the characters are incredibly well drawn, albeit highly unlikeable. First published in 1959, some aspects are dated, and yet, current political and governmental activities, particularly relating to corporate bailouts and economic stimulus plans, make Atlas Shrugged eerily prophetic and certainly worth discussing in intellectual circles.
Its biggest detriment is the length. Characters don’t dialog. Instead, they engage in proselytizing speeches that go on and on and on and on and on to the point of mind-numbing repetition. I think Rand could have easily gotten the same message/information/story across in half the number of pages.
Now that I’m finished I don’t regret the reading experience. As a writer, I can’t help but admire Rand’s accomplishment and her amazing focus. I could take a page from her book—so-to-speak—and get back to writing my own novel. So, I will therefore close Atlas Shrugged once and for all (I don’t anticipate reading it again) and before I get back to work, I will contemplate my role in society and what I have to offer.
First things first: Should I name the new jewelry line “Rearden Metals?” How about “Michele Shrugged?”
Whatever. Who is John Galt?