29 July 2008

A little more Shrugging

Oh dear. On inspection I discovered that my incredibly verbose last post failed to include the thing that I'd found most irksome about Atlas Shrugged. Namely that it's based on a very bad analogy, Atlas held up the sky, not the world. It's just such a glaring error. I sincerely doubt that no one's written about it! I really need to hurry up and finish reading the damn book (silly colleagues, food and youtube distracting me from my goals) so I can read the introduction and afterword, and then give in to my urge to google...

I know I said that I didn't want to write too much about the book until I finished it, but I think that I might as well express these thoughts as they occur to me before I forget them. Consider them to be first reactions, and open to extensive revisions in the future!

Firstly, I'd just like to point out that Dagny Taggart is an awful, awful name. Who would call their child that? It's so ugly! Tinky Holloway, however, is an excellent name. This is a point I don't think I'm going to need to revise. Also I think it is possible for a book's characters to overuse the phrase "I know it", especially if they insist on constantly doing it grimly.

More seriously, as I've continued with my reading I've noticed less of the submitting woman syndrome, and a bit more balance. I sincerely hope that this trend continues. Even if it does, I'd still like the earlier behaviour to be considered and questioned by Dagny. I like the fact that she sometimes gets to dress up and revel in her femininity, and have that not be separate from her identity as an executive. However, I think that this is slightly tainted by the fact that most of the time she's wearing a nice dress she ends up in some protracted romantic situation. On the subject of Dagny's clothing, I absolutely could not take John's confession of love (and stalking watching over her) seriously, because telling her that he spent the past twelve years watching her from the tunnels below and could sculpt her legs from memory made it sound a lot like he had a fetish for upskirt peeping. That sort of thing can get you fired here you know.

I complained about Rand glossing over large parts of American history. There at least was a reference to Manhattan being sold by the indigenous people for a small sum in glass beads. I could have done without the 'stupid savages' implication. (And anyway, it's not as if that story is supported by any actual facts).

Something that I find kind of jarring (and certainly not just in this book) is that the characters are more wordy than season 7's speech-happy General Buffy. They often give speeches, and I don't have a problem with that if they're supposed to be giving speeches. A fair bit of the time though, they aren't. I don't think it's reasonable for there to be quite so many multi-page monologues. It's a common literary device, but I tend to find it incredibly annoying. That, combined with the fact that they all seem to have an amazing ability to recall pretty much anything that anyone has ever said to them and quote it verbatim and the fact that several of the characters have definite Marty-Lou characteristics and are just too perfect kind of encapsulates what worries me about reading a novel which has a politico-philosophical agenda. The characters are sometimes sacrificed to the author's greater plan and it means that they don't always ring true.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm pissing all over the book though. I'm not, at all. I'm still definitely enjoying it. I wouldn't bother to consider all of this if I wasn't. I like the way that it lightly picks at the flaws of what it criticises, I especially liked this:

There, he thought, was the final abortion of the creed of collective interdependence, the creed of non-identity, non-property, non-fact: the belief that the moral stature of one is at the mercy of the action of another.
I've also thought about it a bit, and I know that a lot of Marx's writing that has what I would characterise as a more individualist bent, and focuses more on ideas of freedom might not have surfaced (or if it had then might not have been widely known) when Atlas Shrugged was written (it was first published in 1957). I also found this Popper quote to be appropriate:

Marx tried, and although he erred in his main doctrines, he did not try in vain. He opened and sharpened our eyes in many ways. A return to pre-Marxian social science is inconceivable. All modern writers are indebted to Marx, even if they do not know it. This is especially true of those who disagree with his doctrines.
The rest of what I have to say is motivated by mere idle curiosity. Firstly, I'm just intrigued as to whether Midas Mulligan ever explains why the Atlantis valley wasn't on any maps? Did I miss something?

Secondly, does "Piss" Harry King in the Discworld books remind anyone of Hank Rearden a little? Or am I just reaching... He is listed on the television trope page for the self made man (which is interesting because I don't think that he's ever been portrayed on television) but I'll take it as evidence that I'm right, even though it isn't that at all.

I'm glad that I'm reading the book in conjunction with (slowly, slowly) watching Carnivale. They're set to similar backdrops so it's nice to have them both captivating my imagination at the same time. There was an awesome quote from Dolan, which for some reason I can't find, about him wanting to help Iris to find her brother so that he can gain a larger audience and get richer. It sounded like something that could have come straight out of Atlas Shrugged.

I'm loving a lot of the Carnivale script in fact. "One of my titties is bigger than the other" is one of the best chat-up lines ever (I don't think it does surpass "You got a raisin? Well how about a date then!" though) and I feel that more people ought to use "percolated" as a synonym for horny.

[Oh, words, words, words... I'm so sick of enamoured by words, (even though) I get words all day through!]


Naomi Penn said...

Angelina Jolie is going to play Dagny whatever in an upcoming film version of Atlas Shrugged... your last posting was incredibly epic! I think I need to read the rest tomorrow over a cup of tea.

Miss Anne Throp'ist said...

Yeah I saw that. I disapprove. Can I somehow sort it so that Felicity Huffman single white females Angie before filming starts?

I'll let you keep Ms Jolie if you want...

I am so the poster child for wordiness, I think I have a compulsion! Let me know if you ever do get through the longness!

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