I must confess I have never actually completed Atlas Shrugged. I took a run at it three times but the writing is just so bloody awful I couldn’t stand to finish it, and I’ve read the damn Bible cover to cover twice. I’m not saying her writing is actually worse than all of the Bible (it’s hard to beat Leviticus), but the quality and style of the Bible varies enough to avoid the stupefyingly monolithic nature of Rand’s fiction, and some parts of it (Song of Solomon for example) have good literary quality. Maybe some day I’ll try just picking up where I left off instead of starting from the beginning again, just so I can finally say I’ve slogged through the whole tedious thing… or maybe not. I really doubt there’s much left to learn from it, to judge by the story so far and Rand’s other writing.
I really do wonder what people see in Rand’s fiction. There are only three characters in any of it, as far as I can tell; the Alpha Dogs straight off the Nazi recruiting posters who inflame everyone with their brilliance and workaholism, the Beta Dogs who admire them with their servile mouths agape, and the Slimy Curs who drag everyone down by sponging off the first two. The former are always fine physical specimens, typically with blue eyes (even when they’re supposed to be Hispanic), the latter are unappetizing pudding-like blobs, and the Beta Dogs are, you guessed it, somewhere in the middle.
The description of the three characters basically also describes every Rand plot structure; the only question is if the heroes will triumph or the villains drag everyone into the mire, but by the time you get there it’s hard to care much whether it’s the useless sponges or the Fascistic uebermensches who triumph; the loyal serfs are simply animate furniture, and there isn’t a genuinely appealing character to be found anywhere in there.
Maybe it’s just the endless pretentious purple prose description they like? Surely not!!!
It’s not often that the straightforward polemic reads more easily than the fictional treatment, but I actually find Rand easier to take straight from her demented lecturing than in her puerile storytelling, and that’s truly saying something. Her viewpoint is basically the force majeure of Fascism or any other totalitarianism, with the appeal to group loyalty being replaced by facile assurances that simple pure selfishness will simply work out somehow in the end to create the best of all possible worlds.
Are any of my readers Rand fans who’d like to tell me why I’m wrong?