Thursday, August 27, 2009

Atlas Shrugged, Then Looked for His Reading Glasses

I had, believe it or not, never actually managed to read any Ayn Rand. She's one of those authors who is viewed as a necessary element of a well-rounded education. Somehow, though, it was my lot to never be assigned The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. Lately, though, I'm feeling stirred to remedy that.


Well, because Ms. Rand speaks deeply to the heart of the American conservative. I make it a point to read the blogs of folks who believe that health care reform is evil, and who view progressives and Democrats as evil, and who are, when I comment on their musings, happy to let me know just how hopelessly wrong I am. Sometimes, amazingly enough, they are people I've come to like.

For those folks, Atlas Shrugged resonates powerfully. The way that Ms. Rand articulates the purpose of humankind harmonizes with and informs the ethos of American conservatism, both through the objectivist philosophy she expresses in her writing and the way she writes. Understanding her mindset is, as I see it, a good way to grasp the spirit that moves in the hearts of the Right.

Earlier this week, I went to pick up the book at the library. This, I suppose, was getting off the to the wrong start. Libraries are a public good, and given what I know about Ms. Rand's view of government, are probably off limits to most objectivists. There were four identical copies of Atlas Shrugged on the shelf, all new fat bricky paperbacks. I opened one. It was bigger than I thought, at one thousand and sixty nine pages. Hmmm, thought I. For an author whose philosophy claims to be rooted in rational precision, that's a whole heck of a lot of text. But the page count was a bit misleading. Unlike the countless high school students who bump up their font size to flesh out their papers, this book could have been several hundred pages longer.

The font was tiny to the point of being abusive, perhaps 8 point, maybe less, making no compromise for those among us whose vision is not perfect. I'm still better than 20/20, but the idea of reading over 1,000 pages of microscopic prose suddenly seemed daunting.

But I know Ms. Rand well enough to know that it was appropriately daunting. She had nothing but contempt for the weak. Was I weak, one of the parasites who lack the courage to even enter the hallowed gates of Objectivist thought? It was a challenge. It was a test. I committed myself to continue. I would not be so easily cowed.

So into the introduction I went.