Tuesday, February 03, 2009

500th Post

This is my 500th post on blogspot, so it should be something epic right? Well what could be more epic than discussing that gigantic volume of libertarian thought and objectivist philosophy, "Atlas Shrugged", which I just finished, as an audio book... Yep I listened as someone read the entire thing to me. That was 52 hours and 22 minutes of talking, and it did take awhile, two or three months (I did take a big break around the holidays though).

Before I get into a discussion of the actual book I should take a moment to comment on audio books. I will admit to being anti-audio books for most of my life. It just didn't seem like real reading. That was the elitist front I presented to the rest of the world, but secretly I was also worried that I wouldn't be able to follow an audio book, that I would get distracted and miss some critical piece of information. Once I actually gave one a chance I found the opposite, I think that I probably retained more of the book listening to it then I would have had I read it. Of course Atlas Shrugged is a gigantic polemic where most things are repeated three times so maybe it's not the best test of that particular point. But overall I would say that I'm sold on the idea. In particular I think it's a great way to get through fairly dense classics. I plan on rounding out my Dostoevsky reading once I have powered through some shorter works.

Okay the actual book. Any discussion of a 1200 page book is going to be long, and even though this is the 500th post I feel that I still need to keep it to a size where I can pretend people are going to read it, so I'm going to do some rapid fire bullet points:

-As I mentioned it is a polemic. It is not subtle and I think this fact more than any is what puts people off.

-That said I think there are some really interesting ideas in there, ideas that aren't in wide enough circulation. And I'm not talking about adoption, just comprehension.

-The first half was much better than than latter half.

-The three hour speech at the end was in fact three hours on the audio book, and yeah it was a little long, but probably more bearable split up over several listening sessions than read in one sitting.

-Her theory of love and the romantic episodes in the book are... distracting. And some of the super-human stuff at the end bordered on being silly.

-Given the strong female protagonist at the core of the book I would think that Feminists would be more excited about Rand, but she was never mentioned in any of the feminist literature classes I took as part of my English Major. And most of the references I see online describe the relationship as "conflicted".

-I understand some of the libertarian core beliefs much better now. Some, like the oath to renounce the "Initiation of Violence". Are well worth adopting, others, like the gold standard are more questionable.

-People who casually dismiss this book (and the larger Rand canon) do so at their peril and to their detriment. (Check out the Praise and Influence section on Wikipedia)

-I liked Francisco d'Anconia better than John Galt.

-Her vision of unbridled capitalism is much closer to reality than Marx's view of fully-implemented communism.

I have a hard time recommending the book because it's so long, but if you were leaning that way perhaps this will push you over. I would recommend, however, if you're not going to read it then you should avoid making generalizations (good or bad) about it. A sin I think I was guilty of on more than one occasion. As you might imagine something that is ~1200 pages is going to have lots of nooks and crannies which resist easy categorization

Who is John Galt?


Blogger aozora said...

What I've read of her writings left me with a strong impression that she was raised in a sheltered environment.

6:18 AM  

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