Ayn Rand’s paean to capitalism as expounded in this book has commanded a loyal following from many of the worst people in public life, such as former chair of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan and current speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan. Its basic message that wealth equates with virtue is targeted at those who are already wealthy by appealing to their vanity, that they are successful not because of family or luck but because they are smarter and more industrious than everyone else, something that we know is not true.
But there are other people whom I know who do not fit that stereotype of the fans of this book and so I have many times contemplated reading it just to try and understand its appeal. But I have so far not done so. One reason is that I did read Rand’s other book The Fountainhead and found it to be utter dreck. It was long and tedious and the characters were two-dimensional cardboard cutouts of the various ideological positions they were meant to represent, so that they were utterly predictable. It is the kind of novel that I would have written because I have no talent for getting deep inside the minds of people who are very different from me. Atlas Shrugged runs over 1,000 pages, and I simply shrank from wasting so much time wading through Rand’s dreary prose.
Fortunately Adam Lee has taken one for the team by reading the book closely and has summarized the key points and it makes for amusing reading.
And since you can never have too much mockery of Rand, here is the famous quote from John Rogers about the book.
“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
A trilogy of films was made from this book and was roundly panned by the critics and bombed at the box office.