Adam Lee reads Atlas Shrugged so you don’t have to

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.


  1. says

    The movies couldn’t get the same actors from film to film, and in the end they had to crowdsource the last one because the market had spoken and they didn’t like what it said. I will never not delight in that whole debacle.

    I will also always delight in the fact that Ayn Rand needed government assistance at the end.

    Also, I will always delight in the story of how she once cursed a man’s dick so bad he had to move to LA.
    (I will NEVER delight in the loss of the fantastic website The Toast.)

  2. jrkrideau says

    I remember trying to read one of Rand’s books when I was a teenager. I may have gotten 30 or 40 pages into the book before giving up in disgust. The premises and plot lines were so ridiculous that I just could not take it anymore. I think the term utter dreck may be a bit mild.

    This is when I lived in the country, books were scare, and it was 10km to the one-room library we had. I never abandoned a book back then but I made an exception in Rand’s case.

    That Alan Greenspan was a Rand fan explains a lot about the Great Financial Collapse in 2007-08. I tend to regard a lot of economists as being only tenuously connected to reality but a Randian economist beggars belief.

  3. DonDueed says

    Hollywood did make a film of The Fountainhead with A-list stars (Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal). I’ve seen it, and at the time I knew nothing about the book. I think I spent about half the movie with my mouth wide open in disbelief. It seemed like something made by an extraterrestrial that had no knowledge of human nature or even of basic logic. My brain kept going, “Whaaa?”

  4. anat says

    DonDueed, that is why a friend of mine describes Rand’s writing as unintentional science fiction. The stories only work if one assumes they are written about an alien species with a very different psychology.

  5. Claire Connelly says

    Also, Rand was heavily imvolved in the film adaptation of _The Fountainhead_, so, as laughable as it is, it’s a true representation of what she had in mind.

  6. Bot Fux says

    I have read both The Fountainhead & Atlas Shrugged. I’ve also seen ALL of the movies. (I’ve also watched Two Girls, One cup, so I’m obviously into tentacle-porn films! I liked The Fountainhead because of Gary Cooper … High Noon … Patrica Neal … The Day the Earth Stood Still … & Raymond Massey … Arsenic & Old Lace 😎😎😎)

    For me, as with having read & studied the BuyBull, it provides an informed perspective on current events.

    Now, I take comfort in believing that I’m living in a William Gibson dystopian world 😇😇😇

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