Who is John Galt, and why should I care?

Posted: February 3, 2009 in ayn rand, capitalism, conservatism, cult, john galt, objectivism

One thing I don’t usually do is make New Year’s resolutions.  I find they’re largely a waste of effort, since most are broken within the first two weeks of January anyway.  Mostly they’re just an excuse to feel guilty about something for the rest of the year.

But this time I’ve made an exception.  I’ve decided that this is the year I’m actually going to read Ayn Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged.

Why am I doing this to myself?  Well, aside from having a slight masochistic streak, there’s also a bit of professional pride at stake here.  This is one of the most influential books ever written, and to really be able to discuss it with its fans and cultists, one must understand it.  And unfortunately, in order to understand it, you’ve got to read the damn thing.

Notice I didn’t say it was one of the best books ever written.  It’s not.  Ayn Rand is an absolutely atrocious writer.  Her prose is turgid, meandering and almost incomprehensible, her characters are cardboard cutouts, the conversations scripted and improbable, and the two chapters I’ve read so far have had the feel of an unedited high school creative writing project.  But bad writing, tortured prose and unrealistic characterization aside, Atlas Shrugged remains a highly influential work of fiction.

Every revolutionary movement has its own sacred text that is required reading for its adherents.  Christianity has the Bible, Islam has the Koran, Mao had his Little Red Book, Communism had Das Kapital and others.  If you want to understand the modern capitalist conservative movement, you must read Atlas Shrugged.

So that’s what I’m doing.  I will attempt to comment regularly on my progress as I slog through it.  Consider it a service to you – I’m reading it so you don’t have to.


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