Doren Damico

Surviving Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

What Atlas Shrugged Is Like: Root Canals, Rape and PTSD

This 18 second review about sums up this book lover’s thoughts on Atlas Shrugged:

Oh, why did I pick up this book? It was penned by a female author? It’s science fiction? It has a strong female protagonist. Such naive and ill-informed reasons, bolstered by the fact that it was in audio form. I’ve lately found myself in daily bumper to bumper commutes made bearable by audio books and NPR radio (All Things Considered). However, Atlas Shrugged did NOT make life more bearable.  And yes, it left scars.

If only I’d seen this quote by John Rogers (screen writer, television producer, comedian, comic book writer) comparing The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged.  I doubtless would have grabbed some blasé murder mystery off the library shelf, or even a forgettable romance novel, and been much safer.

But I didn’t. I plugged into Atlas and listened. I listened on several weeks’ drives until I’d dragged my way through part one. Then I returned to the library to get part two. I listened, tense, bitter and anguished, all the way to the last line. 

Long-winded, Narcissistic, and Anaphylactic. But I kept listening.

At one point, the climax of Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, is delivered through the character of John Galt in a 3 hour speech (literally 3 hours of #*@$!). (If you want to learn what is actually redeemable about objectivism, be sure to read the parodies on the site linked above. If you actually want to consider the philosophy of objectivism, you can read other material on the same site.)

By Deviant Artist Ray Reid

I wanted to do a Freddy Krueger on that speech. You know, reach my paranormal hand powerfully into another’s reality, right through my CD player, through the radio broadcast of the story’s character, back in time all the way to Ayn Rand. I wanted to grab her dress collar with my claws and shock her into mute collapse. 

I wanted it to stop. But I didn’t stop it. Just like watching A Nightmare on Elm Street, I became painfully transfixed. I needed to see how the plot played out. Would I wake up? Could this horror I was experiencing, find release, like the painful revenge of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Would there be some miraculous heroine, some redemptive moment, some hope for humanity?

Not really. Nope. Nada.

And to make things worse, I realized with growing dread, what a huge influence this book has had on many U.S. political leaders!

It’s amazing, really, that I’ve stayed smoke free during this period of recollection! I survived this book through dissociation, the psyche’s means of separating one from trauma. In this case, I distanced myself by considering the book an exercise in listening to repugnant views. One that would make me stronger, more capable. It would help me cope with the reality of a Trump-elected America

Perhaps I misuse the word “reality.” Things seem so unreal these days…

It is unreal that I read Atlas Shrugged. Even more terrifying: Ayn Rand’s successor’s foundation donates 400,000 copies of this propaganda to school children each year.

Beyond Surviving: Recovery Requires New Programming

What would our world be like if we donated 400,000 copies of Bill McKibbon’s Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly On the Earth to school children each year?

Or perhaps we could have every child listen to this free audiobook: The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama, well known for his capacity to be joyful in all circumstances. Read more here: The Daily Star

I know! Let’s make Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness available in 400,000 yearly copies. 

I prefer themes like: Let’s Get Along. Gender, Schmender. What Unites Us Is Stronger Than What Divides Us.

 

What do Ayn Rand and I have in common? We are both women writers. We both hope to use fiction to communicate about philosophy. And, that’s about it folks! 

Here are some of the things I cultivated an appreciation for while reading:
 

  • There is a rhythm of 3s in Rand’s descriptions, a tendency to over elucidate something with three powerful words or phrases. I pondered whether she was saying the same thing each time, or actually adding more to the description.
  • Rand delivers a wealth of metaphor and analogy in her writing, in particular how she describes the thinking, motivation, and inner experiences of her characters.
  • I liked the one-sided conversations with mysterious second persons, or one-sided phone calls.

Here are some of the things I despised about the book:

  • The whole premise and philosophical contentions.
  • She spends waaaay too much time repeating herself.
  • How the seemingly strong female protagonist, Dagny Taggart, ends up in sexual relationships with the three most “admiral” male characters in the book, but the sexual relationships are always a complete submission to the men.
  • I hated how she ended the stories of two minor characters who had redeemable qualities, the wife of Dagny’s brother and the childhood friend that stands by Dagny’s side and works to support all her efforts. Deplorable, lazy, and woefully inadequate!
  • I hated how the stupid people in the story are so 1 dimensionally stupid!
  • Of course, I hated the elitism of minds over hearts, inventors over workers, capitalism over socialist compassion.
  • And I object vehemently, to Rand’s treatise against the mystic! 

My final recommendations: Do not trust people that love this book. Shrug off the woes of the world and have a milkshake. Listen to the radio. Read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas  instead. Whatever you do, DO NOT READ Atlas Shrugged.

Doren Damico is a life-long fan of science fiction.  “I knew I was a sci-fi fan when my childhood Star Trek playgroup refused to let me be Spock because I was girl.  I vowed there and then, never to stop exploring where no man has gone before!”  Doren is committed to linking research, resources and unique questions to her articles.  To follow Doren’s explorations and discoveries in the world of Philip K. Dick, or read more about her Unraveler series, visit:  dorendamico.com .

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Doren Damico

Doren is a salsa dancing philosopher poet and fan of science fiction.

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