Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sales of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" increase; remember a mammoth novel

Scott Galupo has an interesting retrospect on Ayn Rand in the Books Section of the Friday, May 15, 2009 Washington Times, “Edge: Conservatives and ‘Atlas Shrugged’: Together on Fantasy Island”, link here.

The Ayn Rand Institute (url) has reported that sales of her giant behemoth novel tripled in the early part of 2009.

I remember reading the novel ("Atlas Shrugged") while in the Army, while stationed at Fort Eustis in 1969. I did have a lot of time to read in the barracks in the evening, and I would read it on the bus home for DC on weekends. It took me about three weeks then, in March as I recall. I was quite captivated by the epic sweep of the novel. In the opening pages, there is a longing for better times, as the world is already sinking into collectivism. To someone following all of this year’s bailouts, it sounds familiar.

The novel had great names for characters, like Eddie Willers and Wesley Mouch.

The Washington Times article indicates that Ayn Rand preached objectivism, not libertarianism as we understand it today (as David Boaz describes it in his two volumes from the 1990s). However Boaz, in his “The Libertarian Reader” (Free Press, 1996) included an essay “AYN RAND ON RIGHTS AND CAPITALISM” Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen.

I had read “The Fountainhead” earlier, while in graduate school, and I recall a McCollum Hall dorm cafeteria discussion group on Ayn Rand that met during the school year 1966-1967. I also remember a similar group opposing the Vietnam era draft. My roommate, from western Kansas, during my last semester was an Ayn Rand fan, to ideological extreme. I had at once admired Peter Keating as like some previous friends, and came to like Keating less as I got educated.

Ayn Rand preached obligatory heterosexuality in a couple of long speeches, but nevertheless her ideas have some popularity in some parts of the gay community, particularly Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty and to some extent Log Cabin Republicans. John Galt is portrayed as almost the perfect fantasy hero. The novel gets mentioned in the script of the play and movie "The Boys in the Band" by Mart Crowley.

On the other hand, some critics claim that the novel encourages "power worship" that was a curse for world history in the 1930s.

The Baldwin Group and Lionsgate have a film project for “Atlas Shrugged,” due in 2011, with Randall Wallace as the screenwriter.

Picture: McCollum Hall, University of Kansas, 2005 (I stayed in room 907 1966-1968).

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