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Atlas Summer: Part Two: Chapter Nine: The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt

October 19, 2010 3 comments

Atlas Summer: Part Two: Chapter Nine: The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt

Bronson Son: Hey ma, how bout some cookies?

Bronson Mom: No dice.

Bronson Son: This ain’t over…

The Simpsons, The Old Man and the Key (13.13)

Pages: 633 – 653

Summary: Once again, Rand defies expectations by treating the reader to a plot-intensive chapter.  One has to be economical when writing a novel around a 70-page speech.  Unfortunately, the plot moves forward with the speed of an oncoming glacier.  The speed Rand consumed by Tic Tacs has the unanticipated effect of making her sound long-winded.  At least we don’t have to read five pages on the honor of gold or why the income tax is worse than genocide.  (Although if a private contractor did the work cheaply and more efficiently than the government, this might count as a gray area within the Objectivist ethos.)

In this mercifully brief chapter begins with a methodical inventory of every activity Dagny does as she wakes up in her apartment.  The doorbell rings and Francisco Franco D’anconia is at the door.  There follows another conversations about Taggart Transcontinental and looters.  Francisco waxes philosophical and Dagny basks in the radiance of genius and all-around awesomeness.  What he’s trying to get at with his hyper-serious humorlessness is that she should abandon Taggart Transcontinental.  He also implies that the right people can form a utopia like Atlantis and it can become a reality.  (Kind of like a classless society when the industrial proletariat takes control … except the opposite of that, since proles are parasites and scum.)  Dagny, in her stubbornly anti-intellectual denseness, finally comes to the realization that the Destroyer Conspiracy and the Looter Conspiracy may be interrelated.  The Destoyers are men like Wyatt and D’anconia.  They would rather destroy their companies than give it to the looters.  (Akin to Objectivist heroes like Tony Hayward, Kenneth Lay, and others who willfully destroyed their companies as penitential sacrifice to the Objectivist dogma of Deregulation Uber Alles.)

“Perhaps we can persuade you to sign this here Gift Certificate?  Innit dat right, guvnah?”

Francisco’s philosophizing is interrupted when Hank Rearden comes to the apartment.  In the ensuing fracas, the Rearden-D’anconia accords bromance dramatically ends when Hank, mistaking Franscisco for his wife (not really, just kidding), realizes Francisco was the Other Man – dramatic soap opera chord! – Dagny had slept with.  Hank slaps Francisco, drawing blood, and page after page of tedious description.


Hank’s fist: 1, Francisco’s face: Zero.


Dagny also finds out Quentin Daniels is refusing to work for the government in his efforts to make the Magical Mystery Electric Engine work.

The chapter ends with Eddie Willers infodumping on John Galt the anonymous Taggart employee in the cafeteria.  As Eddie’s monologue gets more shrill and whiny, Anonymous Employee Who Totally Isn’t John Galt then leaves for Atlantis.

“Sorry I got blood on your floor.”  Gotta love Scorsese’s use of Donovan’s classic “Atlantis.”

Observations: For a philosophy imbued with such fiery revolutionary rhetoric, the sexual affairs of Atlas Shrugged remain conventional.  The conflict in Dagny’s gilt heart between her love for Francisco and Hank comes across as passé.  Is Objectivism nothing more than Nietzschean philosophy defanged for Harlequin Romance readers?  Since love to Rand is about selfishness and the accumulation of personal pleasure, why doesn’t Dagny just choose both?  If marriage and childbearing are things held in contempt by our heroine, why not just go the extra mile and abandon the traditional concept of exclusivist two-partner relationships?  One can see from real life examples how the government socially engineers people to participate in heterosexual marriages for reproductive purposes.  While marriage is about love (at least since the 20th century), the tax breaks, health benefits, and Social Security benefits are nice too.

Barely a decade after the publication of Atlas Shrugged, Robert Heinlein published The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  The science fiction novel charts a lunar revolution in the 2070s, as a Soviet penal colony becomes a free market society.  On the surface, this seems like warmed-over Randianism (and there are plenty of long-winded speeches to support that allegation), Heinlein utilizes the genre conventions of science fiction to go farther than Rand ever could.  In the future lunar society, people take part in “line-marriages,” marital arrangements with junior and senior wives and husbands.  Some line-marriages became quite large and expansive.  Heinlein’s social libertarianism let him imagine potential future societies with a degree of plausibility.  Unfortunately, in this case, Heinlein’s writing was like Rand’s in its tedious painfulness.  The book’s setting and ideas were as revolutionary as the writing was atrocious.

This chapter resembles the Barney-Robin-Ted story arc from How I Met Your Mother.  Barney works at Goliath National Bank doing – it’s not important.  Ted is a sappy romantic and genius architect (shades of the Fountainhead?).  And Robin is a gun-toting, Scotch-swilling, pantsuit-wearing news anchor who loves dogs and hates kids.  (Unfortunately, she’s also openly Canadian.)  Barney, the blond philandering plutocrat, is in love with Robin.  Ted had dated Robin for a year and then had a bad break-up.  Through the machinations of plot and circumstance, Barney sleeps with Robin, causing Ted to end their friendship.  It should be noted that Barney, like Francisco d’Anconia lives by a code of honor – the Bro Code.  Unlike Francisco, he lovingly sleeps with brainless sluts aka Woo! Girls.  (The plots are similar, not exact.)

How I Met Your Mother … now with more Awesome.

While the resemblance to How I Met Your Mother is thin, Atlas Shrugged bears more similarities to Arrested Development.  Both have manipulative, greedy, clueless characters.  Maybe Atlas Shrugged needs a stair truck?  That would help things.

One final note: Rand’s overuse of the words “as if” to link descriptions of things is getting tiresome.  The attempt at literary cachet is as obvious as it is half-baked.  The result seems pretentious and lame.  But we can’t fault Rand too much, since she was pounding away at the typewriter, high on speed, churning page after page of literary gold.  Too bad when there is too much of a commodity, its price goes down.

Quotes:

  • “Clouds had wrapped the sky and descended as fog to wrap the streets below, as if the sky were engulfing the city.”  Why say it once when you can say it twice?
  • “She turned with indifferent astonishment to open the door –”  Indifferent astonishment?  Lacking the inherent awesomeness of Objectivists, maybe I just don’t understand this expression that contradicts itself.  There are no contradictions in the Objectivist philosophy.  I’d be astonished by such a bold statement, but on the whole, I’m rather indifferent to such bluster.  Meh.
  • “Hank, stop it!”
  • “The sound she made was half-chuckle, half-moan—”  I make that sound every time I read another chapter of this dreck.  It would be funny if it weren’t so badly written and numbingly serious.  The Book of Leviticus has more fart jokes than Atlas Shrugged.
  • “He seized her shoulders, and she felt prepared to accept that he would now kill her or beat her into unconsciousness, and in the moment when she felt certain that he thought of it, she felt her body thrown against him and his mouth falling on hers, more brutally than the act of a beating would have permitted.”  In the words of the Skate Punks from Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, “EXXXTREMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMME!”

The Extreme Skate Punks would have rated Atlas Shrugged as “Extreme Cheddar!”

  • “Hell, yes! – the Comet!”
  • “Oh God! – what’s the matter with you?  Don’t go!  Where are you going?”  Last words of the chapter.  Glad to see I’m not the only one fed up with the endless complaining of Eddie Willers.
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