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Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter II: The Utopia of Greed


Atlas Summer: Part 3: Chapter 2: The Utopia of Greed

Summary: The next morning, Dagny has barely had time to wipe the crud from her eyes before she’s face to puffy, sleep-encrusted face with everyone’s favorite reverse Robin Hood, Ragnar Danneskjold.  As a law-abiding citizen, she has a similar instinctive revulsion to the pirate’s brigandry as Hank Rearden did, but she’s also struck by his supernatural beauty.  Ragnar tells Dagny that his naval raids have netted millions of dollars in gold, all kept in escrow for the captains of industry who were unjustly taxed.  Dagny herself has a sizable account waiting for her if she stays at the Gulch.  It’s a good thing too, because she’ll be expected to pay for her room and board during the month she’ll be there making up her mind.  She’s not going to need any of her 24 carat tax refund, though, because she wants to work to earn her keep…as John Galt’s housekeeper.  Anything to spend some time sleeping near that hunk of Objectivist man-candy.

John, I made you a white pizza and a pot roast.  I just think you’re, so amazing.  Look at me playing house!  My god you must think I’m out of my mind!  Do you?  You just looked away when I said that.  I saw you.  Kiss me, I know your lips will be honest!”

Three days later, Owen Kellogg shows up, gobsmacked to see Dagny alive.  When her plane disappeared, the rest of the world assumed she’d died…including poor old Hank Rearden.  Dagny wants to sneak a message to Hank to let him know she’s still alive, but Galt forbids it.  Before Dagny even has time to process this, Francisco shows up, also stunned to see her.  To show his elation that the love of his life is miraculously still alive, Francisco…makes a big speech about looters and their looting ways.  I hope you weren’t expecting anything else at this point.  Eventually, he gets around to assuring her that he doesn’t mind that she’s been banging Hank Rearden: their love is a ecstatic meeting of minds and abilities that transcends mere physical affection.  I’m sure that’s what he tells himself when he’s rubbing one out in the woodshed.

The Friend Zone: Population, One sad Argentine bastard.

At Francisco’s smartly appointed “frontiersman’s shanty,” accented with pimped out silver goblet from Sebastian d’Aconia, Francisco tells Dagny that d’Aconia Copper is on it’s last legs and on the verge of being seized by the Argentine government.  It’s no big thing, though, because he’s refounded the company at Galt’s Gulch.  Fortunately for everyone involved, Francisco has found a rich seam of copper in the nearby mountains and is digging it out.

Back at casa de Galt, Dagny works herself into knots over her untrammeled lust for John Galt.  She cleans his house, cooks his meals, and watches as he studiously ignores her and spends evenings mysteriously absent.  One night, she asks him where he’s going ever night, and he reveals that he’s been lecturing on physics to his fellow Alphas (ten gold dollars at the door, of course)  Turns out, all of the Gulchers spend the time they’re not doing menial-but-fulfilling labor working in their fields of expertise. Then, they gather together to share their craft, provided that none of their findings reach the outside world.  It’s reminiscent of Marx’s view of the post-capitalist utopia, just with a higher cover charge.   Dagny spends the rest of the evening finding out that Galt has spent the past decade checking up on her, watching her from afar. From his, she infers that Galt might be as hot for her as she is for him.  This gets her all atingle.

Ain’t no lecture like a John Galt lecture, cuz a John Galt lecture costs ten dollars in pure gold!

Richard Halley plays his legendary Fifth Concerto for Dagny,  then gives a long speech about art.  It turns out that real artists are just like successful businessmen, real art is produced by the rigorous application of intellect, not emotion, and art appreciators can only truly be referred to as such if they appreciate art for exactly the same reasons as the artist.  Rand apparently never heard of the intentional fallacy.  Or she did, and condemned it as the work of anti-life relativist scum.  Probably that.  The actress Kay Ludlow gives a luminous performance.  Dr. Akston tells Dagny the story of his titanic struggle with Dr. Stadler for the souls of their prize students, John, Francisco and Ragnar.

At d’Aconia Copper Number One, Dagny finds herself instantly caught up in a plan to build a one track railroad to transport the copper through the mountains.  Francisco tells her she could easily set it up, but her heart is still with Taggart Transcontinental.   It’s thoughts of her beloved railroad, as well as Rearden (she might be falling for Galt like a sack of bricks, but she at least owes Hank a farewell handy), that compel her finally to decide to leave the Gulch and return to the collapsing ruin of civilization.  She shares all of the values of Galt and company, but she has not yet given up hope that humanity at large can still awaken to their essential truth.  At the end of her month in the Gulch, Dagny is blindfolded and led to a Taggart terminal.  Galt also leaves the valley, on a secret mission that may or may not have to do with keeping tabs on Dagny. She certainly hopes it does.

Observations:

You’d think that the chapter directly following a chapter full to bursting with long-winded monologues might be a bit more concise, just as a favor to the reader.  You would be mistaken.  It turns out Rand doesn’t have to do her readers any favors: if they aren’t enthralled with every perfectly crafted prose nugget, it’s THEIR problem.  Rand apparently rejects the idea that a text can have multiple readings.  The genius creator has a design, and it’s the reader’s duty to discover it and conform to it.  This chapter actually shed some light on the curious habit of Randians to dismiss critics by claiming they “don’t get it.”  Now I realized just how damning that statement is meant to be.   To “not get it” is to fail on a fundamental level as a human being and aesthete.

You’d think after the panting, outrageously over-the-top description of John Galt’s physical perfection, the worst of Rand’s bizarre lookism would be behind us.  You would be mistaken.  After all, Dagny had to get a load of Ragnar Danneskjold, who is apparently even more beautiful than Galt.  I get that all these perfect male specimens are meant as reflection of the bold and beautiful spirit of such Objectivist heroes, but I do wonder what the pasty, pale chub-monsters who make up such a significant portion of the right-libertarian world make of such Adonis worship.

Let’s cast the hunky male leads for a film version (shudder) of Atlas Shrugged.

Hank Rearden


Left-wing propagandist George Clooney…

or

Libertarian stalwart and Liberal Fascism-fighter Jonah Golberg?

Hey, you might say, that’s not fair! Golberg is a writer! He can’t be expected to spend as much time on his physical appearance as a matinee idol like Clooney! Okay, we’ll level the playing field.

John Galt

Nobama voter and simpering altruist Brad Pitt…

or


Noted Hollywood rightist James Woods?

Quotes:

“As she listened, she kept seeing the perfection of his face–and she kept thinking that this was the head on which the world had placed a price of millions for the purpose of delivering it to the rot of death…The face she had thought too beautiful for the scars of a productive career–she kept thinking numbly, missing half his words–the face too beautiful to risk…Then it struck her that his physical perfection was only a simple illustration, a childish lesson given to her in crudely obvious terms on the nature of the outer world and on the fate of any human value in a subhuman age.”  Is this some kind of fourth-wall-breaking post modern motherfuckery?  Who is “giving” Dagny this lesson about the nature of the outer world?  Rand?  God?  Is Galt also a brilliant plastic surgeon?

“‘And then I saw that the whole industrial establishment of the world, with all of its magnificent machinery, its thousand-ton furnaces, its transatlantic cables, its mahogany offices, its stock exchanges, its blazing electric signs, its power, its wealth–all of it was run, not by bankers and boards of directors, but by any unshaved humanitarian in any basement beer joint, by any face pudgy with malice, who preached that virtue must be penalized for being virtue, that the purpose of ability is to serve incompetence, that man has no right to exist except for the sake of others…'” –Francisco d’Aconia.  This little nugget is a great example of why this book is such a chore to read.  The incantatory list of business accoutrements (cables! offices! stock exchanges!) might be effective if it didn’t come smack in the middle of a two page monologue.  Then you’ve got the manifestly incoherent claim (drunk beatniks have more control over the economy than CEOs), coupled with some more of that truly odd and frankly indefensible aesthetic fascism (the drunkard HAS to be pudgy-faced, doesn’t he?).  It’s truly a crap feast.

“‘You wore an evening gown.  You had a cape half-slipping off your body–I saw, at first, only your bare shoulders, your back and your profile–it looked for a moment as if the cape would slip further and you would stand there naked.  Then I saw taht you wore a long gown, the color of ice, like the tunic of a Grecian goddess, but had the short hair and the imperious profile of an American woman.'”–John Galt.  I think Dagny’s gonna get a new boyfriend pretty soon.  Poor Hank.

“‘That is the payment I demand.  Not many can afford it.  I don’t mean your enjoyment, I don’t mean your emotion–emotions be damned!–I mean your understanding and the fact that your enjoyment was of the same nature as mine, that it came from the same source: from your intelligence, from the conscious judgement of a mind able to judge my work by the standard of the same values that went to write it–I mean, not the fact that you felt, but that you felt what I wished you to feel, not the fact that you admire my work, but that you admire it for the things I wished to be admired.'”–Richard Halley.  Seriously?  I mean…seriously?

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  1. September 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to live in an uber-egoistic utopia unless you are an employer, charge rents or lend at interest. At that point you could be better described as a sociopath. It is not the capable being punished for the incapable, it is balancing the privilege of property with universal liberty and equality. Until property is abolished, property will be encroached upon.

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