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Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter V: Their Brothers’ Keepers


Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter V: Their Brothers’ Keepers

Everyone’s a hero in their own way
you and you and mostly me and you

Captain Hammer, “Everyone’s a Hero”

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Pages: 909 – 962

Summary:

Copper cables break throughout the United States and the nation is taken closer and closer to the brink of the Looter Apocalypse.  In the words of Dr. Peter Venkman, “Human sacrifice!  Cats and dogs living together … mass hysteria!”

(Hey, come on, this is also a pop culture blog.  Where else will you get cutting edge references from movies made in 1984?)

As matters become more desperate, people riot and rebel against the government.  The government urges people to stay calm, disregard the rumors of violence, and to eat soybeans.  This last dietary measure created by Emma “Ma” Chalmers in Operation Soybean.

When Dagny meets her brother James, he implies a big plan is afoot.  He tries to keep it a secret.  He stands to gain lots of unearned wealth from the nationalization of D’anconia Copper.  The plan includes nationalization of all D’anconia properties in South America.  Then, in spectacular fashion, Rand takes the lazy way out and uses a radio announcer to narrate the destruction of all D’anconia properties.

Philip Rearden begs his brother for a job, his desire for a job now actually genuine.  Hank, in predictable Hank fashion, refuses and has him booted off the property.

While the word devolves into a more medieval society, utilities dying out and industries going under while mystics and despots control the masses too scared and/or too stupid to think for themselves, Dagny is forced to make a fateful decision.  Following a meeting with the Usual Gang of Looter Idiots, she press-gangs many unskilled laborers to work on the rail line.  Communications had gone out and there was a major risk of disaster.  Trains had to enter and leave the Taggart Terminal with orchestrated precision.  During her orchestrations, she thinks she sees John Galt working as an unskilled laborer.  They meet up by the cavern where she stored his engine and then, to quote Captain Hammer, “Yeah, we totally had sex.”

And what a sex scene it is.  Well … not really.  In probably one of the worst sex scenes ever committed to print, Dagny and Galt boink each other.

The many names of John Galt.

Galt vows to meet her again, when the time is right.  He tells her to give him a signal: a dollar sign at the base of Nat Taggart’s statue.

John Galt: “Yeah, we totally had sex.”

Reflections:

Everyone’s a hero in their own way!
Everyone can blaze the hero’s trail!
Don’t worry if it’s hard, if you’re not a friggin’ ‘tard
You will prevail!

Did I say I wanted to see the characters have sex again?  (As opposed to the longwinded speechifying?)  I take it back.  The major irony is the sex scenes in the beginning of the book were qualitatively better than the Dagny-Galt scene.  (Not like those scenes represented good writing either.)  The early scenes, while not exactly erotica, had a rough-hewn realism.  The Dagny-Galt hookup possessed all the eroticism of a credit card contract.  Let me enumerate the flaws:

  • Plodding pace. The momentum of the sex seemed to occur in geologic time.
  • Philosophical distractions. “The sum of her highest values,” oh yeah, that’s hot.  Seriously, the convoluted philosophical writing smeared itself all over the scene.  It rendered the real physical contact of the two Objectivist Heroes into something cold, abstract, incomprehensible, and boring!  Dear Reader, do yourself a favor and read some George Bataille.  Bataille was a philosopher, poet, anthropologist, literary critic, and novelist.  He also wrote some incredible erotica, not to mention his daring philosophy.
  • Just plain boring. A sex scene between the two protagonists who personify the Objectivist philosophy should not put your readers to sleep.
  • Objective Reality: Don’t believe me?  I’m sure my literary criticism in this matter must really steam the Objectivists out there.  How dare I criticize the smartestest person ever to walk the Earth.  Here’s a passage:

It was not the pressure of a hand that made her tremble, but the instantaneous sum of its meaning, the knowledge that it was his hand, that it moved as if her flesh were his possession, that its movement was his signature of acceptance under the whole of that achievement which was herself – it was only a sensation of physical pleasure, but it contained her worship of him, of everything that was his person and his life – from the night of the mass meeting in a factory in Wisconsin, to the Atlantis of a valley hidden in the Rocky Mountains, to the triumphant mockery of the green eyes of the superlative intelligence above a worker’s figure at the foot of the tower – it contained her pride in herself and that it should be she whom he had chosen as his mirror, that it should be her body which was now giving him the sum of his existence, as his body was giving her the sum of hers.  These were the things it contained – but what she knew was only the sensation of the movement of his hands on her breasts.

Rand is a terrible, terrible writer, a below-average propagandist, and seems hellbent to throttle the English language into submission.  One only has to count the times she uses the terms “progressive” and “humanitarian” in such vehemently negative situations.

It seems unfair to compare Ayn Rand to another Russian émigré writer, Vladimir Nabokov.  Nabokov’s family was forced into exile because the Russian Revolution.  So he’s not a fan.  Nevertheless, Nabokov wrote prolifically (in three languages!) and penned some of the greatest literary works, establishing himself comfortably within the Western Canon.  Rand takes her place in the Hall of Crackpots.

Anyone claiming Rand was a great writer is being either intellectually dishonest or monumentally naïve.  It’s getting harder to call this overwrought, overlong, incoherent mishmash, this Everest of Poorly Executed Pretentiousnes, a novel.  Ayn Rand is to fiction what Coleman Francis is to cinema.

What should have been an awesome Doc Savage-Bette Davis hookup read like a nine-year-old describing calculus.  Any more needless steps in that scene and it would come across like badly translated directions from IKEA.  Do I need to emphasize this any more?  Ayn Rand probably would, since she considers you a “friggin’ ‘tard.”

Quotes:

  • “There had been a time when the railroad was called the blood system of the nation, and the stream of trains had been like a living circuit of blood, bringing growth and wealth to every patch of wilderness it touched.”  Unfortunately, by 1957, railroads were becoming obsolete due to the construction of the Eisenhower Interstate System, a vast public works project (Socialism!).  It is truly ironic how many pro-business conservatives make it an axiom of their libertarian rhetoric to stand against any rail project.  Way to defend the outdated, Ayn!  Even at your peak of popularity, you were about as in touch with reality as C. Montgomery Burns.
  • “There was no way to tell which devastation had been accomplished by the humanitarians and which by undisguised gangsters.”  I know, I get the activities of Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Al Capone mixed up all the time.
  • “For some reason which nobody could define, the death of her son [Kip Chalmers] in the tunnel catastrophe had given her in Washington an aura of martyrdom, heightened by her recent conversion to Buddhism.”  No philosophy is as diametrically opposed to Objectivism as Buddhism.  Buddhism is at root a rejection of the self.  It declares that attachments cause suffering.  Paradise is Nirvana, a term meaning “nothingness.”  On the other hand, Objectivism’s goal of personal greed comes across as monomaniacal and its adoration of gold is masturbatory.
  • “But they – she looked at the face of her signal engineer – they believed that that muscular contraction of a hand was the only thing required to move traffic – and now the tower men stood idle – and on the great panels in front of the tower director, the red and green lights, which had flashed announcing the progress of trains at a distance of miles, were now so many glass beads – like the glass beads for which another breed of savages had once sold the Island of Manhattan.”  That sure is a long way to go for a backhanded insult to Native Americans.  Here’s what she said at a West Point commencement: “They (Native Americans) didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.”  It sounded better written in the original German: “The Germanic inhabitant of the American continent, who has remained racially pure and unmixed, rose to be master of the continent; he will remain the master as long as he does not fall a victim to defilement of the blood.”  Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf.
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  1. kb1
    January 29, 2011 at 12:53 am
    • Brian
      February 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Funner fact: She addressed this.

      She’d been forced to pay into it her whole life, it was proper for her to receive assistance from it.

      Try again.

      • Ed
        October 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm

        She didn’t address it, she rationalized it.

        You think John Galt would whine and make excuses for turning moocher? Hell no!

        Just add “hypocrite” to Ayn’s long list of negative traits.

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