Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter VI: The Concerto of Deliverance

“On the roof of a structure above the gate, he saw, as he came closer, the slim silhouette of a man who held a gun in each hand and, from behind the protection of a chimney, kept firing at intervals down into the mob, firing swiftly and, it seemed, in two directions at once, like a sentinel protecting the approaches to the gate.  The confident skill of his movements, his manner of firing, with no time wasted to take aim, but with the kind of casual abruptness that never misses a target, made him look like a hero of Western legend–and Rearden watched him detached, impersonal pleasure, as if the battle of the mills were not his any longer, but he could still enjoy the sight of the competence and certainty with which men of that distant age had once combatted evil.”

Reflections: As it should be obvious to anyone reading this blog, I concur with Matt’s opinion.  Reading Atlas Shrugged is nothing short of a punishing ordeal.  This isn’t even fun anymore.  The lazy bloated writing, done to support a philosophy that idolizes severity and efficiency (O! the irony!), makes for slow laborious usurious reading.  It’s usurious in that I’m getting less out from the effort it takes to read this monstrous shit-monument.  I hope that I can get through John Galt’s lengthy speech without wanting to nail a steel tent spike through my skull.

Warning: Do not read Atlas Shrugged and operate heavy machinery.

The present chapter doesn’t assuage my fears.  The most aggravating thing about this chapter was the lack of characterization.  Ma and Bro Rearden come on bended knee to Hank, pleading for help.  Unfortunately, Philip really doesn’t want a job and Hank’s mother still acts like a castrating shrew.  It seemed like Rearden’s family genuinely saw the error of their ways and pleaded with Hank for forgiveness and mercy.  I almost came to appreciating these characters on a human level.  “Hey, they saw the error of their ways.  People can change.  Maybe there’s more to this book than nakedly pornographic agitprop?”  All for naught.  It was all a con job to get a handout from Hank.  The family members remain static caricatures, the dire times making them more and more shrill.

The only character that does “change” is the Wet Nurse, aka The Non-Absolute, aka Tony, aka Empathy Bait.  The absurdly protracted death scene is somehow engineered to elicit the reader’s sympathy.  “Aw, the young kid, never had a chance.  Stupid colleges and their gol-durned book-learnin’!”  But isn’t that rather paradoxical (not to mention manipulative and obvious)?  The foundation of Objectivism is its rejection of Altruism, since the act of giving is anathema to selfishness.  Fine.  How does that work for a modern fictional narrative?  If I’m supposed to feel sympathy for Non-Absolute’s death, shouldn’t I give a damn?  As it stands, I don’t.  Not out of any orthodox adherence to Objectivist doctrine.  The lack of change in the Rearden’s family of repellent leeches and in Non-Absolute’s contrived death did the opposite of create empathy.  It created a hatred that burned like a acetylene torch.  After 1000 pages, endless speechifying, characters so absurdly good they practically shit marble, and characters so evil Stalinist propagandists are telling Rand to take it down a notch, my sympathies lie with no characters, none of their situations, and none of this cod-Nietzschean meets Eurotrash macho-slut lookism.  The best thing to occur in this narrative would be for a comet to hit the planet annihilating all life.  A little bleak and nihilistic I readily admit, but at least then, Rearden, D’anconia, and Galt could shut the fuck up already!

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