Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Have YOU read Atlas Shrugged?

For those of you who prefer to skim text, I have bolded the main points of this blog. I have my reasons...and they will become clear at the end.

Every time someone asks me, "Hey, have you ever read Atlas Shrugged?" it's usually by someone who hasn't read it, but has "heard" about it. I've been asked this more since the Tea Party movement has taken up waving the Rand flag. While I'm not a political commentator (well, at least, not on this blog), I have a serious problem with anyone who takes quotes out of context to suit their own purposes. This problem stretches to all groups of people, not just politics.

I don't want to discuss what people use Rand's literature for. Heck, I don't even care to talk about what she used it for (her own soapbox, so to speak). What I want to talk about is Rand's two major works and one smaller one. I'm tired of people asking me if I've read Atlas Shrugged, but they have no idea what The Fountainhead is, much less about a little book she wrote called Anthem.

I'm also not going to give you the history on the books. Don't be lazy, it isn't like you have to go to the library and look it up in the reference section. If you're reading this blog, you have internet access and a computer at your disposal right now. Go look it up,...but not yet. I have a "suggested journey" for you, if you don't mind. If you've never researched Rand or her novels, let's hold off a bit and save some surprises for later. 

If you are interested in reading one of Rand's books, I would like to guide the direction of least resistance. I fear that if you read Atlas Shrugged first, you will lose heart and give up on Rand. I am so glad I did not read that one first. I don't think I would have enjoyed my journey into Rand's world if fate had not smiled upon me and led me in a good direction.

Begin by reading Anthem. It is a fiction novella about a dystopian society. It is short (roughly...80 pages?) and to the point. I've read this book numerous times, and I can apply it to society in many different ways. I'll be honest, I read this one first because it's the smallest. It's tiny, in fact, when compared to Atlas Shrugged. I have a friend who constantly reminds me that "clear and concise" writing is the way to go. Anthem is a good testament to his point.

Next, you should read The Fountainhead. Yes, I know - it won't be noticed nearly as much on your bookshelf, and none of your acquaintances are going to ask you, "Hey, have you read The Fountainhead?" but this novel is worthy of your time. It's a great story, has good characters, and it flows to give you a solid movie in your head. It's a good book. Period. 

I will confess here that it is one of my favorite books, and I have read it more than once. I also admit, as I have in previous posts, our own experiences and the connections we make to a novel enhance our reading journey. I do not claim you will put this book among your favorite, I do stand by the claim it is a book you will enjoy...just because it's a good read.

Now, before you read Atlas Shrugged, you need to do a little research on Ayn Rand. Dig in to her life - find out where she comes from, what her life was like, and how she lived. Look at how the books came about, her inspirations, and the timeline of when all her books were written and how they were received. If you like, there are also documentaries available. I have watched two of them and, in conjunction with the research I'd already done, found them enjoyable. Of course, keep in mind, I am a research geek. :)

Now, once you have - at least - a small grasp of who Rand was, read Atlas Shrugged. If you are not an avid read, take it in small doses. Don't let the size of the novel scare you off. Here's something else, though,...if you get bored in certain parts - you're not alone. It IS a good story, BUT it's almost as if Rand forgot about clear and concise writing. It is a bit "preachy" - redundantly so. The story drags out too long, and I just keep thinking that a good editor could have really done something for this novel. I have wondered, more than once, if Rand was just driven to make a point - not only about her philosophy, but about how looooong she could make a novel.

Now, I don't claim to be a Rand expert. I do claim to be an excellent reader. I also understand people who are not excellent readers. My heart's passion is to help middle school students who struggle with reading. I try to consider all readers when I review a book. While I am a "born bibliophile," I know that everyone is not. That being said, everyone could read and enjoy Anthem. People who enjoy reading will like The Fountainhead. People who are avid readers will appreciate the story in Atlas Shrugged and forgive Rand (as they muddle through) for not choosing and trusting a good editor.

Now, like Rand, I could use a good editor myself. I tend to ramble sometimes, which is why I have patience when some writers do. I appreciate clear and concise, recognize it when I see it, and can write that way when the need arises. It's like I tell my students about my Southern accent, "I know I'm doing it. I am able to speak more clearly, concisely, and formally. I choose not to, unless an occasion calls for it, because I like me this way." ;)

To show I am aware and appreciate clear and concise writing, I bolded the main ideas of this blog so you could get the highlights without having to read all the commentary my brain adds to it. You see, I understand all the ways people take in information - detailed or not. As long as you're reading, what and how you read is simply a matter of preference...and freedom of choice is the freedom I enjoy most.

Thank you for choosing to read my blog. :)

By the way, I should mention my usual response to the "Atlas Shrugged question" is a shorter version of what I've written here. When I'm asked by someone visiting my home (usually while they're looking at the books on my bookshelves), I offer to let them borrow my copy of Anthem to start them on their journey. In fact, my copy is currently checked out to someone. Perhaps, I should keep a few spares...

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