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Reading Atlas Shrugged Again

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I've decided to read Atlas Shrugged for a second time, and started on it last night. I'm sure, given it's girth, that I missed (or forgotten) some in the first reading. It's funny, however, how a couple of the less-obvious scenes stuck with me. Perhaps this is a result of an effective writing style.

One bit of personal trivia about the book. As I was reading it the first time, I happened to have it open, reading at my desk during a lunch break. It was my birthday, January 29th. As I was reading it that day I came to the part where somebody looked at the huge calendar that had been erected in the city and the date was....January 29th. That was interesting.

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I've decided to read Atlas Shrugged for a second time, and started on it last night. I'm sure, given it's girth, that I missed (or forgotten) some in the first reading. It's funny, however, how a couple of the less-obvious scenes stuck with me. Perhaps this is a result of an effective writing style.

One bit of personal trivia about the book. As I was reading it the first time, I happened to have it open, reading at my desk during a lunch break. It was my birthday, January 29th. As I was reading it that day I came to the part where somebody looked at the huge calendar that had been erected in the city and the date was....January 29th. That was interesting.

I am reading it for the second time myself. I know there had to be things I've missed. Plus it's different knowing the outcome, you can concentrate on different aspects of the story.

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One bit of personal trivia about the book. As I was reading it the first time, I happened to have it open, reading at my desk during a lunch break. It was my birthday, January 29th. As I was reading it that day I came to the part where somebody looked at the huge calendar that had been erected in the city and the date was....January 29th. That was interesting.

That giant calendar still sticks in my head. What a mental picture... Miss Rand definitely knew how to write in a striking manner.

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That giant calendar still sticks in my head. What a mental picture... Miss Rand definitely knew how to write in a striking manner.

Both her writing style and the plot were striking in that book. In the others it was only the style. :D

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That giant calendar still sticks in my head. What a mental picture... Miss Rand definitely knew how to write in a striking manner.

The single formulation in Atlas Shrugged that sticks in my head the most are the words which Hank Rearden thinks to himself at one point in the story - "the enormity of the smallness".

I cannot forget those words, because I think that they say so much about the statistically typical specimen of mankind.

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Galt's speech was a major stumbling block for me on my first reading. I skipped over it :D and continued with the rest. It wasn't until after some study of Miss Rands non-fiction that I was able to read AS again, this time completely.

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Galt's speech was a major stumbling block for me on my first reading. I skipped over it :D and continued with the rest. It wasn't until after some study of Miss Rands non-fiction that I was able to read AS again, this time completely.

She spent a couple of years writing that speech in a way that captured her philosophy in the framework of the novel. If you read it again after studying the historical background to the evolution of philosophy, such as presented in Leonard Peikoff's recorded lecture series on the history of western philosophy, you will see a lot more in Galt's speech than you ever imagined was there.

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Galt's speech was a major stumbling block for me on my first reading. I skipped over it :D and continued with the rest. It wasn't until after some study of Miss Rands non-fiction that I was able to read AS again, this time completely.

She spent a couple of years writing that speech in a way that captured her philosophy in the framework of the novel. If you read it again after studying the historical background to the evolution of philosophy, such as presented in Leonard Peikoff's recorded lecture series on the history of western philosophy, you will see a lot more in Galt's speech than you ever imagined was there.

While The Speech might have been a good condensation of her philosophical ideas, from an stylistic point of view, it spoiled the action flow of the novel. During Dagny's stay in the Valley, Galt plainly stated his goal and strategy. It was to go on strike and to convince the producers to do the same. That was the basis of Galt's actions. It explains what he did during the preceding twelve years. Galt's speech could be skipped entirely without spoiling the action and character structure of the novel.

Frankly, I thought Galt's Speech was boring. All of the philosophical principle had been stated and restated both in the forms of soliloquies (for example, Franscisco's Money Speech) and in the actions of the protagonists. It was simply not good style to insert sixty pages of monologue in the middle of an action novel. Ayn Rand might have thought the Speech important to her, but it was bad novel writing.

I have two comparative novels to -Atlas Shrugged-. One is -The Dispossessed- by Ursula K. LaGuinn which is to anarchism, what -Atlas Shrugged- is to capitalism -The Dispossessed- is a much shorter and better flowing novel. The other novel is -The Lord of the Rings- by J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien manages to make his moral point without the overburden of monolithic prose soliloquies. In place of soliloquies he inserts songs and poems. They are easier to take. As much as I like -Atlas Shrugged- (which I read as alternative history fiction), I prefer the writing of LaGuinn and Tolkien.

Bob Kolker

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I've never read Tolkien (though I may someday), and I found Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness rather tedious (though I may give it a second chance sometime).

Regarding Galt's speech: For me, it didn't slow the novel down. It amplified, for me, the actions and characterizations in the story, the same way a shorter speech in a shorter novel would do. Atlas Shrugged deals with world-scale events, and with the end results of men's decisions through three-thousand years or more of human history. I think that alone justifies a speech which covers so much territory, explains the motivations of every single major and minor character in the book, and yet only scratches the surface of Rand's philosophy. (I remember, with dismay, someone telling me they loved Atlas Shrugged, but skipped over the speech; he said it was "all bulls---". Another person I know started reading the speech, but didn't read the whole thing; he said that he "already knows all that stuff", and that he didn't need to read it. Fortunately, most readers of the book, I think, do read the speech. In my view, if one has not read the speech as well as the rest of Atlas Shrugged, he or she has not truly read the book.)

I look forward to reading Atlas again in the next few years; when I first read that book, I felt as if time had come to a halt, and I could re-assess and re-evaluate everything going on in my life. Especially when I read the speech!

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I've never read Tolkien (though I may someday), and I found Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness rather tedious (though I may give it a second chance sometime).

Regarding Galt's speech: For me, it didn't slow the novel down. It amplified, for me, the actions and characterizations in the story, the same way a shorter speech in a shorter novel would do. Atlas Shrugged deals with world-scale events, and with the end results of men's decisions through three-thousand years or more of human history. I think that alone justifies a speech which covers so much territory, explains the motivations of every single major and minor character in the book, and yet only scratches the surface of Rand's philosophy. (I remember, with dismay, someone telling me they loved Atlas Shrugged, but skipped over the speech; he said it was "all bulls---". Another person I know started reading the speech, but didn't read the whole thing; he said that he "already knows all that stuff", and that he didn't need to read it. Fortunately, most readers of the book, I think, do read the speech. In my view, if one has not read the speech as well as the rest of Atlas Shrugged, he or she has not truly read the book.)

I look forward to reading Atlas again in the next few years; when I first read that book, I felt as if time had come to a halt, and I could re-assess and re-evaluate everything going on in my life. Especially when I read the speech!

I agree with you about Galt's speech, Jim. For me, it was the most powerful thing in the book. It was so right; everything he said needed to be said and he said it magnificently. It was like a giant wave of justice, truth and righteousness, and it swept out the scum of irrationality and altruism from the halls of man's self-respect. There is nothing to match it in all of world literature, just as there are no heroes to match Ayn Rand's heroes.

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Those who think that Galt's speech didn't contain ideas not already found in the previous shorter speeches don't understand what is in it. They tend to be the same kind of people who claim to have invented Ayn Rand's philosophy on their own. They don't know what it is and don't understand it.

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Those who think that Galt's speech didn't contain ideas not already found in the previous shorter speeches don't understand what is in it. They tend to be the same kind of people who claim to have invented Ayn Rand's philosophy on their own. They don't know what it is and don't understand it.

I recently finished Galt's speech in my second reading. It was my intention to read it in one sitting this time. I couldn't do it. The thing about Galt's speech is complicated. It is basically a summery of what we've read so far. From the view of understanding Ayn Rand's philosophy it is essential. From a story point of view it should have been a lot shorter. It could have run for about five pages and condensed a lot. If I had to look at it as an editor for the story flow I would have edited the hell out of it then printed it in it's entirety in an appendix.

By the point in the story where he starts the narrative is really gaining steam towards it's conclusion and this slows it down too much. If it shed light (story wise) on new information we need as a reader to understand what was happening it would be ok. But, as previously mentioned, it contained elements that have been explained throughout the book already, it wasn't necessary.

Again, just to clarify, as a writer (and a reader for that matter) the speech is too long and slow. It doesn't fit where it's placed. As a fan of Rand and her philosophy, it should be read by everyone. I know that sounds contradictory, and we know what she says about that :D

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It is basically a summery of what we've read so far.

I disagree with this - Galt held back most of it for the duration of the book. We had hints and the rest of the book so far prepares us for it, by anchoring events to what might otherwise be a very abstract speech (although I don't think it would have - I've convinced quite a few people to read AS by sending them the speech).

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Those who think that Galt's speech didn't contain ideas not already found in the previous shorter speeches don't understand what is in it. They tend to be the same kind of people who claim to have invented Ayn Rand's philosophy on their own. They don't know what it is and don't understand it.

I recently finished Galt's speech in my second reading. It was my intention to read it in one sitting this time. I couldn't do it. The thing about Galt's speech is complicated. It is basically a summery of what we've read so far. From the view of understanding Ayn Rand's philosophy it is essential. From a story point of view it should have been a lot shorter. It could have run for about five pages and condensed a lot. If I had to look at it as an editor for the story flow I would have edited the hell out of it then printed it in it's entirety in an appendix.

By the point in the story where he starts the narrative is really gaining steam towards it's conclusion and this slows it down too much. If it shed light (story wise) on new information we need as a reader to understand what was happening it would be ok. But, as previously mentioned, it contained elements that have been explained throughout the book already, it wasn't necessary.

Again, just to clarify, as a writer (and a reader for that matter) the speech is too long and slow. It doesn't fit where it's placed. As a fan of Rand and her philosophy, it should be read by everyone. I know that sounds contradictory, and we know what she says about that :)

The fact that De Crescenzo, or anyone else, can or can't read something in one sitting is irrelevant. The length of Galt's speech is perfect in expressing Galt's thoughts and his moral judgment. Everything that Galt said was necessary---for Galt, for those he loved and valued, and for his enemies.

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Those who think that Galt's speech didn't contain ideas not already found in the previous shorter speeches don't understand what is in it. They tend to be the same kind of people who claim to have invented Ayn Rand's philosophy on their own. They don't know what it is and don't understand it.

I recently finished Galt's speech in my second reading. It was my intention to read it in one sitting this time. I couldn't do it. The thing about Galt's speech is complicated. It is basically a summery of what we've read so far. From the view of understanding Ayn Rand's philosophy it is essential. From a story point of view it should have been a lot shorter. It could have run for about five pages and condensed a lot. If I had to look at it as an editor for the story flow I would have edited the hell out of it then printed it in it's entirety in an appendix.

By the point in the story where he starts the narrative is really gaining steam towards it's conclusion and this slows it down too much. If it shed light (story wise) on new information we need as a reader to understand what was happening it would be ok. But, as previously mentioned, it contained elements that have been explained throughout the book already, it wasn't necessary.

Again, just to clarify, as a writer (and a reader for that matter) the speech is too long and slow. It doesn't fit where it's placed. As a fan of Rand and her philosophy, it should be read by everyone. I know that sounds contradictory, and we know what she says about that :)

The fact that De Crescenzo, or anyone else, can or can't read something in one sitting is irrelevant. The length of Galt's speech is perfect in expressing Galt's thoughts and his moral judgment. Everything that Galt said was necessary---for Galt, for those he loved and valued, and for his enemies.

I'm not denying that it's a great speech. I've bookmarked a website that has it in it's entirety and regularly post it on social networking sites. I e-mail it to people I believe are on the verge of leaving the business as usual politics behind and opening their minds. It is a great speech, for defining Rand's philosophy. For prose, it slams the breaks on a moving train. It's too long for a piece of fiction.

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Those who think that Galt's speech didn't contain ideas not already found in the previous shorter speeches don't understand what is in it. They tend to be the same kind of people who claim to have invented Ayn Rand's philosophy on their own. They don't know what it is and don't understand it.

I recently finished Galt's speech in my second reading. It was my intention to read it in one sitting this time. I couldn't do it. The thing about Galt's speech is complicated. It is basically a summery of what we've read so far. From the view of understanding Ayn Rand's philosophy it is essential. From a story point of view it should have been a lot shorter. It could have run for about five pages and condensed a lot. If I had to look at it as an editor for the story flow I would have edited the hell out of it then printed it in it's entirety in an appendix.

By the point in the story where he starts the narrative is really gaining steam towards it's conclusion and this slows it down too much. If it shed light (story wise) on new information we need as a reader to understand what was happening it would be ok. But, as previously mentioned, it contained elements that have been explained throughout the book already, it wasn't necessary.

Again, just to clarify, as a writer (and a reader for that matter) the speech is too long and slow. It doesn't fit where it's placed. As a fan of Rand and her philosophy, it should be read by everyone. I know that sounds contradictory, and we know what she says about that :)

The fact that De Crescenzo, or anyone else, can or can't read something in one sitting is irrelevant. The length of Galt's speech is perfect in expressing Galt's thoughts and his moral judgment. Everything that Galt said was necessary---for Galt, for those he loved and valued, and for his enemies.

I'm not denying that it's a great speech. I've bookmarked a website that has it in it's entirety and regularly post it on social networking sites. I e-mail it to people I believe are on the verge of leaving the business as usual politics behind and opening their minds. It is a great speech, for defining Rand's philosophy. For prose, it slams the breaks on a moving train. It's too long for a piece of fiction.

You are entitled to your own opinion, of course. But it is only that, nothing more.

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I'd like to add a couple of things.

One: that, for me, the subsequent actions and events after the speech in Atlas Shrugged had more of an impact for me because I had read the speech than if I hadn't; I then knew why the people in the story were doing what they do. I had hints before, but now I had complete knowledge. It really made a difference!

Two: a long essay in the middle of the action of a novel would be very innappropriate. Rand herself, in "Basic Principles of Literature", in The Romantic Manifesto (page 77 of the most recent Signet edition I can find), has said that even in the work of the writer she loved most and called the "greatest novelist in world literature" ("Introduction to Ninety-Three", page 147), the author inserted essays that don't belong. She called the inclusion of them a "very bad literary error". And so they are. In her "Introductory Note to The Man Who Laughs" (The Objectivist, December 1967), though she regarded The Man Who Laughs as Hugo's best novel, she says, regarding the lengthy historical essays Hugo inserted into that work, that the inclusion of such essays "produces the effect of a television drama interrupted by too many commercials."

But keep in mind that Galt's speech is not an inserted essay; it is a speech by a character in a story--the most important character in this case, by the way. Just as a character's soliloquy in a Shakespeare play reveals his ideas and inner motives, John Galt's speech does the same thing. But unlike a soliloquy, Galt is speaking, not to himself and to the audience, but to people in the story (and to the reader); in fact, he is not only addressing Dagny, Dr. Stadler, and other characters (and the reader), but he is addressing the entire world.

How would that not move the story forward, especially a world-shaking story like the one in Atlas Shugged?

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It is basically a summery of what we've read so far.

I disagree with this - Galt held back most of it for the duration of the book. We had hints and the rest of the book so far prepares us for it, by anchoring events to what might otherwise be a very abstract speech (although I don't think it would have - I've convinced quite a few people to read AS by sending them the speech).

The fact that De Crescenzo, or anyone else, can or can't read something in one sitting is irrelevant. The length of Galt's speech is perfect in expressing Galt's thoughts and his moral judgment. Everything that Galt said was necessary---for Galt, for those he loved and valued, and for his enemies.

And it was an important part of the story itself -- there had been a big build-up for Mr. Thompson's impending major radio speech, which in a dramatic turn of events Galt took over with his own climactic, comprehensive statement. A brief statement would have fallen flat and would have left a big gap in the explanation of the depth of the full motives and purpose behind the strike and its role in the cause of the collapse at a point where most characters in the novel did not even know there was a strike. It provided the explanation that Mr. Thompson had promised and which was anticipated, but it in a dramatic reversal that answered anything he could have said, in the depth required. It was much more than a "summary" of previous actions.

Ayn Rand wrote the novel primarily to portray her view of the "ideal man", and Galt's speech and its content were certainly part of that. It was her novel, written for those with the attention span and capability of reading and understanding it. The rest don't matter. They can read whatever excerpts they want to or none of it. If they later understand things better they can go back and reread it as it was supposed to be read. If someone had taken it away from Ayn Rand and "edited the hell out of it" to turn it into what he wanted it to be we never would have had Atlas Shrugged.

The speech was also crafted in the dramatic language and style of the plot in the novel, not a non-fiction philosophy lecture. Outside the context of the novel it is more difficult to understand the relevance of the prose. It is not something I would ordinarily recommend to someone on the "verge of leaving business as usual politics" with no knowledge of the novel. That is what the whole novel is for.

For all these kinds of complaints about Atlas Shrugged and its length, it's ironic that my only complaint after first finishing the novel was the length -- not that it was too long, but that it had a definite length at all and didn't go on forever.

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The speech was also crafted in the dramatic language and style of the plot in the novel, not a non-fiction philosophy lecture. Outside the context of the novel it is more difficult to understand the relevance of the prose. It is not something I would ordinarily recommend to someone on the "verge of leaving business as usual politics" with no knowledge of the novel. That is what the whole novel is for.

But it is very hard to generate interest in busy people in reading a 1000+ page book, no matter how good it is supposed to be.

I actually use two "feeders", the first, for, shall we say, more basic people, is Bastiat's "Ce que l'on voit" essay (http://bastiat.org/en/twisatwins.html) and the second, for more sophisticated people such as professional investors who are trying to understand themselves, Galt's speech. In both cases, people actually purchase and read Atlas Shrugged in over 80% of cases, so it works.

(for really bad cases, the Fountainhead is sometimes necessary to soften the blow from Atlas).

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It is basically a summery of what we've read so far.

I disagree with this - Galt held back most of it for the duration of the book. We had hints and the rest of the book so far prepares us for it, by anchoring events to what might otherwise be a very abstract speech (although I don't think it would have - I've convinced quite a few people to read AS by sending them the speech).

The fact that De Crescenzo, or anyone else, can or can't read something in one sitting is irrelevant. The length of Galt's speech is perfect in expressing Galt's thoughts and his moral judgment. Everything that Galt said was necessary---for Galt, for those he loved and valued, and for his enemies.

And it was an important part of the story itself -- there had been a big build-up for Mr. Thompson's impending major radio speech, which in a dramatic turn of events Galt took over with his own climactic, comprehensive statement. A brief statement would have fallen flat and would have left a big gap in the explanation of the depth of the full motives and purpose behind the strike and its role in the cause of the collapse at a point where most characters in the novel did not even know there was a strike. It provided the explanation that Mr. Thompson had promised and which was anticipated, but it in a dramatic reversal that answered anything he could have said, in the depth required. It was much more than a "summary" of previous actions.

Ayn Rand wrote the novel primarily to portray her view of the "ideal man", and Galt's speech and its content were certainly part of that. It was her novel, written for those with the attention span and capability of reading and understanding it. The rest don't matter. They can read whatever excerpts they want to or none of it. If they later understand things better they can go back and reread it as it was supposed to be read. If someone had taken it away from Ayn Rand and "edited the hell out of it" to turn it into what he wanted it to be we never would have had Atlas Shrugged.

The speech was also crafted in the dramatic language and style of the plot in the novel, not a non-fiction philosophy lecture. Outside the context of the novel it is more difficult to understand the relevance of the prose. It is not something I would ordinarily recommend to someone on the "verge of leaving business as usual politics" with no knowledge of the novel. That is what the whole novel is for.

For all these kinds of complaints about Atlas Shrugged and its length, it's ironic that my only complaint after first finishing the novel was the length -- not that it was too long, but that it had a definite length at all and didn't go on forever.

Excellent points, especially about the style of Galt's speech.

I, too, remember getting to the end and wishing there was much more to come.

Unfortunately, some Objectivists seem to regard Atlas Shrugged as merely a tool for converting people to Objectivism, instead of as a grand and richly entertaining end in itself---which allows the reader to experience himself as a proud and joyous end in himself, and not as a tool for the expanding of Objectivism.

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Excellent points, especially about the style of Galt's speech.

I, too, remember getting to the end and wishing there was much more to come.

Unfortunately, some Objectivists seem to regard Atlas Shrugged as merely a tool for converting people to Objectivism, instead of as a grand and richly entertaining end in itself---which allows the reader to experience himself as a proud and joyous end in himself, and not as a tool for the expanding of Objectivism.

And why do you think such people send copies of Atlas Shrugged to their friends, rather than Philosophy: Who Needs It, a much easier read? :)

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But it is very hard to generate interest in busy people in reading a 1000+ page book, no matter how good it is supposed to be.

But you don't have to. You only need to get them to read the first page and the rest follows by itself.

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But it is very hard to generate interest in busy people in reading a 1000+ page book, no matter how good it is supposed to be.

But you don't have to. You only need to get them to read the first page and the rest follows by itself.

I let a girl read a paragraph in Atlas Shrugged that described Richard Halley's concerto while Dagny was on the train. She said it was the most unique thing that she'd ever read. She bought the book that weekend. Later, after coming to that passage again, the girl told me that she read it over and over, because it was so beautiful.

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