I finished reading Atlas Shrugged for the second time while commuting via train between Washington D.C. and New York City this week.
Upon finishing the last page, layers of symbolism floated through my mind. The current political-economic climate, Occupy Wall Street ridiculousness, just the rare occurrence of me riding on a train in between my first ever corporate seminars for a tobacco company, the list of corollaries to my own life are endless.
I’ll keep this post pertinent to the book and talk about the corporate seminar in another post.
Before I even get into the book, I want to say that Ayn Rand’s teachings have had a HUGE impact on how I view the world and act in it on a daily basis.
Start Reading Fiction
Like so many guys I meet, I rarely read fiction. This and Rand’s The Fountainhead are probably the only fiction books I’ve read in the last 3-4 years.
Fiction turns many of the self development junkies off because they are used to directly applicable advice, but I personally find Rand’s ability to use fiction as a tool to elucidate her philosophy as effective as any self help book.
There are many reasons why I love this book.
- Conveying Ideals Through Fiction
First, through the use of fiction, she has the ability to overly amplify character traits to the point of near absurdity.
Characters such as Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, and Fransisco D’Anconia are highly unrealistic, but realism is not the desired goal. They are paragon human beings,and great examples of how to act and view the world.
Rand writes to the minute detail describing their characteristics, embodying the highly conscious, self actualized ideal persona.
Unreactivity, emotional intelligence, highly productive, well dressed, perfect posture, with the perfect response to any question, as I was reading, I tried to put myself into the headspace of each character, viewing my own foibles and perceptions compared to theirs, and the process changed the way I view and act in many situations.
During some of the discourses, I WISH I could talk the way she writes out each characters rebuttals and monologues. Always the perfect response with utter precision and diction.
Also, the fictionalization allows her to give an extreme example of how she predicts the world would be through either her desired philosophy or the opposite.
- Written by a Woman
It’s rare for me to read fiction, but even rarer to read a book written by a woman, and this creates another interesting viewpoint for reading the book.
You can peer into a highly conscious woman’s inner brain and see how she perceives human interactions. There are all sorts of subtleties in the way she views the intimate relationships that Dagny Taggart runs through, her viewpoint on sex, and what she perceives as an attractive man.
It’s almost hilarious how much attention is paid to explain minute facial expressions and how she explains each characters inner thoughts on reacting to the other.
- Now is the Time
With the current happenings of Occupy Wall Street spreading around the world, this book really gives you the opposing perspective of EXTREME free market capitalism.
At over 1000 pages, I started this book well before any of the 99%er events began, but about half way through people were starting to tent out on Wall Street, which gave me another opportunity to compare Atlas Shrugged with my own view of the world and the direction our society is heading.
I’ll try to stay away from any sort of political arguments here, other than saying Rand gives a pretty interesting picture of what the world could turn to which relates scarily close to the direction we are heading. With this book being written when communism was making serious waves, you can tell there are some anti-communist rants through out the book.
- Read Like a Writer
Lastly, being a writer, the diction and word choice in this book are just fantastic. With it being such a tome, the phrasing, metaphors, character development, and vocabulary are just incredible imagining how many YEARS it took to write and edit.
Knowing that Rand was born in Eastern Europe, with English not even her first language, it was humbling as I went back and forth to the dictionary every few paragraphs looking up the meaning behind the more challenging words.
This book pushed me to strive for more as a writer, a worker, and most importantly a MAN.
Don’t expect to read it like you typical self development book, realize how through the use of fiction there are examples of IDEALS here to strive towards.
Perfect humans, perfect mindsets, perfect discussions, only able to be conveyed through a fictionalization.
Learn to read into the subtleties of symbolism, and you can get as much if not more out of Atlas Shrugged as any Robbins/Covey/Napoloeon Hill book.