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Our First FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged
A Publius Essay | 15 January 2009 | Publius

Posted on 01/15/2009 10:32:08 AM PST by Publius

Over the past few weeks, Ayn Rand’s classic, Atlas Shrugged, has been mentioned in articles in the Wall Street Journal and among conservative and libertarian bloggers. Two questions are being debated by those who have read the book.

  1. Are we living in a time line that follows the book?
  2. What chapter are we in?

Besides those who have read the book, there are FReepers with little awareness of Rand and her work. Some are turned off by the length of her works of fiction. Some of a more religious bent have problems with Rand’s atheism. Some wish she had left the few sex scenes out. Some just think she’s a bad writer.

I would like to propose our first FReeper Book Club effort: A chance for a group of us to read Atlas Shrugged together, both old hands and newcomers to the book. Once this effort settles in, I or others might want to start FReeper Book Clubs dedicated to Forrest McDonald’s States’ Rights and the Union, or Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America. I like the idea of an interleaved reading of both the “Federalist Papers” and “Anti-Federalist Papers” together in strict chronological order so as to see the point and counterpoint of the debate over the Constitution. I’ve picked Atlas Shrugged for starters because it’s a hot topic and it’s fun. Once we get into the habit of reading and discussing together, we can tackle the heavier stuff.

The book is divided into 30 chapters. I propose to post a thread on one chapter every Saturday, which would make 30 threads over a period of 30 weeks to cover the entire book. I’ll provide a short synopsis of the chapter, expound on certain themes and raise questions to stimulate debate. If FReeper Book Club members feel that a faster pace is better, we can settle on one.

Atlas and Me

I came to Atlas Shrugged via the usual method: I read it in high school. The bully who sat behind me and enjoyed pounding me at the Catholic prep school I attended in New Jersey exposed me to the book by hitting me on the head with it. Its weight made an immediate impression. Our sophomore English teacher was not teaching the book, and he suggested that the bully pound me with something of lesser weight, such as The Red Badge of Courage.

The English teacher panned the book, stating that it was the kind of book an immature person might enjoy, but a mature adult with experience of the world could not take Rand seriously. The solutions proposed by Atlas Shrugged were not realistic.

The vice principal, a priest from Brooklyn who believed in FDR, JFK, LBJ and God, in that order, excoriated Rand for writing “an anti-Christian epic” and broadly hinted that the bully was sinning by reading it. Better to hit someone over the head with it. The solutions proposed by Atlas Shrugged were evil.

I read the book anyway.

The Strange World of Atlas Shrugged

Rand’s book was written between 1945 and 1956 and published in 1957. During the postwar years, America saw massive changes in society and technology, and the shape of world politics shifted mightily. None of this is reflected in the book. Some of the differences between Rand’s world and our own are rather egregious and require comment.

The easiest way to explain these anomalies is to say that Rand lacked the scientific background to project technological change and simply dealt with the technology of her era while projecting political change. But then how did she project the use of ultrasound for Project Xylophone and the holographic projection that protected Galt’s Gulch? There is a strange mix of the old and the new. What marks a total departure from our reality is the change in politics and in the American character.

One can accept all this as artist’s license, but I tried to come up with my own logic for how Rand’s America came to this pass.

Alternative History: Trying the Harry Turtledove Approach

If one wanted to create an alternative history for the universe of Atlas Shrugged, one could start with the 4-way election of 1948. In this alternative history, Henry Wallace won the race, defeating Truman, Dewey and Thurmond, establishing a Labor government on the British model in America. The warning voices of Martin Dies, John Bricker, Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon were stilled.

Wallace wanted no cold war with the Soviets, and with the quick withdrawal of American forces from Europe, Germany was reunified under a communist People’s State government. The Soviet Union, now the People’s State of Russia, never geared up for war, settling instead for passive mediocrity. Britain never rejected Clement Atlee, and with the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a written constitution on the German model, the People’s State of England replaced the United Kingdom. In France, De Gaulle never came to power, and the Fourth Republic morphed into the People’s State of France.

In the Western Hemisphere, figures similar to Fidel Castro established the People’s State of Mexico and other communist countries in Central and South America.

America did not go all the way to People’s State status, however, although intellectuals worked hard toward that end. Instead, America became a gray, downtrodden country accepting an atmosphere of sad decay, much like England today. Americans accepted that things were hopeless and that nothing could be done. Feelings replaced facts. The very nature of reality was questioned.

It took only a decade of economic stasis, misguided politics and cultural pollution to create the hell described by Rand.

Some Thoughts on the Movie

A scriptwriter would have a hard time shrinking the story to fill a two or three hour time slot even if all the long speeches were eliminated. A miniseries for television would have served the book better.

This effort would be a production designer’s dream. I would point to John Vallone, who handled production design for Walter Hill’s 1984 classic, “Streets of Fire”. Vallone created a fascinating mix of Fifties and Eighties that had no parallel in real time. Something in the same vein would make the movie memorable, rather than setting it in the present or a future that looks like the present.

Let’s Get Started

I will build a ping list for our FReeper Book Club, so sign in on this thread. I’ll use the keyword “freeperbookclub” to mark these threads as they are posted.

Welcome to our first effort. Prepare to read and discuss.


TOPICS: Announcements; Culture/Society; Free Republic; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: atlasshrugged; aynrand; bookreview; fiction; freeperbookclub; goodreads; literature; rand; readinglist
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To: Publius

Please add me to the ping list.

Thanks,
AR


351 posted on 05/11/2009 9:56:02 AM PDT by alarm rider (Any country that tells you what light bulb to use is not a free country.)
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To: alarm rider

You’re added. Check the previous post for a link to all existing threads. Part 2/Chapter 8 goes up this Saturday morning.


352 posted on 05/11/2009 9:58:44 AM PDT by Publius (Sex is the manifestation of God's wicked sense of humor.)
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To: Publius

Please sign me up.


353 posted on 06/02/2009 9:58:09 AM PDT by ebshumidors
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To: Publius

Thanks for doing this. I found this thread, via your recent posting on Atlas Shrugged (Anti-Life). I tried to get the unabridged audio books for this novel and I just couldn’t get through it.

I’ll check out your other threads though. Again, thanks.


354 posted on 06/27/2009 8:15:41 AM PDT by Sister_T
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To: Professional Engineer

bookmark ping


355 posted on 07/11/2009 8:24:43 AM PDT by Peanut Gallery (The essence of freedom is the proper limitation of government.)
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To: Publius

Please add me to the ping list.

I ordered Atlas Shrugged from amazon.com and it is sitting on the floor in front of my TV in the bedroom. I hope to get to it this summer but it isn’t looking good time-wise to be able to fit it in with too many family and work obligations.


356 posted on 07/15/2009 6:14:53 AM PDT by kevinm13 (Tim Geithner is a tax cheat. Manmade "Global Warming" is a HOAX!)
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To: r-q-tek86
Part I, Chapter I: The Theme
357 posted on 08/14/2009 6:18:58 PM PDT by r-q-tek86 ("A building has integrity just like a man. And just as seldom." - Ayn Rand)
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To: TXHubbard

This is the first of the Atlas threads. There is a link toward the bottom that takes you to the next one.


358 posted on 04/29/2010 11:13:07 AM PDT by r-q-tek86 (It isn't settled because it isn't science)
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To: Publius

Please add me to your list as well. I just finished re-reading it for the first time since 1998. As you can tell by my screen name, the book had a big impact on me... :-)


359 posted on 04/29/2010 11:35:27 AM PDT by Wyatt's Torch (I can explain it to you. I can't understand it for you.)
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To: Wyatt's Torch

Our book club shut down last August when we finished reading the book. If you want to see what the club did, run a Keyword search using “freeperbookclub”. That will bring up our current book club for the Federalist Papers, but it will also bring up the older threads from last year dedicated to “Atlas Shrugged.”


360 posted on 04/29/2010 11:57:53 AM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Wyatt's Torch
Part I, Chapter I: The Theme
Part I, Chapter II: The Chain
Part I, Chapter III: The Top and the Bottom
Part I, Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers
Part I, Chapter V: The Climax of the d’Anconias
Part I, Chapter VI: The Non-Commercial
Part I, Chapter VII: The Exploiters and the Exploited
Part I, Chapter VIII: The John Galt Line
Part I, Chapter IX: The Sacred and the Profane
Part I, Chapter X: Wyatt’s Torch
Part II, Chapter I: The Man Who Belonged on Earth
Part II, Chapter II: The Aristocracy of Pull
Part II, Chapter III: White Blackmail
Part II, Chapter IV: The Sanction of the Victim
Part II, Chapter V: Account Overdrawn
Part II, Chapter VI: Miracle Metal
Part II, Chapter VII: The Moratorium on Brains
Part II, Chapter VIII: By Our Love
Part II, Chapter IX: The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt
Part II, Chapter X: The Sign of the Dollar
Part III, Chapter I: Atlantis
Part III, Chapter II: The Utopia of Greed
Part III, Chapter III: Anti-Greed
Part III, Chapter IV: Anti-Life
Part III, Chapter V: Their Brothers’ Keepers
Part III, Chapter VI: The Concerto of Deliverance
Part III, Chapter VII: “This is John Galt Speaking”
Part III, Chapter VIII: The Egoist
Part III, Chapter IX: The Generator
Part III, Chapter X: In the Name of the Best Within Us
Coda: Ten Years After
Afterword and Suggested Reading
361 posted on 04/29/2010 12:09:53 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Publius

Ping me for our ‘FReeper Book Club’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’


362 posted on 04/30/2010 3:19:31 PM PDT by GGpaX4DumpedTea (I am a tea party descendant - steeped in the Constitutional legacy handed down by the Founders)
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To: GGpaX4DumpedTea

Regrettably, the book club shut down last August when we finished reading the book.


363 posted on 04/30/2010 3:22:48 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Publius

I’ve read it three times... last time just this year. You have to re-read it just to remember all the details. Count me in.


364 posted on 08/16/2010 4:27:47 PM PDT by ArmyTeach
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To: ArmyTeach
Our book club finished almost exactly a year ago. Here are the threads, which you can follow.

FReeper Book Club: Introduction to Atlas Shrugged
Part I, Chapter I: The Theme
Part I, Chapter II: The Chain
Part I, Chapter III: The Top and the Bottom
Part I, Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers
Part I, Chapter V: The Climax of the d’Anconias
Part I, Chapter VI: The Non-Commercial
Part I, Chapter VII: The Exploiters and the Exploited
Part I, Chapter VIII: The John Galt Line
Part I, Chapter IX: The Sacred and the Profane
Part I, Chapter X: Wyatt’s Torch
Part II, Chapter I: The Man Who Belonged on Earth
Part II, Chapter II: The Aristocracy of Pull
Part II, Chapter III: White Blackmail
Part II, Chapter IV: The Sanction of the Victim
Part II, Chapter V: Account Overdrawn
Part II, Chapter VI: Miracle Metal
Part II, Chapter VII: The Moratorium on Brains
Part II, Chapter VIII: By Our Love
Part II, Chapter IX: The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt
Part II, Chapter X: The Sign of the Dollar
Part III, Chapter I: Atlantis
Part III, Chapter II: The Utopia of Greed
Part III, Chapter III: Anti-Greed
Part III, Chapter IV: Anti-Life
Part III, Chapter V: Their Brothers’ Keepers
Part III, Chapter VI: The Concerto of Deliverance
Part III, Chapter VII: “This is John Galt Speaking”
Part III, Chapter VIII: The Egoist
Part III, Chapter IX: The Generator
Part III, Chapter X: In the Name of the Best Within Us
Coda: Ten Years After
Afterword and Suggested Reading

365 posted on 08/16/2010 4:32:10 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: carolinacrazy

interesting


366 posted on 08/22/2010 12:23:15 PM PDT by teenyelliott (www.thewaterrock.com)
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To: raven92876

ping


367 posted on 09/06/2010 6:07:16 PM PDT by stylecouncilor (What Would Jim Thompson Do?)
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To: Publius

Ping please! Thanks!


368 posted on 02/26/2011 7:37:04 PM PST by Swede Girl
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To: Publius

Sorta thought everybody’d forgotten about this one. Whaddaya know? BTT.


369 posted on 02/26/2011 7:47:35 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: JPII Be Not Afraid

bookmark


370 posted on 03/10/2011 4:37:42 PM PST by JPII Be Not Afraid
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To: Publius

please add me to your list


371 posted on 04/17/2011 5:06:15 PM PDT by nakutny
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To: Publius

sorry - just noticed this was posted in 2009


372 posted on 04/17/2011 5:08:27 PM PDT by nakutny
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To: Publius

Please add me to your book club list.


373 posted on 04/18/2011 3:45:52 AM PDT by Mind-numbed Robot (I retain the right to be inconsistent, contradictory and even flat-out wrong!)
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To: Publius

Hi, I would really appreciate it if you could please add me to the book club list. Thanks!


374 posted on 04/28/2011 6:28:30 AM PDT by wrhssaxensemble (Christie-West/Christie-Rubio 2012)
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To: wrhssaxensemble; nakutny; Mind-numbed Robot

See #365 for all threads. Publius is currently doing the Federalist Papers for the club.


375 posted on 04/28/2011 6:31:22 AM PDT by Tijeras_Slim
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To: Publius

Good to go. This will be my third time reading it.


376 posted on 01/13/2012 2:40:13 PM PST by ArmyTeach (Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain ... USS Iowa BB 61)
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To: ArmyTeach

Our third FReeper Book Club is in the works.


377 posted on 01/13/2012 4:42:06 PM PST by Publius
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