|Really, Atlas is just holding his head in his hands and|
weeping about the modern state of political discourse.
I first read Atlas Shrugged while in college, and found it hugely enjoyable. Not because of its philosophy, which was a bit terrifying, but because Rand is, in my eyes, a formidable writer. Her electrifying prose only adds to the seductive quality of Objectivism. She certainly presents her philosophy in a captivating fashion. Goodness, if Ryan continues his holiday book-giveaway tradition, I wouldn't mind heckling for a fresh copy. Atlas Shrugged, is, of course, the type of book that falls under the category of 'discretionary reading.' That is, if you have reason to believe you will be irreparably seduced by the lure of unbounded motive power, you may want to give it a pass. But this is not a book that will necessarily pre-destine one for a moral demise. As always, caveat emptor.
From what I gather, some of what Ryan no doubt found (and perhaps still finds) seductive about the account given in Atlas Shrugged was its emphasis on the freeing of 'motive power,' an apparent nod towards popular contemporary ideas of de-regulation, etc. Much of what excited me in my read was much of the same rhetoric, which seems to smack of a certain liberating self-empowerment. In my younger, angst-ridden years, I had subconsciously subscribed to a form of the gospel of motive power, in which I could work through any obstacle with a bit of extra will-power. And it only caused me frustration and interior despair. Rand's language resonated with me. Those still clinging to the notion of an American dream still tend to get all sentimental about such language. But far from luring me into wild dreams about Taggart Transcontinental, the rhetoric of Atlas Shrugged finally articulated my mis-guided motivations in a way that made it clear where I was mistaken. I am more than my motive power, and the world of Atlas Shrugged to me demonstrated why. Not to mention fleeting memories of Atlas Shrugged still leave me with highly romanticized sentiments toward rail travel- I do so love trains.
In library school I often perceived the idea of bibliotherapy with skepticism. It is still a clunky, silly-sounding word. But sometimes even so-called 'dangerous' books can, at the right time, serve as a sort of cathartic instrument. Atlas Shrugged certainly served that purpose for me. Regardless of the political climate, we ought to guard against an attitude of 'literary determinism,' which seeks to advance the already entrenched habit of the public to espouse the fastest-drawn conclusion, rather than critically and holistically examining the matters before them.