Tag Archives: Ayn Rand

Slapping Joseph Conrad’s Editor in the Neck

Because he thought having a protagonist tell the whole story, through dialogue, that should’ve just been left as narration was a good idea. And he thought it was another good idea for the protagonist-narrator speak just like Joseph Conrad writes, which is nearly impossible given for anyone, much less someone not trained in elocution, large-content memorization, and pathologically inclined to break basic social etiquette. And because he thought other in-story characters wouldn’t just get up and drown themselves in the disease-riddled Congo after he told maybe a few pages’ worth of his past and write him off as crazy and not just an oddball. And because he thought readers wouldn’t be wondering when the guy is going to shut the hell up and get back to the present and get on with the story. At least Ayn Rand had the good sense to make chapter-long speeches actual speeches and not impossibly well-constructed oral storytelling rants from a 19th/20th century seaman.

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Salt the Living

“I think that when in doubt about the truth of an issue, it’s safer and in better taste to select the least numerous of the adversaries…May I have the salt, please?”
– Kira Alexandrovna Argounova, We the Living (Ayn Rand)

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Ayn Rand Should Be On the New Ten Dollar Bill

Story here, if you haven’t caught wind yet.

Right now there are obvious choices being talked about: Susan B. Anthony (universal suffrage is silly), Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of a former head bureaucrat) or local favorite: Rachel Carson (malaria lover).

I personally have little interest in who is picked save for one reason. However, these items listed below might appeal to the sensibilities of normal people who consider it important.

  1. She loved America, a lot.
  2. She loved money, a lot.
  3. She was an example of the Great American Dream.
  4. She wrote books set in America that are popular to this day.
  5. She was heavily rooted in Aristotle, whose philosophy helped form the basis for the West’s intellectual and political tradition.
  6. She became famous for something other than good looks.

I’d like to see Ayn Rand on the bill, or at least seriously considered, because the ensuing tornado of outrage storming through social media accounts would be terrifying and entertaining. The emotional froth would spill in from nearly every corner of the Internet, from people of every political and moral persuasion—no one really likes Rand all that much except for objectivists, and only place you’ll find an objectivist is under a rock or somewhere alone, taking themselves very, very seriously.

EDIT: Not that I considered this an original idea, but I didn’t think Time would have written about the same idea yesterday, and the top Google result for “ayn rand $10” is another blogger. Can’t wait for the TwitterInstaBook sphere to catch wind and rev up the outrage engines.

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A Minor Compendium of Black and White Photos of Writers Smoking – Ayn Rand Edition

My friend Ben Pike asked me why I hadn’t posted any photos of Ayn Rand smoking in my previous posts. The exclusion wasn’t intentional; I had a folder of just her sitting around that I was planning on unleashing. Now is that time.

I didn’t find many photos of her. Let’s face it, she wasn’t photogenic and a lot of media and academic gatekeepers disliked her or just plain ignored her. This holds true even today, despite the resurgence of popularity of her writing. Heck, unless they’re objectivists, even most libertarians have some issues with her.

If you are uncaring about political or philosophical opinions, just stick to reading only Anthem and it’s a safe bet your eyes will remain comfortably unrolled.

Not black and white, technically:
Ayn Rand Smoking, #1

Ayn Rand Smoking, #2

Ayn Rand Smoking, #3

Ayn Rand Smoking, #4

Ayn Rand Smoking, #5

Not a photograph (duh), but nice enough to post here. By John Cox:
Ayn Rand Smoking, #6

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Stop Telling Me Everything About Everything

Not enough red.

There’s only a handful of things that separate good storytelling from the sea of decent but forgettable reads, and it’s creating a sense of mystery and explaining away only part of it. It properly engages the reader’s imagination, which, I’m starting to believe, causes a physiological reaction not unlike the reaction one might receive from eating chocolate or finishing a warrior combo during yoga — not that I would know anything about that since men don’t eat chocolate or do yoga, right?

If you finish a book and still have questions, you’re more apt to seek out someone else who has read the book to exchange ideas, and when people talk about a book it generally means it’s ignited something that wasn’t there before. Unless you’re talking about sparkling model-vampires and teenage girls making regrettable life decisions, in which case some people are talking about a book because it’s outright ridiculous.

The Metamorphosis is Kafka’s best short story, because the account of Samsa’s (and the Samsas’) life after his bugging out was explained in detail, but we don’t know the how or why of Samsas transformation. Heck, we don’t even know exactly what kind of bug he turned into. We’re left to fill in the details by ourselves. Yes it was an allegory for alienation and whatnot but compared to Kafka’s interrupted, agonizing descriptions of everything (I’m looking at you, In the Penal Colony), Metamorphosis is actually enjoyable.

We can also look at Ayn Rand. Not straight in the eyes, mind you — she would take it as a challenge to fight — but her writing. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are fine soundtracks for objectivists to get their make out on, but people who are able to function in normal society look to Anthem for reading pleasure. Here, we know there was some war, some bureaucrats took over, and now people call themselves “we” and have numbers for names. There’s a lot we have to assume and it’s not a terrible task to actually wonder what happened. This is Rand before her full on, “I’m going to cave your face in, Irreversible-style, with this minor character’s backstory. Oh by the way, here’s a speech about government intervention. Religion sucks!” mode. There’s an actual story, with unimportant and important things left out, not an extended political statement through which Jane Book Club does not want to wade. She’ll drown and go back to reading The Happiness Project at the bottom of the ocean, and we’ve lost her forever.

Authors: you’ve heard the advice to resist explaining things, but you need to do it more. Confuse us with mystery, not plot holes. Throw that Macguffin in there and leave it unresolved. I know this idea is worse and less intuitive than letting your kids play on the train tracks instead of watching TV, but being in danger is a lot more interesting than enduring another Dora episode.

Photo by TheCreativePenn.

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Ram a Titanic Into Your Story’s Iceberg

One of the good things about Ayn Rand is that she wrote a lot, and one of the bad things about Ayn Rand is that she wrote a lot. What she also did was wrote a lot about her characters and the story behind them that didn’t make the published version. After I first read Atlas Shrugged and finished it 18 years later, I reread the introduction in my version that explained the lengths Rand went through to document the history of her characters. There was even one character, a priest, that she tried to fit into the story but ultimately rejected it because she said she couldn’t make it believable (if only she thought similarly about her other characters).

When I first read about that, I was baffled. Why would someone spend so much time writing something that no one will see? It wasn’t until I finished the second draft of my current work in progress that I learned that managing a coherent and partially comprehensive history of a novel’s characters — for the author’s eyes only — was a common practice. Go to any writer or author blog and do a search for “backstory” and you’re sure to get something. To use a common metaphor, readers see the tip but the author should be able to see the whole iceberg.

I had the history of everyone in my novel in mind but I didn’t put it in writing, which was a big mistake. After completely gutting literally half of my novel’s text I had to rework some scenes and overall themes, some of the characters’ history had to change, too. This was for the better since a lot of the history of my protagonist, which gives birth to her motivations, was clichéd. Badly, badly clichéd. Though I had everything about her memorized and having the backstory handy would have made it easier from the the get-go since I could weed out the badly, badly-clichéd elements of her past before fleshing them out and making the ugliness more official. I would’ve also been spared the amateur mistake of having to explain everything in the novel; with a backstory you can more easily pick and choose which parts of the characters’ past to reveal as the plot warrants it.

Lessons learned and all that. Now if Rand would’ve done something about the Francisco d’Anconia speech…

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