Everyone in this country seems caught in a two-choice good/bad Right-Left way of thinking. Reality is more complex. My point about Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged wasn't that it's the greatest book ever. But it's surely not the worst. For literary mandarins to claim it fails on every level, and then for other so-called intellectuals to blindly follow along, shows me that many people aren't thinking at all.
Someday, just to do it, I may get ahold of the novel-- I've read it only once, but I have read it-- and show passages where the writing works, and works well, is in line with prose from Rand's better accepted peers from Mailer to Bellow during the same time period. I'll also show how well constructed the book's narrative is. Whatever one thinks of Ayn Rand's ideas-- she surely took reason and logic to an unreal, imaginative extreme-- she used form and logic in putting together her greatest work. As one would assume to be the case.
A few days ago I was in a discussion about Atlas Shrugged, the movie and the novel, on a "Lefty" blog (the Leftists likely self-deluding bourgies who've never taken an upfront independent stand on anything, and who scorn independent thought). Here's an excerpt from what I said, with quotes added:
"Atlas Shrugged is an in-your-face novel-- which is why it continues to generate intense passion. Which, as I've said, is one of the objectives of art. In a sense she's asked for the blowback. Rather than give ticky-tack arguments about this point or that point of hers (I'm not an Objectivist so I don't care), try instead to assess the novel within context, understanding where the author was coming from and what she was trying to accomplish. As with all authors, Ayn Rand was trying to make sense of her life, which began with an experience of the Bolshevik revolution, and ended, at the time she wrote the book, living in the most successful civilization that ever was. Her philosophy and her aesthetic is an attempt to understand this and explain it. Few American novelists have tried to understand what's made this civilization as powerful and as wealthy as it's been-- yet that should be the task of the ambitious novelist. That the attempt ultimately failed is no argument against the attempt. Other writers, yes, like John Updike had much smaller goals. Their style of thought and literary art is very different. There should be room in American literature for a variety of viewpoints and artistic styles-- Ayn Rand's among them. Why is the very notion upsetting to people?
"This isn't a football game. There are no winners or losers in literature. Art isn't about keeping score. No significant work of art is all bad or all good. One can point to missteps and inconsistencies from the greatest novelists who ever lived, such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. That their philosphical ideas and arguments may be only partly true, that they're not followed by readers, doesn't make their novels insignificant or invalid or uninteresting. Atlas Shrugged is a significant novel in the context of American literature and American civilization because it presents one part of the argument, because it gives a picture of what the creators of the civilization have believed and thought, because it stimulated debate, was provocative, IS provocative even in our own time now. It's hard to ask more from a novel."