Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"The sides of the wet stones cannot console me..."

Book lust is for me, a way of life, but for the past couple of days, I've been stunned out of it, gasping for air, praying for release.

I started reading the pukiest, most abysmal novel I've ever read. I couldn't stay with it because it *stank* so much, and I had to put it down. I only wish that I could use that term in the way that it's used for a sick animal, because that's how I feel about ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand. I'd like to put it out of its misery. This reading experience has been so harrowing, it's got me thinking fondly of book-burning!

The premise of the novel seemed good. The storyline was intruiging. But as far as delivery goes, it's bad news. Ayn Rand wasn't interested in novel writing or entertaining her readers. She only wanted a pulpit upon which to pound her philosophy over and over and over to the point of the readers' pain and nausea.

I'm really baffled. Why did she choose to use the novel as her vehicle for communication? Why didn't she just write it up as straight philosophy? I think I know the answer to that one: There wasn't as much potential money in a volume of philosophy as there was in a novel, even a novel such as hers in which the characters and the storyline are handled with ham-handed heaviness. (That's an understatement, by the way.)

Also, how did this book escape an editor? At 1100 pages, it could be so much better if it were 250-300 pages. I've been soothing myself by entertaining fantasies of Maxwell Perkins coming to the rescue and holding Ayn Rand down and forcing her to rework her creaky, overwritten dialogue, her cardboard characterization and her..oh fuck it...her EVERYTHING! Then after she's finished reworking it, he sends her away for a few weeks while he's editing the bejesus out of the whole mess!

I'm really reeling from the apparent extreme contempt for her reading public. Ayn Rand sized us up coolly, past and future readers, obviously thinking, "The fools will read anything if I give lovely descriptions of the women's fashions and throw in a couple of sex scenes." (By the way, the sex scenes were so far from sensual and sexual that even the word "wooden" seems too generous a description.)

ATLAS SHRUGGED was such an awful reading experience for me that I've become perversely attracted to learning more about Ayn Rand. Now I want to find that biography about her, and read it and find out why she pepetuated such a fraud on the reading public, and did so humorlessly and without style. Furthermore, I'm wondering about the 1957 reading public, the year ATLAS SHRUGGED was published. What the hell happened to create so many fissures in the readers' collective literary taste?

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