When it comes to dating, I have only one simple rule. If I go over to a girl’s house and she has a copy of The Fountainhead, or — god forbid — Atlas Shrugged, then I’m out the door in 0.5 seconds. Liking Ayn Rand novels is a guaranteed sign that someone is crazy, and though crazy people are often good in bed, it’s really just not worth it.
(In fact, I have a corollary to this rule: if the girl has a ton of books by Anaïs Nin or Anne Rice, then she’s also gonna be crazy, but also good in bed — but she’ll still be less crazy than someone who likes Ayn Rand, so it’s worth sticking around and sleeping with her for, say, three weeks or so.)
Yes, Atlas Shrugged is the horrible 1,168 page book that turned a generation of gullible 14-year-olds into conservative Tea Partiers. And now, it’s a major motion picture. And here’s the trailer for the movie! Please to enjoy:
Wow, so it’s like “TWO UNPLEASANT PEOPLE AND A TRAIN: THE MOTION PICTURE.” Groovy. And boy, these two people really like trains, and more trains, and metal… and metal-based alloys. Gosh, but it’s all so exciting. (By the way, if you haven’t read the book — the guy who says “My only goal is to make money” — well, he’s the good guy.)
And, note to the producers of Atlas Shrugged: discussions about metallic alloys are not exciting, no matter how much thudding ‘Inception’-style music you add, and no matter how many jump-cuts you do.
Actually, the nice thing about this trailer is that it’s exactly as boring as the book. But before we get into that, here’s a…
…QUICK PRIMER ON AYN RAND
Ayn Rand was a horrible, vile woman who was a terrible writer. But because she was such a bad writer, her work could be easily understood by 14-year-olds who would go on to become future Tea Partiers. The nice thing about Ayn Rand is that all her characters are one-dimensional, or occasionally two-dimensional, and they don’t have actual conversations with each other, they just make speeches where they say stuff like “MONEY IS GOOD,” thereby making it fairly easy to follow the plots of her books.
In fact, here are the plots of all her books:
1) Money is good. 2) Selfishness is good. 3) Businesspeople are awesome. 4) Government intervention is horrible.
Of course, these aren’t “plots,” they’re more like philosophical statements (dumb ones, but still). Atlas Shrugged is the book where she spells out this philosophy, which she called “Objectivism.” In Atlas Shrugged, her hero, John Galt, decides that businesspeople are awesome and that government sucks. So he starts a general strike which destroys society and kills millions of people. (Remember, he’s the hero.) And then he and all of his followers go in live in a canyon called “Galt’s Gulch,” where everything is supposedly awesome and businesspeople run everything. Because if there’s one thing we learned from the Industrial Revolution and the Wall Street collapse, it’s that when businesspeople are given unfettered control,
they make children work 70 hours a week in sweatshops and destroy the world’s economy everything goes great.
Seriously, that’s Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Here it is, explained in helpful two-minute video form:
Not only is her philosophy really really dumb, but Ayn Rand herself couldn’t even follow it. She spent her whole life bitching and moaning about government and the “parasites” who accept money from the government. Then, at the end of her life, she took Social Security and Medicare payments from the government under a fake name. (She did this after she got cancer from smoking, because she also refused to believe the government warnings about cigarettes causing lung cancer; brilliant.)
So, not only is Ayn Rand a terrible writer, she’s also a — what’s that word again? ah yes! — a hypocrite.
True story: I once pitched a column for this website entitled “Bad Books,” a column idea that was duly rejected by my boss. But the idea, which you have figured out already, was that I would write about the worst books of all time. I had a little trouble coming up with the full list of books to do — Sure, Beowulf is boring, but is it bad? Does the fact that Tess of the D’Urbervilles is basically “Hot Chicks Rock!: The Novel” mean that it merited inclusion? But one thing I was sure of; the book that would be my Number One Worst Book Ever… Atlas Shrugged.
Here’s an entirely accurate description of Atlas Shrugged:
It’s a totally ridiculous book which can be summed up as Sociopathic idealized nerds collapse society because they don’t get enough hugs. …Indeed, the enduring popularity of Atlas Shrugged lies in the fact that it is nerd revenge porn — if you’re an nerd of an engineering-ish stripe who remembers all too well being slammed into your locker by a bunch of football dickheads, then the idea that people like you could make all those dickheads suffer by “going Galt” has a direct line to the pleasure centers of your brain. I’ll show you! the nerds imagine themselves crying. I’ll show you all! And then they disappear into a crevasse…. and a year later they come out and everyone who was ever mean to them will have starved.
And here’s another description:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
I knew this about the book, and I had even flipped through it a few times, but I hadn’t really tried to read it yet. So when I came up with my “Bad Books” idea, I bought a copy… and started to read. First off, the book is really 1,168 pages long; I mean, really. One thousand, one hundred and sixty-eight pages. And the book begins with a — I shit you not — 90-page discussion about the business mechanics of a failing railroad line. After an hour, I started to get a throbbing headache. I looked like the guy on the cover of the book; clutching my forehead in pain. “Jesus Christ are they ever going to stop talking about this railroad line?!” I said to nobody in particular. Abandoning all hope, I flipped to the last page; page 1,168. They. Were. Still. Talking. About. The. Railroad. Line.
You’ll be pleased to know that on the last page of the book, things are resolved. They build a new railway line. Eureka! “Glad they got that railroad business sorted out,” I said, as I tossed the book across the room. It hit the wall with a thud, and I never opened it again. I couldn’t bring myself to throw a book out, so I left it on a park bench near my house. No doubt, it was picked up by some homeless person, who could then read Ayn Rand’s important message that he was a sniveling useless parasite who deserved to die.
…And this is the book that Tea Partiers think is THE GREATEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN.
There’s no point in talking to people who love Atlas Shrugged. And I say this, having held out hope throughout my lifetime that anyone can talk to anyone. But there really is no point in talking to them. It’s not a good idea to base your entire world-view on a philosophy that can be refuted in a seven-panel cartoon, but this is what Ayn Rand fans have done. These people already believed that being selfish and not paying taxes was the most important thing ever. And here’s a book… and now, a movie, that confirms that. A movie that’s like a bad ‘Simpsons’ parody of a movie, complete with people barking ridiculous parodic dialogue at each other.
This movie isn’t for us; it’s for them: the True Believers. The people who are already in a “Galt’s Gulch” of the mind. They live in an imaginary, perfect world where all businesspeople are nice and kind and no one should ever have to pay the capital-gains tax because that’s so, so awful. It’s a perfect world, because it can never exist, and so it never has to be tested. And now they can sit in the dark and munch popcorn and enjoy a fantasy version of their fantasy world: a whole movie about Galt’s Gulch… and trains. And also alloys. And metal-based alloys. And did we mention the trains?