Atlas Shrugged Miniseries

Oh noes, some morons are planning to create a Atlas Shrugged miniseries!

Gawker does a nice job summing up the story:

Charlize Theron would like to star as … Dagny Taggart, the lady who runs her brother’s railroad and enjoys violent sex with secretive entrepreneurial geniuses. But there is a problem: the book has not ever been filmed because it is terrible and involves a climactic 70-page monologue about radical libertarianism!

I’ve really dropped the ball on the development of the Ayn Rand Deprogrammer.

The Ayn Rand Deprogrammer: A More Twisted Crime and Punishment


I really appreciate all of the suggested texts submitted for the Ayn Rand Deprogrammer. If you visit the comment thread, you’ll see that the inevitable happened: Objectivists tried to hijack the discussion. I say ignore them. Eyes on the prize: a solid Ayn Rand Deprogrammer. Any distraction will slow us down, and delay publication of forthcoming projects, the Hayek Deprogrammer and the Milton Friedman Deprogrammer.

I am going to bundle up all the good suggestions made by commenters. But here is one that no one else has found. Written in 1957, it is clear eyed and prescient book review of Atlas Shrugged appearing in Harper’s Magazine. I quote it in its entirety.

Paul Murphy Pickrel: Review of Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand’s new novel, Atlas Shrugged (Random House, $6.95), is longer than life and twice as preposterous. Of its 1,168 pages (plus two pages at the end “About the Author” that the prospective reader would be well advised to tackle first) I have read only 300; to read even so much was a triumph of Will over Inclination, but then Will knew when it was licked. From my 300 pages I did not discover why the book bears the title it does, but I found out everything else that I regard as necessary to know about it.

As far as I got, only one idea emerged for me from Miss Rand’s book, and that one, in my opinion, pernicious. The idea is this: there are certain people of such extraordinary talent that they should be permitted unlimited license to work their will in the world. This would not have been a bad point of departure for a novel–Dostoevski, staring out with a character who believed the same thing, explored and developed the idea to write a great novel, Crime and Punishment. But, as far as I read, Miss Rand explored and developed nothing; she simply stated and restated and then stated again. Her characters have no spontaneity or individuality, they are simply creatures of her didactic purpose. The scenes do not unfold a story; they simply illustrate a point.

Yet the book will probably give pleasure to some readers. It makes life wonderfully simple, and in a way that is agreeable to many of us, probably to all of us at some moment in our lives: according to its argument there is no contradiction or strain between man’s inner life and his social role, for unrestrained egoism solves all problems. In addition, Miss Rand is able to enlist some of the more disreputable human emotions–hatred, contempt, anger–in a pretty powerful way. Oddly enough, though I do not believe in her characters for a moment, I do believe in their wrath.

I think Pickrel nails it with the comparison to Crime and Punishment. And his last sentences–the idea that he doesn’t believe in Rand’s characters, but in their wrath, is consonant with my experiences. Rand’s characters are Übermensch; in reality, people committed to this philosophy fall far short. They’re usually ineffectual people who blame the government for their problems. At the same time, their wrath, their hatred for government and for others is pathological.

The Ayn Rand Deprogrammer: Submissions Solicited

Sciblings, I request your assistance in an important venture.

I recently learned that Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead was a top read among UC Berkeley undergrads in 1987 and 1997. This dismaying fact drove me to start assembling a reader, The Ayn Rand Deprogrammer. I’ve spent the last several weeks reviewing possible texts for this important new work. Here is the first candidate for inclusion, and going forward, I would appreciate any suggestions that you have for the Deprogrammer.

Mary Gaitskill: Two Girls, Fat and Thin

I spent much of my vacation reading Mary Gaitskill’s Two Girls, Fat and Thin, where Ayn Rand is presented as Anna Granite, an amphetamine-popping, average looking, salon-holding kook who writes The Bulwark. Gaitskill depicts the salons held in Rand’s apartment in the development of her second book, Atlas Shrugged (which apparently included Alan Greenspan!).

Gaitskill does a bizarro sex scene even better than Rand (from Two Girls):

She crouched in the darkened room, her face almost contorted with fear. He stood still in the doorway, arms loose at his sides, an amused sneer on his mouth. She felt her lip curl. She darted forward and then she felt her body, helpless and frail, crushed against chest. She felt her fists and elbows beating against his form. She thought she felt a deep, silent laugh well up in his chest. Effortlessly, he lifted her body and carried her to the stone sculpture. It was not an act of love, or an act of hate. It was an act of contempt, an act of detachment and brutality. Asia knew that she was being utterly debased by him. Yet the debasement was bound to an exaltation that made her moan. Their mouths locked; there was pain that tore her body and ecstasy that wrenched her soul. He crucified her on his stone.

Gaitskill attacks Rand in many ways, most directly through an article written by one of the two protagonists:

This cultural utopia of greed, expressed in gentrification and the slashing of social programs, has had its spokesperson and prophet for the last fifty years, a novelist whose books are American fantasies that mirror, in all its neurotic excess, the frantic twist to the right we are not experiencing. Anna Granite, who coined the term “the Truth of Selfishness,” has been advocating the yuppie raison d’etre since the early forties; it is only now that her ideas are being lived out, in mass culture and in government.

This book requires a lot of investment for the Ayn Rand critiques, but it is probably worth it. I love the depiction of Ayn Rand’s public lecture; it reminded me of visits to the Cato Institute.

Call for Submissions

If you think this is an important venture, please suggest texts in the comments for inclusion.