Anthem

ISBN: 0452281253
ISBN 13: 9780452281257
By: Ayn Rand

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Classics Currently Reading Dystopia Dystopian Favorites Fiction Literature Philosophy Sci Fi Science Fiction

About this book

Anthem has long been hailed as one of Ayn Rand's classic novels, and a clear predecessor to her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In Anthem, Rand examines a frightening future in which individuals have no name, no independence, and no values. Equality 7-2521 lives in the dark ages of the future where all decisions are made by committee, all people live in collectives, and all traces of individualism have been wiped out. Despite such a restrictive environment, the spark of individual thought and freedom still burns in him--a passion which he has been taught to call sinful. In a purely egalitarian world, Equality 7-2521 dares to stand apart from the herd--to think and choose for himself, to discover electricity, and to love the woman of his choice. Now he has been marked for death for committing the ultimate sin. In a world where the great "we" reign supreme, he has rediscovered the lost and holy word--"I."

Reader's Thoughts

Amy

A truly interesting read, Ayn Rand's book holds a captivating narrative. But as I watched the character swerve from the absolute collective to an absolute, egocentric conclusion, I ended up pitying the hero and his hapless companion for stumbling upon the wrong conclusion upon which they would base the rest of their existence. And what happened to "The Golden One" (his much less assertive true love)? All I could see was that for all the hero's self realization, his mate was merely a follower and a worshiper of his fantastic, glowing sacred "I". I am sorry to say Ayn Rand started with a great idea of individualism and ended in the trainwreck of selfish isolation.

Danny Salinger

** spoiler alert ** Alright. If, for some reason, the values of individuality or independence are completely alien to you, you should read this book. Everyone else is better off skipping it. It has nothing else to offer and it's got a good chance of convincing that you're smarter or more enlightened than you actually are. Granted, I was a bit biased against Ayn Rand while reading this. But before reading this I had that sort of play-aversion that you carry around because it's fun to make fun of famous dead people. After reading this my contempt for her has become deep and far-reaching.The setting is simplistic and nonsensical. Unlike other dystopias such as 1984 or Brave New World, it's not portrait of a functioning oppressive society or a sad commentary on human nature as much as it is a vague, untenable strawman. Other dystopias are written with an awareness or sensitivity towards the human condition. 1984 dealt with our willingness to circumvent logic for a comfortable, patriotic lie. Brave New World dealt with our willingness to completely ignore issues and problems as long as we're entertained. Anthem on the other hand, deals with our willingness to sacrifice logic, comfort, entertainment, and freedom for the good of our neighbors. Oh wait... that doesn't make sense. In fact it flies in the face of the oldest, and most confounding problem in the social sciences, The Tragedy of the Commons. Biology and psychology have also found that self-sacrifice without compensation is an exceedingly rare phenomenon, and that animals (including humans) are ,as a general rule, selfish. Even the Soviet Union, a major influence behind this book, was only maintained by the general acceptance of the communist ideal for a short time before it was replaced with the KGB and the threat of the gulags. Considering how easy it was for Equality to escape from confinement, I'm comfortable saying that critical element was absent. This might be more excusable if it was meant to be a highly stylized hyperbole like The Giver, but Rand says herself in the introduction that this is not only the inevitable sum of collectivism, but what all socialists and collectivists secretly WANT.All this leads me to believe that a person who could seriously believe, much less write, this would have to be someone who saw their self-interest as unique, and imagined the majority of humanity a swathe of ambitionless drones. That, or a reader who's mouth salivates at the word "individuality" and who, when it comes to the affairs of the world, automatically equates cynicism to realism because it makes them look clever and critical.The writing's painfully overwrought as well. You have to understand this book is listed as half-read because despite my several attempts I can't finish it. I either get tired of self-indulgent prose and put it down or I start reading it out loud and I can't take it seriously (a friend and I did this to pass the time while waiting for a bus once.) The character thinks in short, declarative sentences that seem to rely on the reader seeing his struggle as novel and impactful. If you don't do this automatically there's nothing really there to MAKE you. The struggle in question, is a one-dimensional tug of war between We and I without the complexity or variability seen in actual human thought.Even the treatment of individuality once it's "achieved" is trite. After you figure out the "I" and the "ego" you're pretty much scott-free. You don't have any uncertainty about what you want to do or who you want to be, and you don't have to worry about things like self-deception, insecurity or over-confidence to mess with you. Congratulations, you are one of an elite few! Rand's portrayal of selfishness and independence as some miracle cure is sophomoric and overly simplistic, and it gets hammered into you from the beginning. It's not even as if calls to challenge, question, and break social oppression or embrace your individuality are hard to find, even in Rand's time, and a lot of these calls don't have to resort to strawmen or heady promises of perfection. Read Ender's Game, The Giver, My Side of the Mountain or any other young adult novel. Even song lyrics (Tilly and the Wall, Say Anything, Incubus) treat the topic of self-definition and social constraints with more intelligence. This book might have been revolutionary for its time, but we've moved on as a culture. We've gotten over the novelty of selfishness being a virtue and social control being a bad thing, and we've managed to produce far more intelligent treatments of the subject.

Kat

Futuristic society that doesn't recognize individuals -- everyone's name is "Equality" followed by a number. Cute, huh? One day, Equality-some-number-or-another stumbles across a cave with books in it and discovers the word "I" and immediately realizes what it means even though his cultural and linguistic backgrounds have in no way equipped him to understand but whatever, it's a novella and Rand doesn't have time. Anyway, now Equality-### has an "I" and so he lives in the cave forever and is free. The end.This book is really, really stupid. Everything subtle and interesting about Rand's ideas is stripped away to get at the crux, which is a really boring crux. Soviet Communism sucked, in extremely general ways! Individuals! Are awesome! Rah!

Irina

The book is about human identity and freedom, and how one can degrade under the chains of collectivism.A lot of reviews on this book, which are posted on this site, use the word “futuristic” events. I intentionally put the quotes around this word as I tend to totally disagree with the choice of this word. I used to live under socialist regime, a collectivistic society. So I can relate and completely understand the events described in the book, where the word “I” doesn’t exist, when it is a shame to stand out and be different from the rest. However, you don’t need to come from the socialist country to understand that this is about NOW, and not the future. We face this “phenomenon” (again I am using the quotes to underline that this actually is a normal event that we face every day), when we need to struggle to form our own opinions to think this is white, when everyone else thinks this is black. We struggle to stand up and not to get under the influence of the media propaganda and continue to act with the high integrity and high morals no matter what.This book is about the man, who stands out on his own and is not afraid to position himself against everyone else just to rediscover his “I”.My favorite quotes:"My hands...My spirit...My sky...My forest". "I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning" Many words have been granted me,...but only three are holy: "I will it!" "I am a man. This miracle of me is mine to own and keep, and mine to guard, and mine to use, and mine to kneel before." “ I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers, but such as each of them shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than to have been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned." And now I see the face of god... . This god, this one word: 'I' "...man will go on. Man, not men." "I am. I think. I will."

sologdin

Part I of a multi-part review series.Standard libertarian dishonesty that seeks to conflate egalitarian doctrine generically with various unpleasant practices. For instance, the state holds back technological development--primitivism--wishing to punish narrator for the comically unlikely invention of an electrical light. State also keeps knowledge of the past secret, of "the towers which rose to the sky, in those Unemntionable Times, and of the wagons which moved without horses, and of the lights which burned without flame." Narrator's invention is also rejected because it will "bring ruin to the Department of Candles," which is less a primitivist position than a cartel's protectionism, hardly a progressive idea. There can be egalitarian primitivism, sure--though hardly anyone advocates that. More than likely this is intended to be a slur on egalitarian progressivism, i.e., socialism. Likewise, in the assertion "we are nothing," we see the self-abnegation common to fascist doctrine, which libertarians are pleased to associate with egalitarianism, even though fascism seeks to undo even those limited forms of egalitarianism that libertarians will recognize, usually. (Not Rand, however, for in this text the state has a "free and general vote of all men"--so perhaps the indictment of egalitarianism is total, and Rand joins with Dostoevsky, Conrad, and other anti-democratic rightwing writers--though of course Dostoevsky and Conrad are good writers, and worth reading, despite the bad politics.) In the same vein, the prohibition on speaking to persons in other trades is old syndicalist/corporativist doctrine of generating controls on civil society within employment groups, and managing the struggle of capital and labor through industry mediation, preventing thereby class-based unions of workers and limiting them to their own shops and factories, at the mercy of the employer. Similarly, egalitarianism is equated herein with religious mysticism, such as in "the will of our brothers, which is holy." This is one of the most douchey (douchiest?) criticisms of socialism, and I'm surprised that there are people who still make it. Rand takes it so far as to have public burnings of heretics, as though this were 15th century England and heresy were punished by writ de heretico comburendo. We also see sexual pairings decided by a council of eugenics, which is an odd thing to associate with progressive egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is toward the end of novella conflated with "serfdom," which is Hayekian enough, I suppose--though this is manifestly idiotic, the merger in imagination of feudalism and socialism. (It may not be socialism, though: we see that narrator admits to possession of "stolen" items--so there is definitely some sort of property ideology here. If this were intended to be a critique of socialism, though, then the dystopia is not very effective in eradicating property ideology--I'll just go ahead and regard that as a writerly default of misconception or inartful execution or both.)The text also demonstrates a severe lack of understanding regarding the content of egalitarian doctrine, attributing to egalitarianism undesirable policies that have no intrinsic relation to egalitarianism, such as statutes or customs or aesthetic standards that forbid or censure writing, height, having distinct tastes, having an independent will, having friends, having sex, creating works of art, doing any job other than what is assigned, speaking of historical events, leaving the city, and so on. It's one long strawperson, and it is so pervasive that not even someone as ludicrously uninformed as this author could have got it so wrong without trying--so perhaps it's best to assume a lack of good faith, considering the magnitude of the errors.In other words, there is no form of barbarism or silliness that Rand does not associate with egalitarian politics, including the moronic assertion that with egalitarianism, humanity "fell lower than his savage beginning."As though that weren't bad enough, text is just plain bad as a writing. Narrator states that "it is a sin to give men other names which distinguish them from other men," but yet everyone encountered has a name that distinguishes. Sure, there's a generic term and a number, but that produces a distinction. It appears, accordingly, that author didn't really think this through very far. Same, the hasty assertion that "never have men said this to women," when narrator refers to his amorous interest as "our dearest one." Another dumb moment: "A street Sweeper walking in upon the World Council of Scholars! It is not to be believed! It is against all the rules and all the laws!" Certainly not all the laws, on that one very specific point, which is presumably sufficiently rare that it is not to be believed when it does in fact occur?Biggest writerly & conceptual default however is in what author must have considered the climax, when narrator sheds "we" as his first person singular pronoun and begins using "I." This feeds into the puerile doctrine that "we" is tyranny. It's all juvenile hyperindividualist Stirner stuff, and I can see why teenagers like this sort of thing. The problem with the shift from "we" to "I" is that narrator always had the conceptual scheme for "I," an individualism from the first page, literally--but lacks only the word, substituting in another signifier for the first person singular grammatical function, which he always already possessed. The entire story is about narrator's individualist deviations. And he's not alone. The other characters involved each have their own deviations from the alleged rules (which are not very well enforced--he walks out of prison, and leaves a trail that amorous interest follows to find him, but there is no pursuit by law enforcement.) So, it's all one big red herring, really, and the facts represented by the narrative do not bear out narrator's dogmatic posturings.Overall, terrible, poorly conceived & executed writing, filled with dishonest criticisms of left politics, substituting in childish ideas that should embarrass rather than embolden the rightwing. One of the worst books ever written.Recommended nevertheless for those who owe nothing to their brothers, persons who want to live where there is no odor of men, and teabaggers who want to be flattered.

Heather

This book really helped me get my self esteem back together. This was my mantra going into college.... I think it got me through a lot of BS. It is not bad to remind yourself of the following things every once in a while....."I am. I think. I will. My hands . . . My spirit . . . My sky . . . My forest . . . This earth of mine. . . . What must I say besides? These are the words. This is the answer. I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest. I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction. It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to the earth. It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives its song to the world. It is my mind which thinks, and the judgement of my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect. Many words have been granted me, and some are wise, and some are false, but only three are holy: "I will it!" Whatever road I take, the guiding star is within me; the guiding star and the loadstone which point the way. They point in but one direction. They point to me. I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose. Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their altars. I am a man. This miracle of me is mine to own and keep, and mine to guard, and mine to use, and mine to kneel before! I do not surrender my treasures, nor do I share them. The fortune of my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as alms for the poor of the spirit. I guard my treasures: my thought, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom. I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I covet no man's soul, nor is my soul theirs to covet. I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers, but such as each of them shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than to have been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned."

Alex

When dystopian novels - or any science fiction novels - are useful, it's not because they predict the future in any exact way. It's fun when they happen to get it right, but it's beside the point. They're not about the future; they're about now. So Zamyatin's We (1921) shows a future in which individuality has been willfully destroyed in order to point out the shortcomings of the post-revolution Soviet state. Huxley's Brave New World (1931) takes Henry Ford's philosophy to its logical extreme not because he thinks we might end up there precisely, but to criticize what it's up to right now.Dystopia in the hands of a good writer is an elaborate way of saying, "Chill, dude." In the hands of a nutjob, it's Anthem.Like Huxley before her, Rand rips off We blatantly. The generic names assigned to people and the annihilation of the individual; the impersonal mating system; the illegality of being alone; the shutting-out of nature; the mythical past war that destroyed civilization; the banning of literature; most obviously, the very word "We," which is used elegantly in Zamyatin's masterpiece and like a fucking jackhammer in Anthem (1937).But at its core, Anthem is about something different. It uses its extreme vision of the future to propound an equally extreme philosophy for today, and that's why it's crazy talk.The word "We" is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it...the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong...What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it?This is a sophomoric thing to say. When you take collective living to its grotesque extreme, it doesn't mean that any collective thinking at all is terrible. It means that you shouldn't take it to its grotesque extreme. Zamyatin knew this. It doesn't take a genius, but it's still beyond Ayn Rand. Anthem is an overreaction. It's loony, extremist, fanatic. It's stupid.And this book is terrible. It's amateurishly written, as all her books are. Its characters are ludicrously one-dimensional - particularly its lone woman - as all her characters are. It steals its setting wholesale from We, and then drives it pell-mell over the edge of a cliff: Rand's plagiarized We without understanding it. It's poorly written and poorly thought, and it's a crap book.Literature is never dangerous. To read literature is just to have someone else's idea. And ideas are never dangerous. I have all kinds of ideas: good ones, bad ones, silly ones. The dangerous thing is bad judgment: when you're wrong about which ideas are good, and which are bad. Go ahead and read Anthem, but don't be mistaken: it's a bad idea.

Conrad

Definitely the only book by Ayn Rand I will ever need to read, unless I happen to be reincarnated as an asshole. When people start modeling their book covers after Mussolini-era Italian architecture, worry.

Martin

I read this short book in one night after a friend lent it as a curiosity. He is reading Ayn Rand's novels and thought I'd find "Anthem" intellectually stimulating, as it is one of the super-famous Rand's first works and lays the foundation for her later writings on her philosophy of Objectivism. For a brief explanation of Objectivism by Rand herself, check out this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ukJiBZ8_4kI had never read a word Rand wrote (and didn't know much about her, either) until plowing through "Anthem." I expected Rand's atheism, embrace of reason, and exaltation of individualism over collectivism would make her appealing to me. But, as we say, the devil is in the details. Philosophies in the abstract make for good debates and make us feel good about believing in some enlightened principles, but philosophies don't always go down so smoothly when they have to be applied to the real world or -- even worse -- applied to ourselves. Rand, who called programs like Social Security "evil," collected Social Security benefits. Digression over. Now to "Anthem."As a novel, "Anthem" is mediocre. It is set in a nondescript, future world where individualism has been eliminated from every aspect of society as well as from the collective memory of the population. In its place, people live in a collectivist society where all men work for the whole. An individual refers to himself as "we." If someone utters the word "I," he has his tongue cut out and is burned at the stake. No one has a real name; instead they have names like Equality 7-2521, to use the moniker of Rand's protagonist. Children are herded into schools where they are taught a bland curriculum. At age 15 the students go before a council that decides which job each person will have for the rest of their life; Equality 7-2521 is sent off to be a street sweeper. All workers get up at the exact same time every day to the ring of a bell, work all day for the supposed benefit of all no matter how mundane their "profession," and then are marched into their nightly entertainment that amounts to nothing more than indoctrination in collectivist ideology. There are no mirrors, preventing people from seeing themselves as individual beings; they only exist as part of a whole. Society is ruled by collectivist councils, i.e. World Council and Council of Scholars, where the few make incontrovertible judgments that affect the masses. The Councils have ruled since the Great Rebirth. No one can really remember what life was like before.If all this sounds like an allegorical broadside against the Soviet Union and Stalinism, you are correct. However, Rand said that she did not write "Anthem" to repudiate her homeland's tragic descent into totalitarianism, although she did despise communism. Written in 1937 (Stalin's era), "Anthem" is an attack on all collective thinking. It is an exaltation of the self and the ego.So Equality 7-2521 does the forbidden: he thinks independently. He manages to discover electricity. When he presents his discovery to a council, Equality 7-2521 is horrified that they reject his work solely because it does not conform. It was a product of his individual thinking, thus forbidden. He worked on it alone, thus a crime. And his discovery will ruin the central plan to produce so many candles, simultaneously ruining the "careers" of all the candle makers. Equality 7-2521 escapes and eventually finds hidden deep in a forbidden forest a home that predates the Great Rebirth. In the home he finds books that were written before society sank into collectivist hell. And for the first time Equality 7-2521 sees the word "I." "Anthem" ends as Equality 7-2521 discovers the beauty of the self. This takes about 100 pages to accomplish so you can see why I read this in one night.In her preface, Ayn Rand says the "greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting..."She continues: "Those who want slavery should have the grace to name it by its proper name. They must face... the full, exact meaning of collectivism, of its logical implications, and... the ultimate consequences to which these principles will lead." In Rand's view, the horror of Communism is one end.But one wonders whether Rand seriously considered whether her own vision of an absolute meritocracy, a world without charity or altruism, a world where ANY government action is condemned as a step toward slavery and totalitarianism, would also lead to destructive results.Moreover, my fear of becoming a victim of collectivism on par with Rand's ominous vision is tempered by what my eyes have shown me in "individualist" America, the greed-driven, to-hell-with-the-consequences financial practices that brought the economy to near collapse -- if not for the aggressive intervention of the government, which Rand's disciples refer to as "socialism."Should we be free to destroy ourselves?

Mike (the Paladin)

Ayn Rand is I think deserving of the appellation "an odd duck". One of her dearest ideas (and I would suppose ideals) is the the right, willingness and ability to think for one's self. But she functioned in her life with the approach, "my way or the high-way". This book is worth reading and I think there are valuable things to take away from this little novella. But you need to be able to think. Ms. Rand is a classic case of "throwing the baby out with the bath water." I'd say, read and learn, but don't be guilty of the simply absorbing and following...think for yourself.Any more on this and I'll have to go into my own ideas and thoughts. Happy to talk about them, but I won't foist them on you in the review.

Matt

Quick read with a lasting impression. Released over a decade before George Orwell's '1984', this is Rand's objection to the idea of Socialist unity and embraces the idea of the human ego and individualism. Rand herself described this story as a poem, allowing the story to flow. She is able to enforce her philosophy of 'objectivism' without the challenge of a long winded novel (Atlas Shrugged, anyone?)Although her writing in 'Anthem' is more transparent then her norm, the book still captivates and makes it's point.

Pete

Congrats, Aynnie! You've received my first single star rating! I read this in high school when I was reading a lot of dystopian future literature and thought it was by far the worst of the lot. Granted, if I'd read it when I was younger I might have liked it more, but saying that the even younger, less mature, more pretentious version of my teenage self would have liked something is hardly a glowing endorsement.As such I've steered /way/ clear of her door-stoppers. I don't think you really need to come up with some faux cerebral excuse to justify selfishness; if you're going to be self-centered your actions are ultimately justified by your own selfish inner drives, not your intellect. At best Rand was a shrewd self-marketed Cold War personality. At worst she's cynical, petty, pedantic, and most unforgivable of all, _boring_.

Nick Black

EGO yeah shoot me. Garbage, and not the good kind of garbage one roots through for treasures before it's taken away.

AmberBug

First: Some questions that went through my head while reading this.1. If we lived in a collective society, how would we experience or ignore certain events that come to pass that would feel abnormal or alien to us?2. Would the mind automatically wonder of things forbidden? or would this happen to only a few? (like the main character and what he thinks is his curse). 3. Is this society possible? could it ever exist? Are we already living in a society where this is happening (in certain ways)?To be someone without an identity, a mindless herd. I put myself in the shoes of the main character and threw myself into this word as best I could... and I found it to be terrifying to think of. Thinking of it, I realize that out society has many similarities to the world and characters within the story. Going day to day, doing the same thing, without original thought or identity is something that happens all the time. But the question is... how much does original thought and identity really matter? If looked at on a whole, our existence matter very little once our time has ended. We believe it's important to have our own voice and ideas but in the end it plays a part only DURING our existence in the here and now. If you put religion or spiritual beliefs into the equation then the view will change but without those things there is hardly a reason for doing anything or experiencing anything.I do not like feeling this way about life and tend to avoid if fairly successfully. This book brought those questions and thoughts through my mind again. It is just another way of looking at our existence and trying to make meaning of it. This is not to say it is the truth behind our humanity and the meaning of life.... nothing. It should be tread lightly lest you take it's subject matter too closely to your heart and mind.The books world is a nightmare. It is the type of society that I have nightmares about. Having no free will, no identity. Where is the reason for life? Everything is a machine, no reason for anything. It touches on many topics that I fear from my own thoughts. It was hard to read only because it brought those fears around again. On the other hand, I put myself into the world and felt the excitement of discovery, of seeing familiar things in a new light. Of appreciating what we have in the world around us and not wanting more then what is usual. All these things I have been reminded of through this book. I highly recommend it but caution those who will take those subjects and brood on them... I know it can be done and it's not easy to handle. Stay away, if you are one of those few.

BirdBrian

How did I miss reviewing this book earlier? I must have been suppressing it.Do you want to know who Ayn Rand is like? She’s like Rainman. Did you ever see that movie, with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman? Rainman (Hoffman) is an autistic savant, whom his brother Charlie (Cruise) wants to use to count cards in Las Vegas. And Rainman would be ideally suited to that too, if he could understand Charlie’s plan enough to cooperate effectively. But being an autistic savant, Rainman doesn’t really get it. He’s constantly distracted by completely irrelevant things, resulting in so much calamity that his brother is forced to abandon the scheme.I’m pretty up front about my Libertarian beliefs, the nuances of which I won’t bore you with here- but suffice it to say that I spend a fair amount of time freaking out about the coercive power of the State. Along comes Ayn Rand, spinning yarns about independent-minded souls asserting themselves against oppressive bureaucracies, and I get all weak-kneed like a schoolgirl. Ayn can go on a five page tear like it was nothing, ranting about how the bulk of human suffering thoughout history has been at the hands of the State, and how the greatest innovations and improvements have come from individuals. I love that. That’s her savant superpower, and when it’s out in full display, you can find me behind her, pumping my fist in the air, yelling “Yeah! Give ‘em hell, Ayn!” Those are the times when I feel like she and I on the same team, and I’ve got a real affection for her. But then… Ayn isn’t content to just talk about the right to be left alone, or how planned economies are unavoidably coercive. She’s got this philosophy she invented. “Objectivism”. It’s kind of a ridiculously glamorized plutocratic Übermensch worship, hopped up on high-powered social Darwinism and good old-fashioned selfishness. Too often Ayn’s books digress into a platform to hawk these pet philosophies, and I’m like “Shut up already with the Objectivism”. She’ll go off on some weird solliloquey attacking charities as a tool of the weak to exploit the strong, or some such nonsense, and I’ll get to wondering who exactly this is that I’ve fallen in with. And it isn't just that I’m not comfortable with her. I resent having to spend my energy explaining to other people why I like some of her stuff, but then resignedly agreeing that a lot of what she writes is a load of crap. I feel like Ayn and I showed up together at a rally to protest the PATRIOT ACT, and we were really getting into it at first, yelling at the top of our lungs, voicing our discontent… but then after a few minutes, I realize I can’t hear her voice anymore, and when I look around, I spot her on the other side of the field, away from the rally. She’s foaming at the mouth, babbling incomprehensibly, with a glassy stare in her eyes. She’s perched up on a bulldozer next to Rush Limbaugh, and they’re getting ready to plow an orphanage into the ground. I run over, screaming “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!?!! THIS ISN’T WHAT WE CAME HERE FOR!!!”, but the bulldozer is way too loud, and she and Rush have already broken through one of the outer walls of the structure. The roof is caving in, and terrified orphans are pouring out of the back and sides of the building, running for their lives, screaming and crying. Limbaugh, cigar hanging out the corner of his mouth, is snickering and snorting to himself. Ayn’s eyes have rolled up into the back of her head, and her body is shuddering. Befuddled, wounded and shocked by what I’ve witnessed, I slowly walk back to the rally. The friends I came with –the ones I’ve been talking up Ayn to- have stopped taking part in the protest. They’re glaring at me silently, with uncomprehending expressions on their face, trying to decide whether I’m friend or foe…whether Ms Rand and I are birds of a feather, or if I’m basically a good guy who was duped.So that’s the story of me and Ayn. It’s bittersweet, and I try to make the most of the sweet. I read Anthem in high school. Even then, the dramatic, overstylized narrative struck me as juvenile, but I was okay with it, because Ayn was telling me things about authority that I wanted to hear. I don’t want to get into the book too much. It’s a dopey story about a feudalistic world far in the future, ruled by shadowy Elders who suppress technology, and keep the peasants ignorant of their past. A lone figure discovers an old lightbulb, and discerns its principles (yeah, right). Envisioning all the benefits this new discovery will mean to mankind, he hurries off to tell the Elders. Of course they’ve known about its existence all along. They destroy the bulb, and send the peasant back to his field with a warning not to tell anybody what he saw... It's "Bill Nye The Science Guy meets the Grand Inquisitor." Read this book if you must, but if you’re on the fence about it, I suggest you listen to Rush’s (the rock group’s, not the demagogue’s) 1976 classic album “2112”. It’s the same basic story as Anthem, if you substitute the lightbulb with an electric guitar, but it’s a lot more fun. Neil Peart was still new to the band back then, and they were “finding their sound”. Geddy’s vocals- while not for everybody, make for great effect, and Alex’s guitar work is badass- as usual. The album is long and the book is short, but I think you still come out ahead if your pick 2112.“We have assumed control!”(I just wanted to throw that in)Want to read a book by Ayn Rand that's actually pretty good? [Check this out]

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