I finished a behemoth yesterday. Atlas Shrugged, the magnus opus of one Ayn Rand. A hefty 1,168 pages, weighing in somewhere between "almost too heavy to drag around Washington, D.C." and "makes a solidly satisfying sound when thrown onto a table in anger."
Sadly, I'd read Rand before; I wrote an essay on The Fountainhead in high school for a competition (my winnings: $0). You'd think I would have learned, since my main memories of that book are that it was about a Frank Lloyd Wright-esque architect who thought outside the box, bucked the system, etc.
Atlas Shrugged takes those Randian (Randy?) concepts and spreads them over several characters, a few states, and a LOT of pages. The book opens with the question "Who is John Galt?" which is initially a sort of rhetorical question people ask each other when they face the inexplicable. The book closes with readers realizing they don't care who John Galt is, unless he can make this book go faster. (He doesn't. At one point, he has a 60 page monologue.)
Perhaps it's that I couldn't sympathize with any of the characters: high-society intellectuals, titans of industry, and genius inventors, all with amazing wealth, talent, and skill. Perhaps it's that the themes didn't resonate with me: industry versus creativity, the struggle of the social classes, intellectual property rights, et al.
Perhaps it's that the one really cool scene, in which the main characters break into a building in the middle of the night and free one of their own from his captivity there, all the while shooting and killing 90% of the guards, happens in the very last chapter. Really, getting that one Bad Boys-esque event after 1,100 pages of crap was almost worse than no exciting scenes at all. Thanks, Ayn.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that the entire experience had two positives:
-Pulling out that tome anywhere, whether on the bus, or the train, or at a restaurant, immediately made me feel like a member of the intellectual elite. Like someone who does the Times crossword in pen. Or belongs to Mensa. Or makes Proust allusions.
-The EXACT book I read (same cover and everything) was featured in several episodes of Mad Men, a show so grown-up, so witty, so good, it's almost scary.
Ayn Rand: 2, Heather: 0