Saturday, September 30, 2017

Atlas Shrugged

Last week or so I blasted through ”The Fountainhead”. Ayn Rand. Is that her real name? Uh, Wikipedia… hm, something about Rosenbaum being like Rand in Cyrillic. Whatever. This week I went through “Atlas Shrugged.” I say went through, because audiobooks can be played at double speed. Where have you been all my life, audiobooks at double speed? I’ve looked online for triple, but can’t find an app. VLC can play at 4x, but there’s too much distortion. Light fiction is good at up to 3.5x – but you do have to pay closer attention. Depends on the reader. Man. Do. They. Ever. Read. Slooooooooooooooooooooow. I looked it up. The publishers want it read at a speed that 90% of the public can understand. I hope they mean, of the reading public. I wish they meant it. I think they are seeking to include the genuinely retarded. That’s very PC and all, but appreciate the irony – Atlas Shrugged read slowly. Prsnlly, I wld jst prfr tht t b spd p, frm th pbllshr. snt thr ny wy t ll t rd t fstr? Wsh thr wr – myb a lttr wrtng cmpgn?

 It’s my expectation that languages that have shorter words must make people think faster. That’s the case with Japanese – shorter names of numbers make calculations faster. I am an Esperantisto, but that’s cuz it takes about a day to learn the language. If it were practical, which it isn’t, an artificial language with short words and precise grammar would be heavenly. Bloqxch gla*ck kreg ug qEarthp schmer a'g luthe #epg. Klingon for I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he shall stand upon the earth. That may not seem so very much shorter, but it includes the exact galactic coordinates and weight in metric tonnes for Earth, and the date of the Crucifixion and of the Second Coming, and the genealogy of Jesus, and the current location of the Ark of the Covenant, and a refutation of the gnostic idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and went to live in Glastonbury. Oh, what a tool is mood and inflection.

 John Galt, Rand’s Doc Savage superman, is just a libertarian Jesus. Of course, Jesus was libertarian. Speak the truth, have integrity, make your destiny by your choices, etc. Rand, an atheist ideologue, is clear about the antagonism between justice and mercy. I expect she had no capacity for apprehending grace. That’s why her work is a utopian fantasy, rather than mere polemic or satire. What, you say dystopian? Potato potato.

 Rand had no capacity for blue-pencil editing, whatsoever. 1200 pages. Should be about 400 max. She never wrote a scene that didn’t include every thought that could be thought. She said the same things over and over and over again, just using different words. She’s a very good writer. But she had no characters, only voicers of positions. Everyone is perfectly articulate. This in itself is inauthentic, but she wasn’t really an artist. An ideologue. I kid you not, she has a chapter toward the end – oh, page eight- or nine-hundred – in which John Galt give a three hour radio speech, of which all three hours are recorded. People, it seems, in her world, do not converse, but exchange declarations.

 I’ve done quite a bit of non-fiction writing. I have several gifts, one of which is organization. When I’m revising formal writing (not these little occasional things), I’ll bring two paragraphs together (hm, now where does this belong) and sometimes they say exactly the same thing, with different words. Since I’m not writing for children, once is enough. Sometimes a single word from a sentence is all that needs salvaging. Or the better of several examples. Point is, not every way of saying every thing.

Pick the best, most clear, lucid, appropriate, illustrative, apt, edifying, articulate, instructive, appropriate, explanatory, apt way, and say it. (Weird how such words love to start with vowels.) Rand has her mouthpiece characters demonstrate their passion by mounting up synonyms, as if too caught up in their brilliance to pick the right word, so they repeat a bunch of approximations. That would be fine, as a trait of one, or two, characters. Any more, and it’s the seams of her craftsmanship being obvious. The effect of such thesaurus writing is to trace out a silhouette, and never delve to the heart of the matter. Like a balloon – all surface, no weight, afraid of a point.  The word is, incisive. I’d be making too much of a style issue, except the dang book is a half million words long. My longest book was only a quarter million. On Evolutionism.

 Very good. Funny. Smart. Right. Right, as a corrective. I suspect she and I have similar styles. I know I’ve been saying her sort of thing for decades. We have arrived at similar conclusions. I was no doubt influence by her, indirectly – she does after all precede me by half a century. But a smart severe abridgment would make Atlas Shrugged a much better work of art. As with Moby Dick. Which is one-third as long. Whuh-huh?

 Have you missed me?


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