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Old January 4, 2013, 11:20 AM   #31
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Join Date: November 1, 2011
Location: Near St. Louis, Missouri
Posts: 844
When Whitaker Chambers' book review came out, it was widely viewed as an unfair hatchet-job. Chambers was a celebrity among conservatives because he had been an active member of the communist party, and a spy for the Soviets. He then renounced his prior beliefs and became a critic of communism and the Soviet Union. He was a very effective critic, and his clear logic and eloquent writing style carried a lot of weight with intellectuals and academics. He was one of the good-guys in the moral battle with communism, but his book review of Atlas Shrugs was (in my opinion) unfair and shallow.

As a literary artist, Ayn Rand is average. She is no James Joyce. She is no William Faulkner. But being an average writer with several best selling novels is nothing to be ashamed of.

Atlas Shrugs is an allegory, which is a certain kind of novel. Criticizing the work because the characters are 2 dimensional, or in some cases 1 dimensional, is unfair, because allegories are SUPPOSED to be about the distinction between right and wrong, and drawing sharp contrasts between good and evil. Allegory is not a popular genre among modern authors, because they generally want to highlight all the shades-of-gray between good and evil. An allegory does not let them express their world view. But Atlas Shrugs follows a proud American tradition of powerful allegories.... Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Melville’s Moby-Dick and Billy Budd... Allegories teach by way of example, they provide insights into essential questions of morality. Atlas Shrugs succeeds in this.

I don’t have much of a problem with Rand as a novelist... I just wish she would not have turned her novel into a formal philosophy, as sort of a counter-argument against Immanuel Kant. I think her arrogance led her to conclude that her ideas and insights into right and wrong were so compelling, so revolutionary, and so very correct. She certainly had legitimate insights into good and evil, but instead of adding to the discussion, she insisted that there was no discussion, and anyone who disagreed with her was ... well, evil... in the end it was kind of sad.
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