Friday, February 27, 2009

Atlas' Second Coming, and the Shrugs

THE FINANCIAL MELTDOWN MIGHT HAVE MADE THE ATLAS TICKLE, or so it may have seemed if one takes the metaphor literally. But Atlas, in spite of shrugs, is going strong on its part.

Interestingly, Audacity of Hope by President Obama was overtaken by Atlas Shrugged on the sales charts for a while just before the presidency change. This is the second coming of Ayn Rand that started in 2007. Honestly though, I never got this book right. There was always something ultra-right about the acceptance and success of her (cold-war incubated) concepts of having a platonic state of a democracy (where one would be expected to demonstrate as much dexterity with the left hand as the right. Over the past ten years or so I must have gifted her books, selectively and carefully, to at least three people of my immediate reckoning -all of whom fell out of touch. Not so carefully, after all!).

Ayn Rand's rendition of the perfect world —much more vividly worded in her previous notoriety, The Fountainhead— could only be realised by finding the means of fitting the world within mathematical formulas (or vice versa), something refuted at its very basis most recently by professor and mathematician Stephen Hawking through his commentaries on quantum mechanics (also, try here). There is no room for spirit in Rand's 'predictable world', nor for an experience of it (except perhaps in nakedness, which is to be perceived without sensitivity: ask Mr. Wynand, who, according to a female friend, is the real hero of the story for her). Even though they claimed to keep the torch burning when the oil ran out.

The storyline of The Fountainhead, as well as the fiction of Atlas Shrugged are nonetheless entertaining provided one can handle a thousand pages each.

The Economist argues today that the current financial crisis, and various bail-out announcements, have a direct correlation with unit sales figures and sales rank of Atlas Shrugged (see chart. source: ecomonist.com). The author attributes the pattern to mass social media -- such as Facebook, and certain user groups aiming at personifying the storytelling as if "Atlas Shrugged is happening in real life" (try here). Above all, it is believed that Alan Greenspan is a fan of Rand's work, and thus his every recent move was like a stimuli to the book's gift-wrapping counters at Amazon.com.

However, it is to take it too far to compare Rearden's (one of the book's characters who invents a unique metal) visit to the senators in Washington DC with that of the Banking CEO's meeting with the US congress these past weeks.

I am at a loss of expectations from the movie based of Rand's works which is in the making for a 2011 release. I can only shrug for the moment. As a fan of Rand's work, however, it actually makes sense, for it largely belongs to the fairyland.

Let's wait and see who is John Galt?

Update: Have you read "The Driver" (try here) by Garet Garrett? Arguably, Rand lifted a few key concepts and phrases from this rather obscured 1922 work. His first work in 1911 was titled "Where the Money Grows and Anatomy of the Bubble".
  • See also:
  • Go here for WSJ.com jumping in the bandwagon with "'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years".
  • Go here for Amazon.com bestselling list among Classics where four out of top 10, including the first three, are Rand's books as of this week (Feb 28, 2009).

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