Thursday, June 11, 2009

who is john galt?...

Last year a friend of mine invited me to join her book club. I had been hearing about this "book club" for years.

My mental impression of a book club was like those in the movies; up-tight over educated bookies that like to use mammoth $5 words to mentally 'one-up' you. People that like to hear themselves talk, impose on others their politics and ideals, impress others with their literary knowledge and extensive use of the English language.

This book club is different. The girls use it as an excuse to have a night out. It's the female version of poker night. Wine, cheese, conversation...with a little discussion about books thrown in for good measure.

So I joined in the fun. No fees. No applications. No rejections then either...
I've not made it to many of the meetings since my induction our literary circle, but I have either read, or at least bought all the books we were going to discuss so far. The rule is that if it's your turn to host, then you get to choose the book. Obviously there have been many different genres of book titles presented as book club fodder.

There was the popular murder/mystery that I deemed a nana-esque book. Too much fluff for me. One was too historical, even the title had me cringing, "The Wordy Shipmates". I'm sure it was a great book, but I didn't even buy it. Oops. Segue from the puritans into another book that I only read 24 pages of...and then promptly threw across the room. It was a complete narcissistic, misogynistic and pretentious diatribe in which the word c*nt was seemingly used every 6th word or so. The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller.

Okay, whoa. Now before you get your literary panties all in a bunch, I understand that it's on many lists of 'books you must read before you die'. So be it, just kill me now, 'cause I ain't reading it.

I'm not a snob. I don't have a problem with pornography, or graphic depictions of sex. I just didn't like the 'tone' of the book, the whole 24 pages that I did manage to read. I even gave it a second shot thinking that perhaps the word c*nt during that period of time might be used as we would use f*ck today as an adjective, an expression, to give it emphasis....I've been known to drop the f-bomb, often. It gives some of my statements meaning.

There are those that say, "Millers work is the "most profound reading ever written". Personally, I think, and to quote the book itself, "bloated pages of ecstasy slimed with excrement"...yeah, no. I can do without that on my bookshelf. Even the gal who chose it didn't finish it all.

There were others on the reading list that just didn't quite make the cut for me either. Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund. They made a movie of it which was interesting. Modern music with historical costumes. My problem with historical fiction is how could you possibly write, in first person, about how these people were feeling? Could you really know how she felt or what she was thinking? It seems a gross manipulation of history. I think it extremely presumptuous, 560 pages of presumption, to be exact.

Which brings me to MY choice for the book club. Since these gals weren't afraid of large books, I chose my favorite book and favorite writer of all time, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

Those of you who haven't read it; should. Those of you who have read it; read it again...what is happening in today's world, today's economy; we are starting to live in Atlas Shrugged.

It's a mere 1398 pages. A veritable tome. It's timeless in it's position on dystopian government exploiting industrialists and businessmen for the 'general good' of the country. And largely forgotten until it became rumored that Angelina Jolie may sign on for the movie project and play Dagny Taggart. I'm not sure if they can make a movie from a 1400 page book, but that will remain to be seen.

It debuted on the New York Times bestseller list in 1957, and remained there for 21 weeks. In 1991 the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club deemed Atlas Shrugged 'the second most important book to make a difference in American readers' lives' second only to the Bible. Most recently Rush Limbaugh made a reference to Atlas on his radio program, and Supreme Court Justice Clarance Thomas listed it among his favorite novels. Amazingly enough the 52 year old novel is still #15 among Amazon's best selling books as of April 2009.

My friend who inducted me into the book club was the only one of the group who read it, and then read it again....all the way through. All 1400 glorious pages of it. Fact is, she is so enamored with the book that I gave her the other Ayn Rand books to peruse. We've even talked about a trip out to San Francisco to go to the Ayn Rand Institute. She even bought me a "Who is John Galt?" bumper sticker. And I actually put it on my car! I've only once before defaced a car with a bumper sticker, so this is a big deal. I had my sticker on my car all of 8 minutes before I got the first comment.

As I was entering into a store a woman approached me and said, "I love your bumper sticker. It's nice to know there are those that still read!"

8 minutes.

And no one has mentioned it since. At least, no one that actually KNOWS who John Galt is, or what it refers to, that is. I was standing in Border's book store the other day. There was a salesman leading an older woman to find a book she asked for. I heard her exclaim, "My, that's a large book!" From where their voices were I knew exactly where they were, and what she was looking at. So I had to meander over to see if my speculation was correct. And it was. There she was holding a volume of Atlas Shrugged in her hand.

Maybe I should have just let her absorb it on her own. But I went forward and said, "Yes, it's big. But you'll love it. It's my favorite book." And there we stood in Border's talking about books and philosophy for the next half hour. We even exchanged e-mails so we could discuss it further when she finished. She was rather old, so I hope she finishes it so we CAN discuss it before she leaves our earthly confines!

The other gals in the book club? Only 3 showed up for the discussion. One said she didn't finish it. Another said she didn't even buy it. She had heard that is was "a capitalist right wing view on politics and business and she wouldn't waste her time reading nonsense". That's okay. I didn't read her choice of books either....

I guess when my turn comes around again to choose a book, I'll have to look further than my preferred reading list in order to please everyone. Maybe I should just choose a book on "How to choose a book for a book club", or one that comes with discussion questions already written in the back.

I just bought the latest title given to the club for us to read. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. I've never read Gibson before...but when the Publisher's Weekly calls him the "patron saint of cyberpunk lit"....hmmm, I might go to the Cliff-Note section of the bookstore.

Literature is like art. Art is like life. Life IS an art, so literature is life. Sometimes it makes sense to you, and sometimes it doesn't. It's just one of those things that not everyone sees or feels the same way. But I'm going to continue to go to the girls night wine, cheese and book parties. I'll read the ones that I like and won't read the ones I don't. Life is too short to spend the time doing things you don't enjoy.

But I do enjoy reading. Most of the time. I usually am in various stages of 3 separate books at one time.

Now if I could just find the time to read outside the bathroom.
Does that mean that my life is in the toilet? Yikes, I've got to find a beach to read at instead...


  1. I read ATLAS SHRUGGED in college and loved it. THE FOUNTAINHEAD as well. At the time, I felt like they changed my life.
    I want that bumpersticker!!

  2. Not a bad deal, that book club. A night of fun and intellectual discourse for the literature you've read, and an ability to escape to the corner with a cheese wheel and your own flask for those you haven't.

  3. You had me at 'who is' =o)

    This was a fun read for me. I'm totally into discussing books and hearing people's opinions on them. Too bad I'm not a girl, I think I'd actually enjoy something like that.

    Never got around to the Miller book, though I've heard similar raves about it. If there's criticism, it has usually come from a female, so there may be something about the 'tone' that rubs many in your gender the wrong way. =o)

    LOVE Atlas Shrugged...

  4. Maureen...I'll work on getting you one of these fine bumper stickers! We'll compare notes as to the length of time between comments!

    Michael...the flask and cheese wheel is grand. At the next discussion, I'll be the one that'll be imitating Bukowski! :-)

    And are welcome at any book club meeting! We'll just beam you in virtually. If you ever want to totally offend a woman, call her the C-word. Art or not, I couldn't read another page...

    But hey, there are always OTHER books to read before I die!


  5. Atlas Shrugged has been on my list for a long time. But no one I know has ever endorsed it before. I'm on it.
    Also, c*nt was a term of endearment in the 30s.

  6. may use terms of endearment for me, but none that start with C.

    Let me know how the reading goes...I'll be anxious to see what YOU think of it!

  7. I love reading books too. I have to admit that there is a copy of Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" sitting on my bookshelf. The size of it scares me (which is a comment you will rarely hear me say). You've inspired me to pick it up and read it (maybe?). Thanks for the review.

  8. It's funny, Atlas Shrugged is a favorite of mine as well and it has recently come up several times in conversations in connection with the current economic environment. Very relative. Ayn Rand was truly revolutionary...quite a fascinating character herself as well. Great choice!

  9. My wroting group hates her, but Ayn Rand was one of my favorite authors at one time!


  10. Wroting group. Very nice.

    That's "writing". :-)



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