Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Review: Anthem

I read Ayn Rand because she is supposed to be an amazing writer, or at least thinker who started her own movement. I am also into the genre of writing that emerges after WWII. The challenge in reading Rand is that her two major pieces, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, are upwards of 1000 pages. I for one do not read enough nor do I read fast enough to warrant taking on a 1000 page book. I know few who would do so, and I imagine that those who do take a certain amount of pride in themselves which only feeds into Rand's ideas. So I did a little research and found that all of her work is essentially the same in theme. So I took the easy way and read Anthem which is not even a novel but more like a novella. I bought it and read it in the car while I waited for my kids to get out of preschool. It is that short. It is an interesting piece, similar to others in the same genre including one of my favorites 1984. The thing that set it apart from other works including the afore mentioned Orwell work is that the protagonist succeeds in overcoming totalitarianism. He flees and is oddly not stopped in his flight by authorities. He meets up with his girlfriend and they find a cottage. There he teaches himself to read which is great and gives himself a name because as he declares, all people should name themselves (they all were given horrible communist type names with numbers attached). *Spoil alert* To me there is a flaw in the work that I believe was unintended. At the very end, after naming himself and explaining that it is important for people to name themselves (as Rand had) he names his girlfriend. Why did she not get to name herself? There is a chance that she slipped it in the book to suggest that the pattern would continue, but based on what I know of her, I think she slipped and showed the flaw in her philosophy. She is, to me, not really about rugged individualism (or hedonism as it sometimes appears) but about superiority. She feels that the brightest people are above others in more way than one, as she clearly thought about herself. In the end I am not wholly impressed with Rand and will not be tackling her other, heftier works.

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