Who is John Galt? A genocidal prick, according to Scalzi
April 15, 2011 Leave a Comment
Yeah, Kristen, this one’s for you.
In honor of today’s release of Atlas Shrugged: The Movie (Part I), I have to call attention to John Scalzi’s classic critique of the mammoth novel by Ayn Rand. I’ve already admitted Ihaven’t read the book – though it is on my book shelf – but I have my excuses. One – have you seen the book? The paperback is more than 1,000 pages of tiny type. I’m not afraid of long books. I’ve read the extended version of Stephen King’s The Stand more than once (more than twice, actually – but we’re talking about Ayn Rand here, not me). But – until I met my Kristen (my brother-in-law’s very significant other) – the only people who had ever recommended the novel to me were wild-eyed conservative true-believers – like the guy to the right
, who was named for the author*. And, aside from such recommendations, all I’ve heard about it are critiques like this: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
Which brings us to John Scalzi. I stumbled across his brilliant critique last year. Unlike me, he has read the book and says he enjoyed it, despite its literary flaws:
It has a propulsively potboilery pace so long as Ayn Rand’s not having one of her characters gout forth screeds in a sock-puppety fashion. Even when she does, after the first reading of the book, you can go, “oh, yeah, screed,” and then just sort of skim forward and get to the parts with the train rides and motor boats and the rough sex and the collapse of civilization as Ayn Rand imagines it, which is all good clean fun.
But for most fans – alas, he shrugged – the novel isn’t just a good read. It’s a political polemic to live by. That’s what Scalzi rips to shreds so effectively, by laying bear the truth about John Galt:
All of this is fine, if one recognizes that the idealized world Ayn Rand has created to facilitate her wishful theorizing has no more logical connection to our real one than a world in which an author has imagined humanity ruled by intelligent cups of yogurt. This is most obviously revealed by the fact that in Ayn Rand’s world, a man who self-righteously instigates the collapse of society, thereby inevitably killing millions if not billions of people, is portrayed as a messiah figure rather than as a genocidal prick, which is what he’d be anywhere else. Yes, he’s a genocidal prick with excellent engineering skills. Good for him. He’s still a genocidal prick. Indeed, if John Galt were portrayed as an intelligent cup of yogurt rather than poured into human form, this would be obvious. Oh my god, that cup of yogurt wants to kill most of humanity to make a philosophical point! Somebody eat him quick! And that would be that.
Maybe I’ll read the novel – or see the movie – just so I can appreciate Scalzi’s review even more. Oh, and to get Kristen – who got me a copy for Christmas – off my back.
* A friend informs me that, common belief aside, Rand Paul is not named after Ayn Rand. Rand is short for Randal.