Some years ago, I admitted that I had never read anything by Ayn Rand. Since then, I have read selections, but I have yet to tackle a major work. However, I did watch the first two parts of the Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy. Although the films had an indie film budget and less than spectacular production values, I enjoyed them. Having never read the book, I could not judge textual fidelity, but I did enjoy the brutal portrayal of leftist malice and stupidity. The American Left gets to indulge in the worst human tendencies toward cruelty every day; the society belongs to it, and it dominates the organs of culture. Hence, we must tolerate a constant stream of film, television, and journalistic material that depicts whites, conservatives, Christians, and the combination of the three in the most revolting way. Rightwingers do not have many opportunities for such pleasure—but, judaeae gratias, Atlas Shrugged provides it in abundance. The story depicts the hypocrisy, inanity, cowardice, parasitism, and idiocy of the Left in a delightfully decadent way! Indeed, as I watched the films, I almost (but not quite) felt ashamed in enjoying the spectacle, suspecting that the depiction might not be fair. “The real ones are bad—but are they that bad?” I just do not like thinking of my fellow men in such a low way. Yet, reality asserts itself and reminds me that, yes, they are that bad—indeed, worse than artifice conjures.
As few weeks ago, I read an unbelievable article by Lynn Shepherd in The Huffington Post: “If JK Rowling Cares about Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.” Shepherd’s main point is that Rowling has enjoyed much success as a children’s literature writer with the Harry Potter series and now her name recognition is leading to success in her ventures into adult fiction. As such, she is crowding out lesser known writers. So, Shepherd reasons, Rowling should mind her place and stop taking up bookshelf real estate.
As I read Shepherd’s opinions, I immediately thought of the regulators in Ayn Rand’s tale. I also reflected how, notwithstanding how much I want to give the enemy the benefit of the doubt, he always justifies my initial misgivings in the end. Leftists refuse to be outdone by their opponents’ mockery of them.
Later, I read the following post by John C. Wright, “The Orcs and the Books,” where Wright describes the same experience—only a thousand times better:
. . . Second, some readers might wonder why a loyal Catholic zealot like myself has such affection for a adulterous heretic like Ayn Rand, the Apostle of the Sin of Pride. Our philosophies are opposite. I say that the greatest evil in the world is to turn away from that self-sacrificing love which is like God and which is God. She says the greatest evil in the world is to live for another or to allow another to live for you.
Well, despite all differences, here is why I like her: Every time I am tempting to think the bizarre and grotesque portrayals of the collectivist villains in her novels are exaggerations, or are simplistic, or are unrealistic, real life sharply checks me.
Every time I think that the jeering gargoyles she portrays in her books could not possibly exist in real life, a Gothic rainspout shakes itself awake and speaks.
There is a scene in ATLAS SHRUGGED where no-talent writers conspire with no-talent businessmen and no-talent political hacks to pass a law forbidding any change in the production of new books or artistic products.
For a moment, the goons are puzzled as to how such a law would be played out, but the no-talent writers are relieved to hear that under this plan, their old books would be ceaselessly reprinted, and offered in bookstores, and the bookstores will be punished at law if they fail to sale the exact same number of books next year and ever after as this year. The obvious impossibility of this is not a defect in the plan, but the point. The laws are made so that everyone will be in violation of one part or another.
Under the fair-share law, successful authors have to share their success with unsuccessful authors, and the talented be punished, and the lazy be rewarded.
The argument made above that successful writers should bow gracefully aside to allow unsuccessful writers a fair share of the market is so economically illiterate, so childish, so vile, so shocking to the mind of any honest man, that it acts in part like camouflage. Upon hearing the orcs talking in their orc-talk about ruining the writing field, making the writing field worse, driving good books away and shoving bad books into their shelf space in the name of fair play, and, in short, talking about heaping the writing field high with warm filth and stinking ordure, flies and rivulets and urine, the sane people react with a blankness of mind akin to shutting one’s eyes at too great a shock. We cannot believe the orcs are serious. We assume they cannot mean that.
You want J.K. Rowlings, the most celebrated writer of our age, to write LESS? The mind reels, we think the orcs do not mean it, we do nothing to shut them down or shut them up, and then the orcs carry out their program, while we scratch our heads, puzzled that no one told us that this was exactly what they meant all along.
But it is what they mean. . . .
“Every time I think that the jeering gargoyles she portrays in her books could not possibly exist in real life, a Gothic rainspout shakes itself awake and speaks.” How marvelous! And apt to the situation!
I often notice that others in the traditionalist realms of the internet have had the same insight or made the same point on a given topic. For a recent example, I read George Michalopulos’ observations about the Winter Olympics a few days after I posted “Sochi Sour” and found quite similar arguments. We posted the entries on the same day, and yet we independently came to the same conclusions. When I find such cases, I wonder for a moment if perhaps we are suffering from a hive mind, but I do not think so. Rather, we dissenters witness the madness of the world on a daily basis and, being sane, call lunacy its proper name. The real shock is why more people do not have the same response.
Concerning Shepherd’s argument about Rowling, I find it abhorrent and shamelessly self-serving. If we want the world to become better, then why would we ask someone who makes it better by creating works of value to stop such production? Why would one wish to deprive the world of more treasure? It is wicked! Shepherd admits that she has never read any of Rowling’s books, but she questions the literary value of Rowling’s adult works based on others’ criticism. So, maybe Shepherd’s position could be defended as simply sensible aversion to hype. Yet, that hype developed from millions of readers’ experiences with her books rather than a suave media blitz, and the reputation has held up well over the last seventeen years. It is not a passing fad. Of course, a million Brits could be (and frequently are) wrong, but it is niggardly of Shepherd to refuse to grant Rowling her laurels of talent—especially when she refuses to read the author whom she judges so. Shepherd’s position is not that Rowling writes worthless drivel. In Shepherd’s own words, “when it comes to the adult market [Rowling has] had [her] turn.”
I think of Nietzsche’s reflections on Raphael in On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life, “That a Raphael had to die at the age of thirty-six, for example, is offensive to morality: such a being ought never to die” (page 48, tr. Preuss). Consider what mankind lost at Raphael’s young death. Think of what such a man could have done with another forty years. Only demons rejoice at such facts. I am not equating Harry Potter with the Italian Renaissance, but the principle applies regardless. We should rejoice at the enrichment of the world. Only the servants of hell want to make the cosmos worse rather than better. And Shepherd desires such perversity from egoism . . . how satanically fitting. It is ironic that Ayn Rand, the preacher of selfishness, should be the one who delights in the excellence of others while the “altruistic” Left allows egoism to blight the world.