Sense of Completion

by tully
March 29, 2007 4:44 AM
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I might have written about this a long time ago, but I need to address it again. I have this strange problem where I need to finish a book if I start it. No matter how boring or bland or uninteresting it happens to be, once I get through the first paragraph I feel an overpowering obligation--a NEED--to finish it before I can die peacefully. This is irrational, I know, but it's something that I can't shake, no matter how hard I try.

Which leads us to my current book of choice. When I first moved to New York in 1998, for some reason I felt like tackling Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED. I had read THE FOUNTAINHEAD, and really, really dug it. Not enough to sign up for a retreat at the Objectivist Weirdo Cult Ranch or anything, but I found it to be an impressive achievement, nonetheless. So I decided to give ATLAS SHRUGGED a go. Unfortunately, I only got about 150 pages into it before something else got in the way (I can't remember what that was).

Cut to 2007. When I was at my parents' house a few months ago, I did some digging through boxes of books and stumbled across ATLAS SHRUGGED. And there was the bookmark at page 158. At that point, I knew I had to finish what I'd started. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I had an opening and embarked on the ATLAS SHRUGGED journey once again. I started at the beginning, since I was understandably foggy with regards to the first portion of the book. As I remembered, it started chugging along quite nicely. But this morning, as I got to page 230-ish, Ms. Rand's train officially derailed (puns intended). All of a sudden every line and situation seemed embarassingly black-and-white. It was like watching an obvious and heavy-handed Hollywood movie--something like... oh, something like ROAD TO PERDITION, perhaps. Actually, in all seriousness, come to think of it, why doesn't Sam Mendes drop REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and make ATLAS SHRUGGED instead? That makes more sense to me. Do that instead, Sam! Seriously! Pretty please, with an Oscar on top???

Okay, sorry about that. Time to get back to the task at hand. The book itself. I understand what Ms. Rand was trying to do in presenting her vision of a world in which the self-centered are the True Heroes, and in many ways I agree with her, but I'm not even a quarter of the way through the book and I already feel like I've been pummeled into submission.

I know that the world won't fall apart if I put the book down now and leave it behind forever, but I can't do that. Granted, Ayn Rand has a gift for building narrative momentum, but unfortunately she also has another, greater purpose: to projectile fire hose her philosophy and world view in every single word that she writes (and in this book she has written an absolute SHIT TON of them). In her world, there is Good and there is Bad, there is Black and there is White, there is Right and there is Wrong. In my world, this is Elementary School. And as much as I don't want to be here, I'm stuck in class until I'm done. I'm going to chip away at it and hopefully be finished by June 1st. That's my self-imposed deadline. Let's see if I can actually make that happen.

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