You’ve read Atlas Shrugged, right? Okay, what color is Dagny’s hair?

When I first read the book, I thought Dagny was a blonde. Then I looked again and saw, when Dagny is first introduced, that Rand calls Dagny’s hair “brown.” Not even “light brown,” just brown.

I was surprised. Others have had the same experience. I guess we’ve all seen too many Clairol commercials.

The problem here is not any failure on Rand’s part to put in the subtle touches; it’s just that we don’t notice the subtleties amid all the thunder — Rand’s own thunder, that is, followed by the thunder of the world’s reaction to Rand.

Read the scene between Dagny and Cherryl, just before Cherryl’s death (Chapter 4 of Part 3, hardcover and Centennial paperback page 888). Dagny reminds Cherryl that they are sisters. Cherryl replies, “No! Not through Jim!” And Dagny says, “No, through our own choice.”

That new and deeper meaning Dagny gives to her relationship to her sister-in-law shows the genius of Ayn Rand — it’s what makes this author famous and a never-to-be-forgotten experience for millions of young readers.

We don’t notice the subtleties amid all the thunder.

Dagny then expresses care and concern and tenderness to the abused and frightened Cherryl — all those qualities you have heard about Rand not possessing.

Here’s another moment in Atlas I’ll bet you don’t remember: Eddie, in one of his dialogues with the worker in the cafeteria (page 218), says that he was working at Dagny’s desk one day when she walked in and said, “Mr. Willers, I’m looking for a job. Would you give me a chance?”

And she laughed. Then she sat on the edge of her desk, telling Eddie to stay seated.

Grant Bowler as Hank Rearden and Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged: Part I
Pretty easy-going boss. Not a tyrant. Dagny is intense, in intense scenes, but there is one of those humanizing touches that Rand isn’t supposed to have in her books.

How many readers of Atlas remember Galt’s breakfast-making scene? If that scene makes it into Part III of the Atlas movies, you might notice it and see the humanizing touch. Galt makes breakfast for Dagny after she crashes in the valley.

He heroically fries eggs! He makes toast! With a single bound! You want humanizing touches? — there they are.

But Rand also integrates that little scene with the story and with Galt’s characterization: Dagny asks him whether he learned those kitchen skills from Dr. Akston. She met Akston in his diner, remember? Galt replies, “That, among other things.”

Here’s another one for Dagny: On page 81, Ellis Wyatt comes bursting uninvited into Dagny’s office. An unforgivable breach of office etiquette. Reading this at thirteen, I thought, Yeah, that’s the stereotyped so-called individualist — someone with passion but no manners. Stock character.

That’s the stereotyped so-called individualist — someone with passion but no manners.

But on page 440, Dagny is in the opposite situation. She is desperate to see Ken Danagger, but she waits nervously in his waiting room for hours. She will not barge into his office. He has a right to decide when to see her, and she will not violate that right.

That’s when I got it. Rand is deliberately setting up the same situation in order to say, See? That was the old idea of an “individualist,” and now here is my new idea of an individualist: Someone who sees the deeper meaning in individualism, someone who respects individual rights. Another new and deeper meaning.

Some more surprises in Rand:

Rand’s villains are supposed to be government employees, but the fact is the villains are as often businessmen — crony capitalists — as politicians and bureaucrats. The politics of the Atlas Shrugged villains is fascism or mercantilism, not socialism.

And they are old-money, Ivy-league types; you can tell from their nicknames, like Tinky Holloway (a bureaucrat and stooge of Orren Boyle, head of Associated Steel — read: US Steel in real life).

Galt’s Gulch is not supposed to be read as a model for all society. The people of the Gulch — no more than a thousand, Rand guessed, and more likely one or two hundred — are there by individual invitation and only for one month a year, so it’s more like a big party.

Renting out a car rather than lending it for free, Galt explains, is a custom that helps them rest from the things they came there to rest from. It’s not meant to be a rule for all people at all times.

Did you know that Galt mentions, in his speech, generosity as one of the virtues? And so does Dagny, on page 276.

Galt says people are taken advantage of because of their generosity and prodigality. Some people don’t seem to get the point that that means anyone — not just ambitious captains of industry.

Even people with little prodigality to give sometimes give what they can and are taken advantage of by their personal parasites. (That’s why Prof. Muhammed Yunnus’s Grameen Bank loans money only to women: Men in Bangladesh, he found, will spend the loan on booze and gambling while the wife does the work.)

Rand hated children, we are told, and we know this because there are no children in her novels. But there are. Did you know that Dominique is only nineteen when we first meet her in The Fountainhead? No wonder she’s screwed up — she’s still a brainy, neurotic college freshman not yet out of her teens. There are two kids in Galt’s Gulch, aged seven and four — and more in We the Living.

Rand’s novels have just a few children, but they have no elephants at all! That’s because she didn’t happen to be writing about elephants.

There are personal references in Galt’s speech that you will miss if you skip it, as some do. “Do you hear me, Dr. Robert Stadler?” “Do you hear me, my love?”

Rand’s heroes have no inner conflicts. That’s why she’s a bad writer! — you’ve heard.

Inner conflict is what the whole novel is about — the inner conflict of deciding to go on strike. Hank and Dagny are seen agonizing over this decision, and Francisco, and even Galt too.

Inner conflict is what the whole novel is about.
The conflict had to be between each hero and the others and between each hero and himself because the villains are not, and cannot be, strong enough to threaten the heroes that deeply.

Especially Jim Taggart, whose evil is so profound, his evasions so reckless, that he couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if there were instructions on the heel.

That’s because of how Rand had by that time decided to define evil. That point needs a whole article, so … to be continued.

Rand’s heroes are a sign of bad writing because they are godlike and not human.

You’ve heard that one. But as Dr. Akston tells Dagny in the valley (page 791): “Every man builds his world in his own image.”

Rand is not making gods of her characters or of herself. She is making a god … of you.

Frederick Cookinham gives New York City walking tours, available through In Depth Walking Tours — including five on the subject of Ayn Rand and six on Revolutionary War sites. He was interviewed at the Atlasphere in 2005. He is the author of the book The Age of Rand: Imagining an Objectivist Future World and has also written articles for The New Individualist, Nomos, Full Context, and The Pragmatist.

New article in TIME magazine online about the Atlasphere and the Atlas Shrugged movie just published an article about the Atlasphere as well as the Atlas Shrugged movie, penned by Claire Suddath, who spent this week talking with members of our dating service.
Her article is titled “Single Objectivist Seeks Same” and begins:

Let me get one thing out of the way: I have never read Ayn Rand. In fact, until recently I was one of those uneducated boors who thought the author’s first name was pronounced Ann. A few of her readers have corrected me over the years, but for some reason, I assumed they were joking â?? which is also what I assumed when they told me that they’d just read a great book about government intervention in the railroad industry. (That book is now a movie, Atlas Shrugged: Part I, opening Friday in the U.S.)
But then my editor asked me to look into the dating website the Atlasphere, on which Randians can search for their soul mate among fellow objectivists. I didn’t have time to read all 1,200 pages of Atlas Shrugged or even the 680-page The Fountainhead beforehand, so I did what any self-respecting journalist would do: I called up a friend. “Quick, can you explain Ayn Rand’s personal philosophy to me in one sentence?” I asked Fahad Siadat, a professional musician who just finished reading Atlas Shrugged. I know this because he’d cornered me at a dinner party and told me all about it. Which is what people tend to do when they’ve just discovered Ayn Rand.

See the full article for more.

WSJ: Remembering the real Ayn Rand

Writing at the Wall Street Journal, Donald Luskin has an excellent article “Remembering the Real Ayn Rand” that begins by discussing the new movie:

Tomorrow’s release of the movie version of “Atlas Shrugged” is focusing attention on Ayn Rand’s 1957 opus and the free-market ideas it espouses. Book sales for “Atlas” have always been briskâ??and all the more so in the past few years, as actual events have mirrored Rand’s nightmare vision of economic collapse amid massive government expansion. Conservatives are now hailing Rand as a tea party Nostradamus, hence the timing of the movie’s premiere on tax day.
When Rand created the character of Wesley Mouch, it’s as though she was anticipating Barney Frank (D., Mass). Mouch is the economic czar in “Atlas Shrugged” whose every move weakens the economy, which in turn gives him the excuse to demand broader powers. Mr. Frank steered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to disaster with mandates for more lending to low-income borrowers. After Fannie and Freddie collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage books, Mr. Frank proclaimed last year: “The way to cure that is to give us more authority.” Mouch couldn’t have said it better himself.

See his full article for much more, including a sensible discussion of the ways in which big businessmen are often no friends of capitalism and the ways in which Rand was neither a conservative nor a liberal.
Mr. Luskin is co-author with Andrew Greta of a new book, scheduled for publication next month, titled I Am John Galt: Today’s Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It. Judging from this article, I guessing it’s pretty good.

Earlybird reviews of the full Atlas Shrugged movie: "Spectacular," "Solid," "Faithful"

Detractors of Atlas Shrugged would never be pleased with any faithful adaptation of the novel, and so this movie’s primary audience is those who enjoyed the novel, are generally sympathetic to Ayn Rand’s ideas, or both. (If their response is positive, then the word-of-mouth buzz should attract the curiosity of many people who aren’t yet familiar with the novel.)
On this front, it looks like Aglialoro & Co. have scored a direct hit. The early reviews are quite positive.
Read the details on the Atlas Shrugged movie blog.

Hans Schantz: I’ve seen it. It’s awesome.

Atlas Shrugged movie co-blogger Hans Schantz and I were offered tickets to the pre-release screening in Los Angeles yesterday. I was unable to attend, but Hans was there and he has posted his initial reactions over at AetherCzar.
He begins:

I just attended the pre-release screening of Atlas Shrugged Part One, and I’d like to share my first impressions. Take this as an initial installment toward the much more thoughtful (but equally enthusiastic) review I’ll compose at leisure over the next few days and publish at the (fan-run, unofficial) Atlas Shrugged Movie Blog.
When I heard my favorite novel was being made into a movie, all the available omens boded ill: a low-budget production, with no-name stars, made independently without the adult supervision of a real Hollywood studio, and rushed into production at the last minute to avoid loss of rights. It sounded like a recipe for disaster. Scratch that. It WAS a recipe for disaster. I mourned the might-have-been movie Iâ??d been waiting my entire adult life to see. I regretted the lost opportunity. I averted my eyes to avoid the painfully unfolding train wreck.
Slowly the evidence began chipping away at my erroneous conclusions.

See his full post for much more.
Also, don’t miss first full review of the movie, by Atlas Society founder David Kelley.

Hedge-fund manager Barry Colvin raises funds for ARI outpost in NYC

A new article in the Wall Street Journal begins:

Forget tea leaves: Wall Street is turning to Ayn Rand for guidance.
Hedge-fund manager Barry Colvin has raised $60,000 to start a Greater New York outpost of the Ayn Rand Institute, the first chapter in the country for the Irvine, Calif.-based nonprofit dedicated to the late free-market philosopher and novelist.
“The idea is on-the-ground reconnaissance,” said Mr. Colvin, vice chairman of Chicago-based Balyasny Asset Management. Mr. Colvin contributed the bulk of the funds but rallied donors for the rest.
“It’s our civic duty to pound the table about making people challenge their own ideas behind what they think the role of government should be,” he said.
As a kick-off, Mr. Colvin will co-host a series of debates next month on freedom, government and capitalism with Demos, a public-policy research and advocacy group based in New York.

Ayn Rand popular among high school students at the Long Island "Ethics Bowl"

A new article “At Ethics Bowl, L.I. Teenagers Debate Slippery Issues” in the NY Times begins:

Ethics are a good thing, and almost everyone is said to have them. But by some accounts, they are like muscles in the brain, strong or atrophied, depending on exercise.
So consider the second annual Long Island High School Ethics Bowl, held on Saturday, a form of contest among athletes of ethics â?? students from eight high schools who spent a full day thinking up a sweat over the blacks and whites and grays of right and wrong.

And ends:

Do they read Aristotle on self-realization, Epicurus on the dangers of self-indulgence?
Many of the students interviewed mentioned Ayn Rand, the libertarian philosopher-novelist, as their favorite philosopher.

See the full article for more background.