Category Archives: Books

Literary Allusion as Weapon

I’m not sure why I just thought of this, but it made me laugh. You probably won’t give a damn, but this blog post is for me, not for you. I remember playing with literary allusion in an English class during my junior year of high school. I reached a little bit, just to feel like I was putting to work some of the reading I was doing outside of class. Well, my teacher noticed and mentioned in passing that he actually researched them to make sure I was using them correctly.

Big mistake. His, not mine.

When I realized that he had to go on this “fact-checking” excursion, I amped up my efforts, looking for the bizarre, remote and difficult to verify. He toiled silently for weeks before finally begging me to stop. I think he figured out what I was doing.

Score one for the student!

Gotta Love the Ayn Rand Crowd

lens1521675_resizejohngaltThe so-called “Objectivists” are easy to manipulate. All you need to do is post a story with the slightest dig at Ayn Rand, and they mobilize online, rewarding your rudeness with plenty of traffic and comments. Whenever one of my sites needs a little surge, I write about Ayn Rand (as I’m doing now). So, when I had the chance to cover a private equity fund named for Howard Roark for DailyFinance, I jumped at the opportunity.

It didn’t take long for me to pick up a few Ayn Rand-related followers on Twitter, and several comments materialized on the website almost immediately. Fun stuff.

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Living the hell of a professional writer with his hands tied

dsc04623The one thing I’ve always loved about being a writer is the freedom I have to play with the language. But, for a big part of my life, that appears to be in jeopardy (though not in the blogging world). I have a gig where the literary handcuffs are tightening, and I have no room to operate. It’s a fucking nightmare.

Yesterday, as I walked home (with the feel of a cold starting to set in), I nailed the sensation. I feel like Yossarian is hanging over me. He’s the protagonist from Catch-22 (a fun read). While in the hospital, he was tasked to censor letters home written by enlistedmen. Before long, he got bored. Well, Joseph Heller tells it better …

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What I’m Reading, What I’m Smoking

I haven’t hit on this in a while. Again, day job was bogging me down. Lately, I’ve been switching between De La Concha house cigars (Toro-sized) and my pipe (Key Largo tobacco from G.L. Pease). Both have been keeping me happy and inspired.

Right now, I’m reading Don Quixote (by Cervantes). I’ve never read it, and that’s bothered me for a while. I know that it is among the books that one must read, and I’ve wanted to get to it for a while. I’m now incredibly happy that I picked it up. It is hilarious and quite readable (thanks in large part to the translator). Picasso’s work with Quixote– and Julio Aguilera’s as well– now makes more sense.

So, I recommend all of this. Smoke Key Largo in your pipe or a De La Concha house cigar while reading Don Quixote. It’s a nice combination … and one I hope to enjoy for another 700 pages.

Objectivists, listen up!

I told you I’d reply to your earlier comments, and finally, I can. My day gig and freelance work have finally slowed down a bit. Now, I can have some fun.

First, I’m not unsympathetic to Ayn Rand or her views. I’d love nothing more than a world in which merit matters and talent profits. I work my ass off every day, and it does bug me that I have to carry along those unwilling to do the same. But, let’s be realistic. This is a political issue, not a cohesive philosophical position.

To the commenter who suggested I review Ayn Rand’s epistemology, here’s some advice: (i) look up “espistemology;” based on your comment, you don’t know what it means; (ii) read Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Rand just ripped it off) and (3) try to figure out how Rand would address perception.

Pardon the digression, but it was necessary. Ayn Rand does not present a philosophical system. Instead, she offers sentiments– clearly based on her experiences in a communist country– to make the wealthy, intelligent and ambitious (as well as those who believe they are) feel superior. They may very well be, but Rand’s objective is to say to those who feel wronged by a society that takes, “It’s okay to be pissed; they don’t deserve it.” This statement is true, but, again, it is not a philosphical platform.

Rand does a great job of conveying her ethic, but here’s the problem: ethics, metaphysics and epistemology are interrelated. Take the philosophical discipline of ethics, which can be summarized with an answer to the question, “What is good/just?” It dosn’t take long to see the implications, particularly as “What is real?” (i.e. metaphysics) must be addressed if we are to determine what is good. If we can’t show how good exists, how can we define it? And, how do we know any of this? How can people know “good”? This is how epistemology comes into the picture. Rand addresses neither metaphysics nor epistemology satisfactorily. So, she is left with an ethical roof that has no house beneath it.

Also, Rand is a shitty novelist. It’s brutal, but true. Her characters are two-dimensional and do not deal with the complex moral issues that people face in the real world. She contrives situations through which it is easy to deliver her moral message. In Atlas Shrugged, We the Living, The Fountainhead and Anthem, there is no shortage of outrage, but a dearth of subtlety. Further, have you ever read an 60-page monologue/rant? It’s not terribly effective. Revealing her shortcomings as a novelist, the introduction of the “Who is John Galt?” catch-phrase is labored and never really gained credibility. John Travolta was more convincing with “up your nose with a rubber hose!”

Rand does fail to follow her own advice at times. She should “check her premises.” Rand has Ragnar Danneskjold say that he doesn’t interfere with the military, because they defend freedom. But, weren’t they defending the “looters”? Also, in a truly Rand-ian society, wouldn’t military protection be secured privately, as education (or any other public service) would be? Ayn, check your premises …

But, I keep reading this stuff. There are several reasons. First, part of her message does resonate with me; I admit it freely. Her two-dimensional characters are easy to follow because they have all the depth of an Evan Stone character in a softcore porn flick. Finally, there is an element of Rand’s storytelling that is like bad reality television. Remember Joe Millionaire? Yeah, I watched it.

What really bugs me about Objectivism, though, is Objectivists. The commenters on my blog appear to be completely incapable of original thinking. They parrot key lines from Rand’s novels, but they don’t explain why they believe it. Such people probably run around the streets of their suburbs asking people, “Who is John Galt?” I have never met an Objectivist who was more than an Ayn Rand parrot or a Howard Roark wannabe. So, I invite intelligent discussion on my blog. Those who foolishly repeat the words of their “prophet” will be mocked mercilessly and publicly.

What I’m Reading: Atlas Shrugged

I’m rereading Atlas Shrugged, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. For me, Ayn Rand is like crack. I know her stuff isn’t good for me, but I just can’t get enough of it! I think her brand of libertarian thinking is ideal but unattainable. On the other hand, the philosophy underlying her novels is weak and underdeveloped. But, I still love this stuff.

Ayn Rand fanatic? Check out >>