Atlas Shrugged and other thoughts

There’s a film out. Atlas Shrugged – Part One. I must have missed hearing about this being turned in to a film because seeing it posted up on Galley Cat caught me completely by surprise. I loved Atlas Shrugged in the way it’s only really possible to love books that have extremely good characters and extremely bad characters and that you manage to read in that small gap of time between when you’re young enough to believe in an person who’s an ideal but old enough to get through a thousand or so pages without quitting. Lord of the Rings got me like that as well.

Considering how much I liked it, it’s strange that Atlas Shrugged is still the only book I’ve ever read by Ayn Rand. I think there was a sense that I’d be disappointed by anything else she’d written. I was/am afraid to try another book by her, just in case it didn’t/doesn’t do the same thing to me. Lord of the Rings kind of had the same effect (I’d already read the Hobbit before I got to LOTR, but after the LOTR I didn’t go out of my way to read any more Tolkien).

I’ve felt the same about other writers every now and again. It took me a long, long time to read anything by Márquez after I’d finished 100 Years of Solitude, and still I’ve not read anything else by William Gibson (following Pattern Recognition – not his best I’m told, but that doesn’t matter).

But then there’s other people I can’t wait to read their other stuff. Haruki Murikami; Wind Up Bird Chronicles, wow, Norwegian Wood, wow etc etc. William Boyd, Jean M Auel, Someone Else I can’t remember, these guys I read one book, get hooked and then try to get hold of everything they’ve ever written, all in one go.

(There’s a couple who fall between the two both camps; Michael Chabon is one who springs most readily to mind but I’ve a reason from him. First book of his I read was Wonder Boys, only I didn’t know it was by Chabon, so first book I read by him in my mind is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Great, epic, funny, unputdownable book. Second book I read by him was The Final Solution. A writing exercise that got published. Three kinds of dull. Now I’m torn whenever I see a book by him, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union? Do I, don’t I? But I am reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh at the moment . . . and it’s good).

I don’t know what the difference is between the first camp and the second camp, but looking at them all listed now, a majority of them are books I’d probably class as fantasy. Maybe this has something to do with it? The construction of the worlds, the willing belief in a world that isn’t quite your own. There are a few that seem like they don’t quite fit at first; Any Human Heart was the Boyd book I was thinking of, the story of one man’s life from birth to death in the 20th century. Definitely not fantasy, but epic in scale and a brilliant depiction of an imagined world that in it’s depth and detail could be compared to a fantasy world. Anything by Murakami has a dream like quality that you’d be hard pressed to label as stone cold realism, and okay, Gibson’s Pattern Recognition is set firmly in the real world so doesn’t really fit with this hypothesis.

Perhaps a reader invests more in a novel when they’re reading about something which demands the willing suspension of disbelief, demands that the reader conspires with, and commits to, the text, in a way that isn’t found in genres that are more readily grounded in reality? Maybe that’s why fantasy books are the ones that stick out from childhood and fairy tales are, and always have been, so popular.

So back to the start. Atlas Shrugged. The film gets slated by Variety’s Peter Debruge (read the article here), with one of the big criticisms being the epic sweep of the novel is poorly captured on such a low budget. I haven’t seen the film so can’t comment, but if that’s true then it’s a shame that a novel of such popular culture status has been reduced to a TV movie.

Atlas Shrugged- Part One (trailer)


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