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Atlas Shrugged Week 1: Ch 1-2

csalvato

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I interpreted that as love
I think you raise a good point here. I definitely interpret Eddie as having feelings of love for Dagny. But there’s many different kinds of love (fraternal, parental, romantic, etc.)

Maybe there’s a sort of love one specifically has for a leader? That’s how I interpret Eddies feelings in the first 2 chapters
 

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scottmsul

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Hang on hang on. @scottmsul how do you do the cool thing where you hid your prediction?
There's a bunch of buttons at the top of the response box (Bold, Italic, etc). One of them is a dropdown with three dots, which has both Spoiler and Inline Spoiler.
 

Dark Water

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I'm a day late to the party and the thread has already grown quite long, so I am replying before reading it (and would probably suggest others do the same), even if what I say is redundant, its my own take on it after freshly reading it - not that I have anything profound to say about what's happened so far.

I personally find Hank and Dagny the most interesting characters so far. They are strong and independent. James Taggart is predictable, weak, and dependent on the board to make decisions regarding his company. Bureaucracy, while Dagny brings a go-getter attitude that's as prevalent when she orders the train to keep moving as it is when she makes the decision to go to Rearden.

It would've been quite interesting to see Dagny and Hank meet, although it seems as if Hank is already making Rearden metal and that their interaction was left out - perhaps in one the chapters ahead?

If I could use one word to describe how I feel about everything in these chapters so far, it would be gloomy. Ironic at that, as we are dealing with two families / businesses of immense wealth, as one owns a transcontinental railroad and the other a very successful steel business.

Looking forward to what's next!
 
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Primeperiwinkle

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This is a test of what spoiler looks like.

This is also a test but of the inline spoiler looks like because I’m happy testing things.


Those are tests. I’m excited. Thanks @scottmsul
 

PapaGang

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Great first chapter. Very descriptive. She sets the scene well.
I have to say that she really wields a hammer here. There is no confusion as to how you should feel about the characters.

Eddie is naive.

Dagny is honest, direct, assertive, independent and immensely useful to a company that clearly has seen better days. These positive attributes paint her as a bit masculine by the author, but that's how things were back in Rand's day.

Jim Taggert is weak, greedy, conniving, twisted, and filled with excuses. He is going to cause trouble, I can feel it. This stage has been clearly set.

Hank is amazing, and is tortured by his family and surrounded by people who can't possible understand him and what motivates him.
He, above all others, is a fascinating case study.

I already see the economic and political implications unfolding here.
 

BizyDad

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Uhm... Not to hijack the discussion, but has anyone noticed @Bertram's little message thing? I just lost it! Hahahaha.
 

Bertram

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Uhm... Not to hijack the discussion, but has anyone noticed @Bertram's little message thing? I just lost it! Hahahaha.
ABOUT RAND'S WRITING

Thing is, I'm reading her now for the first time since reading Fountainhead over a weekend for extra credit in a sickly biased Lit class. I missed nature/wilderness at the time I took that class, so I just hated the novel setting and landscapes. Actually I love her industrial hardscapes and objective moral universe. So I'm a craving fan now.
She didn't come up as a writer in the canons of Western Literature and didn't have to display the "old meanings" using the same expected literary techniques.
Instead her storytelling reads like thinking under a limelight on stage.
She creates visually descriptive film noir scenes, with added dialogue that is abrupt and dramatic. She's using playwriting and movie techniques parallel with really intelligent conversational character descriptions. It's very refreshing compared to anything else currently published as fiction that I've found in recent years. I'd given up on finding any fiction worth reading besides Tessa Hadley and Jonathan Franzen.

But I still sorely resent that question, "Who is John Galt?"
It's like a turnstyle, always meaning something different every time it appears. @broswoodwork replied to one of my posts with this question and I'm still at a loss to understand. Good thing you did that because I've found my new favorite author.
 
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BizyDad

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Thing is, I'm reading her now for the first time since reading Fountainhead over a weekend for extra credit in a sickly biased Lit class. I missed nature/wilderness at the time and just hated her landscapes. Actually I love her industrial hardscapes and moral universe. So I'm a craving fan now, which means I'll probably get to every book. Her fiction is fantastic.
She didn't come up in the canons of Western Literature and didn't have to display the "old meanings" using the same expected literary techniques.
Instead her storytelling reads like thinking under limelight on stage.
She creates visually descriptive noir film scenes, with added dialogue that is abrupt and dramatic. She's using playwriting techniques parallel with really intelligent conversational character descriptions. It's very refreshing compared to anything else currently published as fiction that I've found in recent years. I'd given up on finding any fiction worth reading besides Tessa Hadley and Jonathan Franzen.

But I so resent that question, "Who is John Galt?" It's like a turnstyle, meaning something different every time it appears. @broswoodwork replied to one of my posts with this question and I'm still at a loss to understand. Good thing you did that because I've found my new favorite author.
Awww...but you changed your thingy.

I hadn't thought about the connection to playwriting, but I think you are spot on. She has a way, different from other authors I've read, of putting the characters "on center stage".

Side note, I've got to get me some lobster rolls really soon. :)
 

Bertram

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Awww...but you changed your thingy.

I hadn't thought about the connection to playwriting, but I think you are spot on. She has a way, different from other authors I've read, of putting the characters "on center stage".

Side note, I've got to get me some lobster rolls really soon. :)
Thanks, I liked it too. But it had offended a nice person here.
What's this about lobster rolls? I'm seven minutes from a cove full of traps.
It's very hard for me to have lobster because these are really, really intelligent little monsters. They actually set ambushes for fish and then disguise themselves and hide behind seaweed. But they are the meanest things that live. A lobsterman told me they have no problem killing lobsters because they thrive on hate, claws always ready for pain. They're Little-Hitlers-of-the-Sea.
So what this about lobster rolls?
 

BizyDad

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So what this about lobster rolls?
A case of mistaken identity. I clicked on a link on your profile, which led to Google and a food truck that has lobster rolls, which I thought that was yours... :rofl:
 

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SamRussell

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One of the rare characteristics of Rand's characters, is that they're all consistent with a set of premises.

Every character has an underlying motivation, or assumption, behind their behaviour.

If you find yourself thinking, "Why does XYZ do this..?", ask yourself "What would XYZ have to believe, in order to do this?"... and the characters will make a lot more sense.
 
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Primeperiwinkle

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*muttering in corner on the way to get more coffee and breathe happy sighs next to a dear friend of mine while my other strategic genius friend nods in my direction.

(I could finish this book in three days and then rip it apart piece by piece.. telling all my thoughts and probably make connections to quantum physics, Stalin, Picasso’s blue period and why investing in gold is best but I’m refraining.)

La la la.. book discussions are delightful, ppl are good, everyone is having fun..
 

Bertram

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Feels like a parallel universe 1920s America. WWI didn't happen and instead of an economic boom, there is an ongoing economic decline. But not a sharp and sudden decline.
I wonder as well if this is also an alternate reality, because the history of railroad building in America was that timber, not oil, grew the railroad lines out West. Oil grew the road networks. That's old lore.
Maybe it wasn't understood this way in the 1920s, or maybe Rand is building a different world entirely.
There was sharp economic rivalry between timber companies and oil companies. It was so heated that even their philanthropy was drawn along clear lines. Oil and mining built museums. Timber built the performing arts. You can trace this philanthropic tradition along road networks and railroad lines from the Midwest to the West Coast. In nearly every old railroad town one of the first buildings to go up was an opera house. Musuems came along later with the oil barons.
 
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Primeperiwinkle

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I wonder as well if this is also an alternate reality, because the history of railroad building in America was that timber, not oil, grew the railroad lines out West. Oil grew the road networks. That's old lore.
Maybe it wasn't understood this way in the 1920s, or maybe Rand is building a different world entirely.
There was sharp economic rivalry between timber companies and oil companies. It was so heated that even their philanthropy was drawn along clear lines. Oil and mining built museums. Timber built the performing arts. You can trace this philanthropic tradition along road networks and railroad lines from the Midwest to the West Coast. In nearly every old railroad town one of the first buildings to go up was an opera house. Musuems came along later with the oil barons.
Bertram are you going to be joining us in the book discussion? I didn’t see you in the other thread.
 

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Yeah, Art Deco is definitely spot on – at least in my mind.

I think several book cover iterations also underscore the decorum of the period being focused on Art Deco:




A sample of Art Deco:



If you go into NYC today and go into places like the original Tiffany's and Saks, I think it's a good representation of the world AS takes place in. In most US towns there are some PWA buildings from the era that give a good reference and can take you back to that period.

For example. there's also George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, VA that has this style on an elementary school:

I actually have that first cover!! But it's in Spanish because I bought the novel before I moved here. :D And yea spot on. That's how everything looks in my mind. And those big chubby cars, nice hats etc etc.
 

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I wonder as well if this is also an alternate reality, because the history of railroad building in America was that timber, not oil, grew the railroad lines out West. Oil grew the road networks. That's old lore.
Maybe it wasn't understood this way in the 1920s, or maybe Rand is building a different world entirely.
There was sharp economic rivalry between timber companies and oil companies. It was so heated that even their philanthropy was drawn along clear lines. Oil and mining built museums. Timber built the performing arts. You can trace this philanthropic tradition along road networks and railroad lines from the Midwest to the West Coast. In nearly every old railroad town one of the first buildings to go up was an opera house. Musuems came along later with the oil barons.
I might be super wrong but I remember that in "The Men Who Built America" Vanderbilt actually starts building railroads to transport Rockefeller's oil. Later on the rail road bois turn on him and he's like "oh yea?" and he develops pipelines so he doesn't need trains.
Maybe it was just a little part of it though.
 

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Hank Rearden: Michael Fassbender
Dagny Taggart: Jessica Chastain
Jim Taggart: Jack Black?
Eddie: Matthew McConaughey
Rearden's Mom: Judi Dench

Addin real value to the discussion
I like it.
Jim Taggart: Paul Giammati
And I need a better Eddie... McConaughey hasn't played straight laced since A Time To Kill. Idk who.
 

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View attachment 28453

Must have been shipped by rail.

Didn't they tell you? The Rio Norte line closed...

I like it.
Jim Taggart: Paul Giammati
And I need a better Eddie... McConaughey hasn't played straight laced since A Time To Kill. Idk who.
TBH I'm just trying to find a match to how I imagine them while reading, I'm not thinking of their acting :playful:
 

Bekit

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I found the audiobook on hoopla and listened to the first two chapters in a plane yesterday.

I've never read it before and only had this thread to clue me in to what I might be in for. @Primeperiwinkle , your brilliant recap of chapters 1-2 was what convinced me to give it a try.

Couple of observations:

On John Galt
  • "Who is John Galt" coming from the bum in the opening scene seemed to be asked out of genuine curiosity. But then later it seems to be used as a means to imply, "There is no answer."
  • For multiple unrelated characters in the book to be repeating the same question in various contexts seems to indicate that (a) this is a sentence that has "gone viral" in the culture, (b) the characters don't know the answer, and (c) there is a reason behind why people are asking it, whether it is some mastermind planting the question everywhere or some random event that brought the name to everyone's attention.
  • I can also infer, since authors have reasons for the themes they plant in the early stages of a book, that the answer to the question will be relevant to the lives of the main characters.
  • Side note: this reminds me of an SEO campaign that Neil Patel did with his own name to produce lots of search queries and raise the likelihood that Google would link to HIS website (and not any other Neil Patel in the world) when someone googled his name. He basically did it by staging all these photos of people holding signs that said, "who is Neil Patel?" which he then distributed through social media and the web. Apparently it worked.
  • Another side note: this is what is called an "open loop" in copywriting. It's like an itch that you're just compelled to scratch. Open loops are a technique to keep the person reading long beyond the time when they would ordinarily have stopped, because they simply have to satisfy their curiosity. The use of an open loop is also an effective mechanism to get people through the early stages of a novel, when you're still a little bored and aren't fully invested in the story. Ayn Rand was smart to use a technique like this to whet curiosity and keep people reading. You might be tempted to put the book down at this point, but then you're like, no, wait, I don't know who John Galt is yet." So you keep reading. And if you abandoned the book at chapter 2, you'd never experience whatever it is that gives the book greatness.
Other observations:
  • Did anyone catch that opening scene where Eddie was 10 and listened, enraptured, as Dagny told him a beautiful version of the future? I think he has been in love with her ever since.
  • It boggles my mind that Rearden's mother doesn't support him. This is one area where I think Ayn Rand departed from what's realistic. Rearden had to develop his character somewhere. It's hard to think that he would have developed into who he is when his mother so completely despises and ridicules him.
 

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csalvato

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Good summaries @Bekit.

It boggles my mind that Rearden's mother doesn't support him. This is one area where I think Ayn Rand departed from what's realistic. Rearden had to develop his character somewhere. It's hard to think that he would have developed into who he is when his mother so completely despises and ridicules him.
Just wanted to point something out from several of my life's experiences/observations: this is totally realistic, unfortunately.
 

Bekit

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Just wanted to point something out from several of my life's experiences/observations: this is totally realistic, unfortunately.
That's so sad. I guess I'm projecting too much from my own life experience and the role my mother played in my life. I was just saying to someone yesterday that I can't think of a single failure in my mother's life, from the beginning of my life until now. I can't think of a single instance where her own actions didn't line up with what she taught us to do. Not everyone has a mother like that.
 
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BellaPippin

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  • It boggles my mind that Rearden's mother doesn't support him. This is one area where I think Ayn Rand departed from what's realistic. Rearden had to develop his character somewhere. It's hard to think that he would have developed into who he is when his mother so completely despises and ridicules him.
For her character, completely realistic. However you do make a good point on who he gets his personality from. Do they ever mention his dad? I do not remember (I'm on part two, since way before you guys started).
Another possibility not impossible but you would still think there would be some explanation of it in a novel is either he's a black sheep that breaks the circle or some other family member.
 

BizyDad

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Another possibility not impossible but you would still think there would be some explanation of it in a novel is either he's a black sheep that breaks the circle or some other family member.
Yes.

I feel like Rand is setting him up to exemplify the myth of the self-made man. He doesn't really "need" anyone, overcoming all obstacles, including a terrible upbringing and a world that says "You can't do it" to ultimately bring change to an industry/world that needs it but doesn't appreciate the genius in his own lifetime. Or probably more accurately, he doesn't succeed and we're supposed to learn a lesson from that.

But its only two chapters, I could be wrong...
 

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Yes.

I feel like Rand is setting him up to exemplify the myth of the self-made man. He doesn't really "need" anyone, overcoming all obstacles, including a terrible upbringing and a world that says "You can't do it" to ultimately bring change to an industry/world that needs it but doesn't appreciate the genius in his own lifetime. Or probably more accurately, he doesn't succeed and we're supposed to learn a lesson from that.

But its only two chapters, I could be wrong...
It's a dystopian novel after all, I wouldn't be surprised by an Orwell-like ending, nevertheless it would feel like finishing 1984 all over again. [screams internally]
 

csalvato

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That's so sad. I guess I'm projecting too much from my own life experience and the role my mother played in my life. I was just saying to someone yesterday that I can't think of a single failure in my mother's life, from the beginning of my life until now. I can't think of a single instance where her own actions didn't line up with what she taught us to do. Not everyone has a mother like that.
Love is a strange thing. I believe that everyone in Rearden's life does truly love him –maybe with the exception of his wife. And perhaps they don't always ridicule him; or at least they didn't throughout his whole life. Maybe when he was younger, he did have a lot of support.

IMO, the scene in Chapter 2 is not about painting a picture of upbringing. Instead, it is illustrating what I believe to be a core tenant in Rand's writing that @SamRussell discussed above: these characters are all extremely values driven. They have their own expectations and values that are forcing them to impose their beliefs on him.

In the case of his Mother, she came across to me as valuing family over money/productivity. That's why she wants Hank to give his brother a job, even though his brother is pretty useless in every way.

I don't need to look too far or wide to see examples of this in nearly every family of anyone who is successful; particularly where some siblings are more successful than others, and some siblings are struggling to make ends meet.

I didn't mean to paint a "woe is me" picture about my upbringing (I love my mother :smile:). I meant to highlight that this is extremely common (albeit maybe a bit hyperbolic in the book), especially among families where the values of a productive child clashes with the family values of the parent.
 

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This is why I’m not a fan of definitive statements like “this book is based on ________”

I’m much more interested in “this seems like _____” because at the end of the day it’s fiction right?

But this book seems more connected to a real era than say Lord of The Rings which was so powerfully connected to war but not necessarily England.

ETA: But obviously its helpful knowing this info!!
It's supposed to be modern-day when you are reading. But of course, has a 1950's feel because well it was written then.
 

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I already read the book but oddly enough listening to it on Audible again as we speak.

So I'll be following this thread and give some insights to some of my thoughts. Plus also maybe learn a few new things from my fellow readers.
 

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Atlas Shrugged - Week 1: Ch 1-2

Book Discussion Guidelines and Schedule

Welcome my most excellent business-minded friends, acquaintances, and random dudes; it’s FRIDAY! Hopefully you all wake up and eagerly join in on this discussion.


Chapter One
32 yo Eddie Willers opens the story by going into work on September 2nd by feeling an “immense, diffused apprehension”. As he walks he imagines his childhood safe haven- a large oak tree. Sadly, it was destroyed by lightning. Eddie’s father and grandfather worked for the same ppl he works for: The Taggart family. Eddie is the Special Assistant to the Vice President in Charge of Operation.

Going into work he likens the Taggart building to a place of safety - it is a New York skyscraper holding the offices of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad - a company that has spread across the U.S. The president, James Taggart has a “limp decentralized sloppiness” w/ a soft face.

Eddie enters James’ office to talk about The Rio Norte line coming out of Colorado, which Eddie says is “done for”. This is bad because the Wyatt Oil Fields have started producing and the owner, Ellis Wyatt has hired a different company Phoenix-Durango to ship for him. James curses his sister.

The sister, VP Dagny Taggart, is traveling in on the fastest train after two nights of not sleeping due to work. She is long-legged but not conscious of her more feminine qualities. She hears a brakeman whistling what he tells her is The 5th Halley Concerto but she later verifies that Halley never wrote a 5th Concerto at all. (This is spooky or is the brakeman Halley?!?!? I don’t know!!!!)

After arriving in New York she meets with her brother. Dagny confirms The Rio Norte Line is in desperate need of repair. She sits decisively against her brothers noncommittal excuses saying, “we’re going to save it.” The argument revolves around Orren Boyle, a man James defends, who runs Associated Steel. Taggart Transcontinental has not received their order for rail from Boyle in over thirteen months.

Dagny tells James she has ordered new rail from Rearden Steel, a company owned and operated by Hank Rearden whom James dislikes. Rearden has created a substance stronger than steel called Rearden Metal but as of yet no one has bought it, until now.

Chapter Two
Hank Rearden is watching as the first “flashing” substance that took him ten long years to create is poured like a long white curve for its very first order. He has poured his life into getting where he is now and is happy but meditates that “happiness could hurt”. He heads home filled with the power of his accomplishment but is immediately met by a circle of ppl who do not understand him; his wife Lillian who has no gaiety in her face, his mother who accuses him, his brother whom he financially supports, and a friend, Paul Larkin, who seems supportive but, we find out, only comes with a vague message. Paul tells Hank that he should should hire someone new for Washington, a man who will give Rearden better press.

(These intros will get shorter as the weeks pass; they’re here to be quick refreshers about the chapters we are discussing. Since I’ve never read the book I’m not completely sure which details are ok to leave out. It’s your job to bring up the nuances you noticed and connect the dots so we can see the book from different angles. That way we will help each other.)


My thoughts:
Taggart is the tree; Rearden the lightning. Rand pretty much spelled that out. I’m 95% sure this book has no happy ending. Hm. I have more but I’ll let y’all talk before I start gushing sonnets about the writing. Lol

Questions to spark the convo:
1.) A writer strives to set the tone for a book very quickly. What tone did Rand create for the backdrop of her book?

2.) Can you draw ANY conclusions (metaphysical, emotional, intellectual or economic) from just these two chapters?

3.) Which character/s would you trust to help your business?

How do you feel so far about ANYTHING?!? I need to know!!!! Please feel free quote from the book to clarify your points. Yay!!
Just saw this thread. I need to catch up!
 

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