Re "The critics shrugged," Opinion, Aug. 26
Ayn Rand's epic tome, "Atlas Shrugged," is a relentless 1,100-some pages of excruciating reading, a fitting punishment for any libertarian. I've never come across one of them who has actually read the darn thing. They all say they've read it and even sport the bumper stickers with the opening line, "Who is John Galt?," but none of them has been so masochistic as to have actually read it.
This actualizes the famous review by Dorothy Parker, who said: "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."
As the author of a series of book chapters on the reviews of Ayn Rand's novels, I think that The Times' selection of excerpts is only slightly biased.
Although there were positive reviews of "Atlas Shrugged" (such as John Chamberlain's in the Wall Street Journal), the preponderance were negative and often so distorted and low-level that the publisher (Random House) was stunned.
However, the reviews did reinforce something that Rand often noted: the philosophical gulf between America's intellectuals (heavily altruist and collectivist) and the American people, millions of whom continue to read and be inspired by her novels. Those receptive to her ideas are not the malevolent or cynical who have given up whatever ideals they once had, but rather, as she wrote in 1968, those "who seek a noble vision of man's nature and of life's potential."
Michael S. Berliner
The writer is co-chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute.
Having read "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" as a 19-year-old college student in 1958, I rapturized over Rand's philosophy to my English professor. "Ah," he said, "you may want to reread them in five years." And so I did, and I saw how selfish and inhumane was their meaning.
Some of us do grow up.
Lois Crain Heilemann
Letters: Diversity at UC
Letters: The Republican Party line
Postscript: Islamophobia and right-wing terrorism