I was gamely marching through Ayn Rand’s Big Book of Mottoes (aka Atlas Shrugged) when I was brought up short on page 108. Two of the main puppets, Dagny and Francisco, do their automatonic best to raise a blush by slipping off their morality play ID placards (Hers: “Rational Thinker.” His: “Untrammelled Will.”). Thus unencumbered, Miss Dagny and Don Francisco commence to scurry around nudely and violently in this steamin’ passage:
That summer, she met him in the woods, in the hidden corners by the river, on the floor of an abandoned shack, in the cellar of the house. These were the only times when she learned to feel a sense of beauty [!] —by looking up [!] at the old wooden rafters or at the steel plate of an air-conditioning machine that whirred tensely, rhythmically above their heads. She wore slacks or cotton summer dresses, yet she was never so feminine as when she stood beside him, sagging [!] in his arms, abandoning herself to anything he wished, in open acknowledgment of his power to reduce her to helplessness by the pleasure he had the power to give her. He taught her every manner of sensuality he could invent [!]. “Isn’t it wonderful that our bodies can give us so much pleasure?” he said to her once, quite simply [!]. They were happy and radiantly innocent. The were both incapable of the conception [!] that joy is sin. [Exclamation points of incredulity mine.]
The idea (or “conception”) that “joy is sin” evidently being one of those annoying Shackles on the Unfree Mind holding the rest of us plebians in thrall but which Fearless Iconoclast Ayn shatters with her Hammer of Individualistic Objectivism. Or is it the Fifteen Pound Sledgehammer of Unmodulated Interminable Polemics? They look so much alike.
Anyhow, that particular passage, so full of abandonment in abandoned places — the sort of Hefner tripe that in 1957 would have earned the panting blurbist’s stamp “candid” or “frank” — was my signal to abandon Rand. To be fair, I flipped through the remaining acreage of Ayn’s Bible in search of something, anything, like a novel, but, no, no, what follows is only a ceaseless parade of sloganeering that makes Mao’s Cultural Revolution look like School for Scoundrels. Here, for example, are some Words to Live By on page 565:
“But nothing can justify injustice.”
Hence the designation, eh, Ayn? But wait! Here’s another profundity from page 1012:
“But to think is an act of choice.”
I do. I think I’ll re-read Brideshead Revisited.