Is that opus really the rich repository of conservative values it purports to be? Quite aside from the flabby aesthetics, we're supposed to get all righteous about — of all things — building railroads?
And, no, I haven't read the book. I don't read long, badly written novels. A simple summary of the idea Rand strains to propound is quite enough for me. As a general rule, I stay away from novels that were written to make some big political or philosophical point. Writing that last sentence, I realized I needed to quote something Vladimir Nabokov said about art. Googling, I came to this old article by Allen Barra in Salon — "Reading 'Lolita' in Alabama" — and I'm delighted to see that Barra brings up Ayn Rand in the first paragraph:
I knew of only one other writer who inspired such an odd cult among high schoolers, Ayn Rand, who, like Nabokov, was a Russian émigré with an intense hatred of communism. Aside from that, the two could not have been more different. Rand's novels were the kind of transparent philosophical tracts that Nabokov loathed as much as he loathed Marxism. The similarities between the Nabokov and Rand cults was creepy; even more creepy was that I almost never came across anyone who read both of them.Put me on the Nabokov side of that dichotomy. Anyway, here's what I was looking for from Nabokov:
"Why did I write any of my books, after all? For the sake of pleasure, for the sake of the difficulty. I have no social purpose, no moral message; I've no general ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions."... "I don't give a damn for the group... the community, the masses, and so forth ... there can be no question that what makes a work of fiction safe from larvae and rust is not its social importance but its art, only its art." And: "I have neither the intent nor the temperament to be a moralist or satirist." Mediocrity, he thought, "thrives on ideas"... "general ideas, the big, sincere ideas which permeate a so-called great novel, and which, in the inevitable long run, amount to bloated topicalities stranded like dead whales."