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Objectivist Fiction

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#1
source

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Are there any writers of fiction who present objectivist viewpoints, and which is consistent with objectivist aesthetics, other than Ayn Rand?
"It is easy in the world to live after the world's oppinion; it easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-reliance 1841
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#2
BurgessLau

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Are there any writers of fiction who present objectivist viewpoints [...]

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


What do you mean by "objectivist"?

I know what Objectivism is -- the philosophy which Ayn Rand created.

I don't know what "objectivism" means. What facts of reality does that idea identify?
Burgess Laughlin
www.aristotleadventure.com The Aristotle Adventure: A Guide to the Greek,
Arabic, and Latin Scholars Who Transmitted Aristotle's Logic to the Renaissance
.

#3
McGroarty

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It's a very short book, but I recently enjoyed Calumet K. Ayn Rand wrote the introduction in the version I purchased.

Calumet K is the story of building a grain storage facility despite many types of interference from Wall Street and a union boss. Charles Bannon, the main character, dances past obstructions with convincing wit and his workers really take to him as a man who gets things done. As with Dagny Taggart, Bannon isn't running the construction company, but the company surely wouldn't run without him. Unlike Dagny, Bannon is recognized for his skill and work ethic, and some of his other turnabout successes are covered in brief asides.

Ayn Rand named this as her favorite novel, and I can understand why. Apart from mostly keeping with her values, the blow-counterblow turnabout against would-be obstructionists is *fun*.

The authors are Samuel Merwin and Henry Kitchell Webster. I don't know if this is typical of their other writing.

#4
AMERICONORMAN

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Andrew Bernstein wrote The Heart Of The Pagan. From what I've heard it sounds Objectivist but I never read it. I ended up buying other ROMANTIC writers. Like, I bought the complete works of Schiller and I buy anything by Hugo or Rostand and others I can find. Right now his book is too expensive.

But I am anxious to read it just that others keep beating him to me.

Americo.
"Roark felt the wrench he had tried so often to fight ... what should have been possible and was closed to him ... Then, without reason, he thought of Dominique Francon. She had no relation to the things in his mind; he was shocked only to know that she could remain present even among these things." (The Fountainhead, pg. 222).

"... But his hands betrayed what he wanted to hide. His hands reached out, ran slowly down the beams and joints. The workers in the house had noticed it. They said: 'that guy's in love with the thing. He can't keep his hands off." (The Fountainhead, pg. 130).


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#5
AwakeAndFree

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Two words: Terry Goodkind.

We had a few threads on his wonderful fantasy series. Look them up.
"For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead…" - Thomas Jefferson

#6
Charles T.

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Edward Cline has the "Sparrowhawk" series, set during the Revolutionary period. I've only read the first ("Sparrowhawk, Book One: Jack Frake") and was impressed. I look forward to reading the rest.

#7
Kitty Hawk

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It's a very short book, but I recently enjoyed Calumet K. Ayn Rand wrote the introduction in the version I purchased.

Ayn Rand named this as her favorite novel, and I can understand why. Apart from mostly keeping with her values, the blow-counterblow turnabout against would-be obstructionists is *fun*.

The authors are Samuel Merwin and Henry Kitchell Webster. I don't know if this is typical of their other writing.

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Both Merwin and Webster wrote other "business fiction" novels, originally under the tutelage of George Lorimer, editor of the Saturday Evening Post. From a book on Lorimer and the SEP:

There was one dish missing in the basic Post menu that Lorimer planned to serve his readers, and that was business fiction. To him business was a wonderful, romantic adventure.  He could chronicle it in articles by and about businessmen, but he was certain that it could also be done in fiction . . .

Lorimer could not interest any writer in the business story . . . There was one man specially qualified to write on the subject and that was Lorimer himself.  He knew it, and that was why in the summer of 1901 he began writing, nights and week ends, the "Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son," a perennial classic which survives today in a dozen languages.  It was, as Benjamin Stolberg pointed out, "a perfect picture of Big Business before it learned to be 'good,' when giants were building it . . . "

Although he never said so, Lorimer admired the hard, meticulous kind of composition more than the easy, facile style.  He often spoke approvingly of Samuel Merwin and Henry Kitchell Webster, who composed their best-selling "Calumet K" by sitting on opposite sides of a table and beating out every sentence word by word.  This business romance about a grain elevator, which Lorimer serialized in 1901, was probably the first American novel in which a labor union organizer played a prominent part. [George Horace Lorimer and The Saturday Evening Post, by John Tebbel]


Merwin and Webster's first collaboration was The Short Line War,, about the struggle for ownership of a railroad line. On his own, Webster wrote a couple of other interesting novels: The Banker and the Bear, and Roger Drake: Captain of Industry. Merwin's solo efforts, however, are much better, and include The Road Builders about the construction of a railroad line (which I have reviewed fully under "Book Reviews" on the front page of this website), The Whip Hand set in the logging industry in Michigan, and The Merry Anne, about a ship owner and captain on Lake Michigan. All excellent novels, although hard to find, being out of print. But they are worth the effort to find, especially the Merwin novels.
"Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace . . . Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" Patrick Henry

#8
Ed from OC

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Are there any writers of fiction who present objectivist viewpoints, and which is consistent with objectivist aesthetics, other than Ayn Rand?

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I know of a handful of struggling Objectivist screenwriters and directors. Aside from Bernstein and Cline, I don't know of any Objectivists that are published novelists. There are some writers who acknowledge Ayn Rand as an inspiration, especially among libertarians. Steve Ditko, for instance, created Spider Man. He was (is?) a huge Ayn Rand fan, and even had a character named "Mr. A" at one point (as in "A is A"). I don't believe he ever wrote a novel per se, or to what extent he's an Objectivist, but he was certainly aware of Ayn Rand's ideas and consciously attempted to incorporate them into his work.

But who knows... I suspect several Objectivists dedicate some of their spare time to writing. Hopefully some of that work will see the light of day soon.

#9
Thoyd Loki

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Two words: Terry Goodkind.

We had a few threads on his wonderful fantasy series. Look them up.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Are they really good? I ask because I'd love to read them, but they're so long, it would be a huge commitment.
I dated Hegel.

#10
Betsy

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Merwin and Webster's first collaboration was The Short Line War,, about the struggle for ownership of a railroad line. 

I'm reading that now and enjoying it tremendously.

On his own, Webster wrote a couple of other interesting novels: The Banker and the Bear, and Roger Drake: Captain of Industry.    Merwin's solo efforts, however, are much better, and include The Road Builders about the construction of a railroad line (which I have reviewed fully under "Book Reviews" on the front page of this website), The Whip Hand set in the logging industry in Michigan, and The Merry Anne, about a ship owner and captain on Lake Michigan.

I like Webster's books because they are more personal and psychological. My very favorite is The Real Adventure about a Victorian-era wife, mother, AND self-made career woman.

All excellent novels, although hard to find, being out of print.  But they are worth the effort to find, especially the Merwin novels.

Try eBay and http://www.addall.com/used.

(I just checked AddALL and found 365 Samuel Merwin books for sale with almost all of them under $20 and a goodly number less than $10.)
Betsy Speicher

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#11
DavidV

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James Clavell had a huge influence on me as a kid. He really imparted the notion of “business as romance,” especially with “Tai-Pan”, “Noble House”, and “Whirlwind.” On a related note, “Shogun” initiated a deep interest in Japanese culture for me, which remains today.

I recently picked up Mickey Spillane for the first time, and found his books to be quick and fun reads, if a bit formulaic and not for everyone.

In general, my advice to you is – don’t dismiss any authors because they aren’t Objectivists. There are many great authors out there, and in many cases they’re better than fiction by actual Objectivist philosophers. (Case in point: “Heart of a Pagan”)

#12
Kitty Hawk

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I like Webster's books because they are more personal and psychological.  My very favorite is The Real Adventure about a Victorian-era wife, mother, AND self-made career woman.

(I just checked AddALL and found 365 Samuel Merwin books for sale with almost all of them under $20 and a goodly number less than $10.)

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Merwin and Webster grew up together in Evanston, Illinois, and started out writing comic operas:

"I [Merwin speaking]didn't have a cent when I started out to write.  I had taken special courses at Northwestern and was doing some work for the newspapers.  Then I wrote several comic operas and fooled around with that game to some extent with my 'Tom Brown' friend, Henry Kitchell Webster, staging plays in which I always took part . . .

Finally I got enough money to take me to New York, and while I was there I tore off a lot of stuff and sold it to  McClure's, The Youth's Companion and other publications.  In the meantime, Webster, who had been teaching in New York state, came back to Evanston, and, as of old, we joined forces and wrote the novel, The Short Line War.  It was the first of the so-called business romances.  Then we did Calumet K which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post . . .

"[Webster's] novel, The Real Adventure and mine, The Honey Bee, were so completely opposite that two men might have been writing the same story--one pro and the other con." [A Chat About Samuel Merwin, by Robert Cortes Holliday.]


A few more words on George Lorimer. His Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son is an excellent book. It's not really a novel, being a string of fictional letters of advice on business and life to his son. Lorimer himself had started out, in his business career, working for the meat-packaging tycoon Phillip D. Armour, and it is after him that he modelled his Self-Made Merchant.

The job was at the mailing desk, where Armour started his own son.  Lorimer got to work at six o'clock in the morning, and he was impressed to find, as often as not, the bulky figure of the chief already at work.  His first task of the day was to decode telegraphic dispatches from the far reaches of the Armour empire and place the translations on his employer's desk by seven o'clock.  The pay was ten dollars a week for a fourteen hour day, and twenty-five cents for supper money if there was overtime, which was usually the case.

Lorimer came early and stayed late.  He loved business.  It never occurred to him for a moment that he was underpaid and overworked, because there was nothing in the world he would rather have been doing at that moment.  At first Armour paid no attention to him, addressing him by a system of grunts rather than words, but the old man could not help noticing his employee's unusual industry.

He noticed, too, that young Lorimer learned rapidly the ways of business.  When Armour workers rose in one of their sporadic revolts against the appalling conditions then existing in the industry, a supply train ran through the picket lines into a siding in the Armour yards, carrying food to besieged strikebreakers.  Lorimer rode the locomotive, a fact he referred to with pride in later years.  This and other incidents helped to foster his disillusionment with organized labor.

Phil Armour's young employee, after two years of apprenticeship, became assistant manager of the canning department.  This promotion meant that he had to travel for six months of the year, visiting Armour branches in cities and towns everywhere in the nation . . .

As a minor executive of the company, Lorimer had an opportunity to meet and talk with a good many of Armour's friends, the pioneer merchants and railroad men who were creating the American business empire; and he met the empire builders from abroad, such men as Sir Thomas Lipton.  Always he asked questions about their careers, and instinctively he performed as an editor would, mentally translating the meaning of their lives into understandable terms.

These meetings were the sources of inspiration for the biographies and autobiographies which so enthralled Post readers.  Lorimer well understood from the beginning what there was about the lives of such men that would appeal to the average man.  "I have a theory," he once told an English writer who wanted to do Lipton's life for the Post, "that great men are most interesting in the years before their greatness is recognized." [George Horace Lorimer and The Saturday Evening Post, by John Tebbel]


"This was America," as Ayn Rand said of Calumet K. When the phrase "great men" applied to business moguls, and the million-plus readers of the Post admired them and were interested in their life stories.
"Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace . . . Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" Patrick Henry

#13
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Thanks for all your replies.

Greedy, I'm not dismissing the non-objectivist authors, I'm just looking for good books with intriguing plots and I figured where else to find them than here. Maybe I'm idealizing all the objectivists and am deceiving myself into believing that they write as good as Ayn Rand, but I'll know if I'm right only when I read their books.

I've already seen a lot of objectivist art (non-literary) and I must say I was impressed by most of it. Since I'm gradually running out of books to read, I'm looking for supplies for another couple of years. Not to say that I've read all the books in the world, but when I see the libraries and ignore all the books I've already read, there isn't much left which interests me. I just can't force myself to read a book when I can see by the writing on the back cover that the plot is completely uninteresting to me.

There's a world of books for me to find out there. I continued my search here.
"It is easy in the world to live after the world's oppinion; it easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-reliance 1841
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#14
argive99

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Check out: David Gulbra's "Tales of the Mall Masters." Gulbra is an Objectivist who is an execellent writer to boot. Mall Maters is the closest thing to Atlas Shrugged that I have found. There are some truly awesome philosophical passages in it and all from the Objectivist pespective. I have read Bernstein's Heart of a Pagan and while it was good it does not compare to Gulbra's Mall Masters. Gulbra also wrote another novel that I have not read.

Also: Alexander York's "Crosspoints: a novel of choice." Listen to Dr. Hurd's interview with her at his website:

http://drhurd.com/streaming/index.php

Also: check out the novels of Objectivist Casey Fehy. Learn more at Prodos's site:

http://www.prodos.co...Adventure1.html

Also if you can find it, check out "Sophon of Carthage" by R. Hardy. Its an excellent piece of historical fiction about the destruction of Carthage by the Romans in the 3rd Punic War. Its told from the perspective of an incredibly rational and heroic Carthiniginian woman who sees her culture self destruct and understands why the Romans must win. It even has an incrediblly uplifting ending if you can believe it.


That's all I can think of for now. Objectivist fiction is in its infancy and there is as yet too small a market for it to expect anything awe inspiring (although "Mall Maters" IMO comes close). But there is some good stuff out there if you look.

I hope this helps.

#15
Michelangelo

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Are they really good? I ask because I'd love to read them, but they're so long, it would be a huge commitment.

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Terry Goodkind is a wonderfull writer. His books are fast paced, with heroic characters and unbelievable drama. I suggest going to his site www.terrygoodkind.com and reading the interviews to get a taste of what kind of man/writer he is.

To quote a section of the website:

First and foremost, it should be said that Terry Goodkind does not consider himself an author of fantasy qua fantasy. Sure, he is an author writing a series in a fantasy setting, but he is by no means limited to that genre. This is an important distinction when considering his work, as it helps the reader to understand his motivation. That is, he is not writing about magic and swords so much as he is writing about characters who use magic and swords. The genre, for him, is a means to an end, an end which is multi-fold...



#16
Ed from OC

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I'm just looking for good books with intriguing plots and I figured where else to find them than here. Maybe I'm idealizing all the objectivists and am deceiving myself into believing that they write as good as Ayn Rand, but I'll know if I'm right only when I read their books.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


If you're looking for good books, you aren't alone. There's plenty to read out there, but mining for the gold takes time. There are plenty of recommendations in the various Objectivist articles and newsletters.

When it comes to good art, the "how" is as important as the "what." The giants of the art world certainly have the style down, but the explicit philosophy is usually mixed if not outright bad. So for literature, look through the classics. You may find that some 200 year old book is still in print for a reason.

I'd caution, though, against equating "Objectivist artist" with "good artist." While the explicit philosophy they present may be agreeable, I've found that they may be lacking in the quality of their work. Personally, when it comes to art, I'd prefer high-quality art with bad philosophy than good philosophy in a poorly done work. I know several Objectivists, though, that have no interest in great art, and will, for instance, only see movies that have reasonably good philosophical premises and/or a good sense of life. One Objectivist I knew several years ago told me at the time that he couldn't finish "Les Miserables" because of the altruism. That's a crime. I can't imagine forsaking the passionate joy of that experience for anything.

Ideally, of course, we all want to see both parts. Someday we will see many more Ayn Rand-inspired works of art that rank with the best works.

Happy reading!

#17
Bill Bucko

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But who knows... I suspect several Objectivists dedicate some of their spare time to writing.  Hopefully some of that work will see the light of day soon.

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They do indeed. My major historical novel "The Outcasts"--about the struggles of a free-thinking boy at the dawn of the Renaissance--should hit the stands a couple of years from now. The manuscript has been rejected by one publisher; I'm submitting to two more soon, and if they don't want it I will self-publish. Several chapters of an earlier version appeared in "The Atlantean Press Review." Ed Cline (author of the "Sparrowhawk" series) says my novel "will become a classic in the 21st century."

And several years down the road, you can expect my next novel, "Raphaella di Piero." It's the story of a young girl with a heritage of murder, and her violent love for a boy.
What was it he had wished for long ago, lying awake one night ... troubled, struggling to understand? ... He had wished for a world in which parents didn’t torture their children, or lie to them. He shook his head. He would never live to see that.

But couldn’t there be such a world?

Someday ...

It seemed almost too much to hope for. But there was a chance.

from The Outcasts , chapter 10

#18
jedymastyr

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...better than fiction by actual Objectivist philosophers.  (Case in point: “Heart of a Pagan”)

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Was Heart of a Pagan bad? I haven't yet read it, but I must say I've been deterred for quite a while by the excessive price tag.
Chad

You are a spirit that knows of no limit
Who knows of no ceiling, who balks and dead ends

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#19
khaight

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Was Heart of a Pagan bad?  I haven't yet read it, but I must say I've been deterred for quite a while by the excessive price tag.

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It has its moments, but I've read more rewarding fiction by non-Objectivists.

The more general point made above, that just because art is created by an Objectivist doesn't mean it will be good, is very true. While Objectivist-created art is refreshingly free of nihilism, the very power and explicitness of the philosophy creates a risk of didacticism. Some artists are better than others at avoiding this pitfall. Sometimes the same artist avoids it in some work and falls headfirst into it in others.

A non-literary example of this: Compare Sylvia Bokor's Thank You Mr. Edison with her later Beginnings.

I also recommend listening to Leonard Peikoff's lecture "The Survival Value of Great (Though Philosophically False) Art" for some powerfully-argued insights into why rejecting a work of art just because it's built on poor philosophical premises is a bad idea.

#20
Bill Bucko

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The more general point made above, that just because art is created by an Objectivist doesn't mean it will be good, is very true.  While Objectivist-created art is refreshingly free of nihilism, the very power and explicitness of the philosophy creates a risk of didacticism.  Some artists are better than others at avoiding this pitfall. 

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As Miss Rand observed: "... abstract ideas are proper in fiction only when they are subordinated to the story. Not when the story is artificially devised to expound some thesis. That is why propaganda writers fail. That is why propaganda stories are always so false and dull." ("Letters," p. 159)
What was it he had wished for long ago, lying awake one night ... troubled, struggling to understand? ... He had wished for a world in which parents didn’t torture their children, or lie to them. He shook his head. He would never live to see that.

But couldn’t there be such a world?

Someday ...

It seemed almost too much to hope for. But there was a chance.

from The Outcasts , chapter 10

#21
ChristopherSchlegel

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My major historical novel "The Outcasts"--about the struggles of a free-thinking boy at the dawn of the Renaissance--should hit the stands a couple of years from now...And several years down the road, you can expect my next novel, "Raphaella di Piero."

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hey, that's excellent! Good luck getting them out there; can't wait to read your novels.

There is also Objectivist writer G. Stolyarov II whose novel futuristic "Eden Against the Colossus" is an excellent combination of sci-fi, detective-intellectual puzzle & application of Objectivist philosophy. I read it and think it is absolutely wonderful.

Also, Don Watkins (the "anger management" guy) has an ebook "Sleeping with Page Marie" which I recently read. Very funny, good characterizations, good stuff.

Christopher Schlegel

#22
nemethnm

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I also read _Sleeping With Page Marie_ and I think that Don Watkins has to be one of the funniest writers alive. One can get his e-book here. Also, Bill, if Clive says that you are a good writer then I can't wait for you to publish your work as I like his Sparrowhawk series.
It [economic theory] recognizes consumer sovereignty, places prime importance on the capital structure of the economy, apotheosizes the entrepreneur, despairs of government and utterly disdains Marxists, Keynesians, Chicagoites, and all other Historicists and pseudo-Natural Scientists.

In their ignorance, these latter, naturally, return the compliment and since these schools can all be used by the State as an excuse for its ever-widening interference in our lives—whereas Austrians demand the minimum possible intrusion upon private property and personal liberty, for solidly economic, as well as for ethical grounds—guess who gets most of the air time?

Sean Corrigan

#23
DavidV

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I also read _Sleeping With Page Marie_ and I think that Don Watkins has to be one of the funniest writers alive. One can get his e-book here. Also, Bill, if Clive says that you are a good writer then I can't wait for you to publish your work as I like his Sparrowhawk series.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I just finished it, and I have to say - Don knows how to write!

#24
Bill Bucko

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"THIS PERFECT DAY"

Best-selling author Ira Levin, who was a student of Objectivism in the 1950s and 60s, wrote one novel in particular that I would like to strongly recommend.

Mr Levin's works reflect mixed premises. In "The Romantic Manifesto" Miss Rand commented on the contrast between his first and second novels, "A Kiss Before Dying" and "Rosemary's Baby." "The Boys from Brazil" is very fine (forget the movie, read the book!). But the work I would like to STRONGLY recommend is "This Perfect Day" (1970).

In general terms "This Perfect Day" resembles "Brave New World," but unlike that down-beat, depressing book it has a real hero, a rebel who slowly, steadily struggles from childhood to assert his mind against the giant computer and mind-enslaving drugs of a “benevolent” world dictatorship. The plot twists are simply breath-taking; I cannot recommend "This Perfect Day" too highly. The four sections of the novel are headed “Growing Up,” “Coming Alive,” “Getting Away,” and “Fighting Back.”

Of course the background premise--that an enslaved society can be scientifically advanced, rather than collapsing back into the world of "Anthem"--is incorrect. But this story is so good, I would sell my soul to have written it! :) This is storytelling at its best!
What was it he had wished for long ago, lying awake one night ... troubled, struggling to understand? ... He had wished for a world in which parents didn’t torture their children, or lie to them. He shook his head. He would never live to see that.

But couldn’t there be such a world?

Someday ...

It seemed almost too much to hope for. But there was a chance.

from The Outcasts , chapter 10

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DPW

DPW

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Wow, thanks everyone for the kind words!
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