Atlas Shrugged begins with Eddie Willers looking up at a public calendar and trying to recall a phrase that goes with it. The phrase is: “Your days are numbered.”
I have some news that is a great deal less ominous. The days are now finally numbered until the publication of my book of essays on Atlas Shrugged.
So Who Is John Galt, Anyway? A Reader’s Guide to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged will be available at Amazon one week from now. The day that is numbered is September 26.
Sherri and I are doing the final niggling layout adjustments right now. The past few months have been a reminder of how much work it really takes to put together a book in final, printed form. I just spent half a day policing my use of colons, and boy was that a sobering wakeup call.
What I can show you now is the front cover.
I can also give you the table of contents, with short descriptions of each of the chapters.
Why Atlas Shrugged needs a reader’s guide.
Chapter 1: Capitalism’s Epic
The unique achievement of Atlas Shrugged in presenting thinking and production as an epic drama.
Chapter 2: To Make Money—Eventually
Why Ayn Rand’s heroes actually care more about love than money.
Chapter 3: Did Dominique Francon Win?
The issue of optimism versus pessimism in The Fountainhead versus Atlas Shrugged.
Chapter 4: Where Is John Galt?
How John Galt is hiding in plain sight through most of the novel, as is Ayn Rand’s view of the relationship between the genius and the common man.
Chapter 5: So Who Is This John Galt Fellow, Anyway?
An analysis of John Galt’s distinctive character and his “character arc” in the novel.
Chapter 6: The Atlas Shrugged Movie That’s Been Playing for 60 Years
An examination of the literary qualities of Atlas Shrugged, focusing specifically on Ayn Rand’s “cinematic” style.
Chapter 7: Who Is James Taggart?
The realism and depth of Ayn Rand’s characters, as reflected in the profound issue explored in the character of James Taggart.
Chapter 8: Atlas Is Still Shrugging
The ways in which the real world is still following the pattern of events in Atlas Shrugged.
Chapter 9: The Novel That Prevented Itself from Becoming Prophetic
The ways in which Atlas Shrugged has become a historical novel rooted in a particular 20th Century cultural and political context—yet still manages to remain timely.
Chapter 10: An Objectivist LARP
How events in the real world reflect those in the novel—in a good way.
Chapter 11: The Management Secrets of Atlas Shrugged
What Ayn Rand’s morality has to say about how to run a business, as reflected in the events of the novel.
Chapter 12: Shrug Trek
The ways in which Atlas Shrugged is a work of futuristic science fiction, and how it differs from other prominent approaches to science fiction.
Chapter 13: Whydunit
The crucial role of philosophical speeches in the novel.
Chapter 14: The Operation of the Moral Law
How Ayn Rand’s unique answer on the philosophical foundation of ethics is embodied in the plot of the novel.
Chapter 15: The Pathology Report
Ayn Rand’s indispensable examination of what some contemporary writers have called “pathological altruism.”
Chapter 16: The Curious Adventure of the Man of Reason
How Atlas Shrugged explores the relationship between reason and emotion.
Chapter 17: The First of Their Return
How Ayn Rand was a philosopher in the tradition of the Enlightenment—and how Atlas Shrugged helped her fix the Enlightenment’s philosophical errors and limitations.
Chapter 18: The Power of the Powerless
Atlas Shrugged‘s blueprint for political resistance to tyranny and its parallels to the ideas that helped bring down the Iron Curtain.
Chapter 19: No Evil Thoughts But One
Why there is no “liberal Atlas Shrugged” and what both the right and the left need to learn from the novel.
Chapter 20: The Special Sense of Existence
Ayn Rand’s concept of the Benevolent Universe Premise and how it explains the broad sense-of-life appeal of Atlas Shrugged.
If you’ve been a subscriber for a while, you’ll remember some of these titles. Many of them have been published in this newsletter over the past five years, though I’ve made some revisions and additions. Three of the chapters are partly based on other articles I’ve written, but with a lot of new material added, particularly “The Atlas Shrugged Movie That’s Been Playing for 60 Years” and “No Evil Thoughts But One.” Two are totally new and can be obtained only by buying the book: “The Power of the Powerless,” a surprising comparison between the ideas in Atlas Shrugged and the ideas that brought down the Iron Curtain, and “The Special Sense of Existence,” an examination of the elements that make up the unique “sense of life” of Ayn Rand’s novels.
The thing I’m proudest about with this book is that, while it is partly intended to help new readers of Atlas Shrugged gain a deeper understanding of the novel, I have also heard from many longtime Ayn Rand fans that it brought them interesting new observations and perspectives on Ayn Rand’s masterwork. I will soon be posting my own list of the big new things I learned about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged from writing this book.
Those of you who supported the book in its initial crowdfunding will be hearing from me soon. Next week, once everything is live, I’m going to be asking all of my subscribers’ help in promoting it by posting positive reviews on Amazon and by word of mouth to other Ayn Rand fans.
In the meantime, I’m asking for your help in a new fund-raising drive to support the promotion of this book with some targeted advertising and with a series of articles and videos talking about the issues I discuss in it.
If you think Ayn Rand’s ideas and the themes in Atlas Shrugged are crucially important, please considering making a donation. Or at least consider renewing your subscription to The Tracinski Letter, which has been my base of support during the years I was writing this book, and particularly in the last year.
That support has also allowed me to be ready to respond to the intellectual challenges emerging from the culture during those years, most recently countering the rise of the illiberal conservatives who openly denounce “individual autonomy.” Sometimes it has seemed like those challenges were distracting me from completing the book, or vice versa, but really they are all part of the same battle. If “individual autonomy” is in need of a defense, what better defense is there than the ideas in Atlas Shrugged? As I wrote recently:
For Objectivists, frankly, this is our moment—a moment of opportunity and also a real challenge to us to step up when America requires our voices. The disturbing part of the past few years has been watching one conservative intellectual after another, one conservative institution after another, succumb to the new fad of illiberal conservatism—and to see that there is no real institution capable of mounting a strong, truly intellectual, philosophical defense of liberalism….
Coming to the rescue of the right, and of the country as a whole, is a job for which Objectivists are uniquely prepared. At any rate, I see this as a task for which I am uniquely prepared, and that’s what I intend to be doing in the next few years.
“The next few years,” implies that So Who Is John Galt, Anyway? is only the beginning. I have several new projects to start once this one is launched, and I’ll be telling you more about them soon. But first, I’d appreciate your help getting this one off the launch pad.
Thanks in advance.—RWT