A lot of credit goes to my wife, Sherri, for spending a couple of weeks of her time making the layout of the paperback look beautiful. (The e-book looks pretty good, too, but we had a bit less control over the details.)
Amazon offers a “look inside” preview that allows you to check out the table of contents, which has short summaries of each of the chapters, and that reminds me to say a word about the organization of the book. I wrote these essays separately over a period of about five years, but as the project moved forward I developed a general idea of what territory they were covering and how they all fit together, and I had to formalize that in deciding the order of the chapters.
The first three chapters, “Capitalism’s Epic,” “To Make Money—Eventually,” and “Did Dominique Francon Win?” give an overview, addressing broad themes in the book and answering some persistent misconceptions about it.
The next section, “Where Is John Galt?,” “So Who Is This John Galt Fellow, Anyway?,” “The Atlas Shrugged Movie That’s Been Playing for 60 Years,” and “Who Is James Taggart?” are the most focused on literary analysis, looking at Ayn Rand’s writing style, plot structure, and characterization.
“Atlas Is Still Shrugging,” “The Novel That Prevented Itself from Becoming Prophetic,” “An Objectivist LARP,” “The Management Secrets of Atlas Shrugged,” and “Shrug Trek,” look at Atlas Shrugged in its historical and cultural context, showing how it fits with real-life events in politics and business and where it stands as a document of our past and a vision of our future.
The next section is the most focused on analysis of the philosophical ideas Ayn Rand presented. “Whydunit” examines the role of explicit philosophy in the novel, “The Operation of the Moral Law” and “The Pathology Report” look at her view of the foundation of ethics and her critique of altruism. “The Curious Adventure of the Man of Reason” looks at her view of the role of emotion, and “The First of Their Return” discusses her relationship to the philosophical legacy of the Enlightenment. This section was the one I learned the most from myself as I was writing it, particularly the middle three chapters, beginning with “The Operation of the Moral Law.” These chapters helped me fully realize how Ayn Rand’s view of the law of cause and effect explains her view of morality and of emotion as well as her distinctive literary style.
The last section of the book contains the chapters I am most eager to share with new readers, because two of them—”The Power of the Powerless” and “The Special Sense of Existence”—are completely new to this book. Of these, I am probably most excited about “The Power of the Powerless,” because I conceived the idea for it years ago but got around to writing it only at the very end of the project. It presents Galt’s Speech as a kind of “dissident’s manifesto” and draws some fascinating comparisons to a real-life dissident’s manifesto that helped bring down the Iron Curtain. “The Special Sense of Existence”—the phrase is taken from Dagny Taggart’s last thoughts as she is about to crash into the valley—examines Ayn Rand’s distinctive sense of life and particularly its appeal to youth. I take on the dismissive description of Atlas Shrugged as appealing to “adolescents” while also taking seriously what experts say about the psychological needs of adolescence and how Ayn Rand actually does provide for those needs, but in a serious, adult way. The second-to-last chapter, “No Evil Thoughts But One,” is the one I am particularly eager to share with new readers of Atlas Shrugged, because it sums up the lessons people in today’s political and “culture war” context need to take away from the novel.
Remember, while many of these chapters have some new material added to them, those two chapters are entirely unique to the book, have never been published elsewhere, and are particularly good—so even if you’ve been a subscriber all these years, the only way to read those essays is to buy the book. Get used to seeing that link.
As I put it in my book’s foreword, “Atlas Shrugged is a novel that deserves to be the frequent subject of serious analysis, with writers eager to share new insights about its plot structure, philosophical themes, and literary technique. Since mainstream writers aren’t doing this, and since I have some interesting new observations to offer, I decided to do my part to help give Atlas Shrugged the thoughtful appreciation it deserves.”
I couldn’t have created this book without the subscribers to The Tracinski Letter, who have provided a base of economic support for my writing and an eager and knowledgeable audience for essays on Ayn Rand. I appreciate your support so far, and there are two extra things I would ask you to do to help make this book a success.
1. Word of Mouth
There are two main target audiences for this book: new readers of Atlas Shrugged, and existing, committed Ayn Rand fans. You are in that second group, and chances are that you know a lot of other people who are Objectivists or Ayn Rand fans and will really get something out of reading this book. So please give it some word of mouth. Tell your friends, go onto discussion groups, go onto Facebook and Twitter and tell people how much you like the book—and make sure to send them to the Amazon link.
I’m going to be doing some of my own advertising and promotion of the book in the coming weeks, but your word of mouth is by far the most effective thing that can help early sales of the book. So please just take a few minutes to spread the word to people you think might be interested.
2. Amazon Reviews
My other target market is new readers of Atlas Shrugged, and the main thing I want is for people searching for information on Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, and Objectivism to see recommendations for this book. So please, when you get a chance, leave a review on Amazon. I would like my book to be one of the first stops people go to after they read Atlas Shrugged and are ready to take their understanding to a deeper level, so please help me make it as easy for them to find as possible.
I hope you will buy the book, I hope you enjoy reading it, and thanks again for your support.