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reading: Preacher and Anthem

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reading: Preacher and Anthem

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Up too late. Not even tired, though my brain is starting to feel mushy.

I've read more than half of Preacher this weekend; it's hard to stop, especially when each issue flows so cleanly into the next and they're all right here. I recall disliking reading scans of print comics before, but it seems that reading webcomics copiously over the last four years has prepared me quite well for reading in this format.

I did take a break from it earlier today, and read most of Anthem, by Ayn Rand, which I finished just now. I would have been better off sticking with the walking godhead, his guntoting girlfriend, his boozy vampire sidekick and the trail of bodies splattered behind them.

The best thing I can say about Anthem is that it was shorter than I thought it'd be. What I checked out is the 50th anniversary "Expanded Edition," and I didn't realize initially that the bulk of the volume is nicely filled out with pretentious bullshit. While a small fraction of said BS is the introduction from Leonard Peikoff (verbose founder of the Rand Institute and yawning bore), which I skimmed this time, having learned my lesson with his introduction to Atlas Shrugged, the book as a whole came to an abrupt-to-me end, because that more than half of this edition is taken up by a reprint of original 1938 UK edition, a special reprint, in fact "...with Ayn Rand's editorial changes for the American edition written on each page in her own hand." Original title: John Galt and the Philosopher's Stone.

Perhaps I am being uncharitable (though probably not). My problem is that I see some value to objectivist theory, but the more I read of Rand to try to get hold of it, the more she annoys me, and the value melts away. While I agree with some of what she says, there are other things - things I see as unrelated both to the parts that make sense to me and to reality - and she treats this mess as an interconnected whole, which taints her ability to express the parts that ARE worthwhile. Also, reading Rand raises the perennial question: is she capable of writing about her personal philosophy without coming off like an utter prig? The extremity of this volume in particular reads to me like a spaz attack in print.

I think I could have dealt with Anthem a lot better if I hadn't read any of her other books. It falls well within the vast boundaries of speculative fiction (this being a place where I do agree with Harlan Ellison's call for the broader term) and I'm accustomed to opening wide in acceptance, at least for the duration of the tale. Unfortunately, this is not my first Rand, and she is a one trick pony - she tells the same story again and again, beating you over the head with it like a cartoon 50's housewife with a rolling pin... or maybe a better comparison would be that Monty Python sketch with the fish-slapping. In any case, the only real variation is in volume - Atlas Shrugged is super-sized (there's a monologue in it that is 78 PAGES LONG - no shit, man!), while Anthem I would say is fun-sized, except I can't bring myself to say that because it would be undermining the very concept of fun.

One thing Anthem does have to commend it is the interesting elimination and then reintroduction of singular pronouns, to make a point about the demonization of the egoist; I would say, however, that novella is too long a format for the use of such a technique, and the good could have been gotten from that with a short story, emphasis on SHORT.

Earlier today I fell asleep reading her version of dystopia - I'm surprised I didn't have nightmares.
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