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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Marking quotes and sharing Atlas.

At some point this summer, when I was reading Foiglman to be exact, I started marking books. Quotes I liked, things that struck me, things to share or places to harken back. (Look at all those Ks.) Atlas Shrugged has been no exception, or maybe it is an exception because this is only the 2nd or 3rd novel I’ve marked up like this.

Here are some things I’ve noted from Atlas Shrugged. They may or may not reveal something about the novel or contain spoilers.

Between Francisco D’Aconio and Hank Rearden. Page 420.

“You, who would not submit to the hardships of nature, but set out to conquer it and placed it in the service of your joy and your comfort–to what have you submitted at the hands of men? You, who know from your work that once bears punishment only for being wrong–what have you been willing to bear and for what reason? All your life, you have heard yourself denouced, nor for your faults, but for your greatest virtues. You have been hated, not for your mistakes, but for your achievements. You have been scorned for all those qualities of character which are your highest pride. You have been called selfish for the courage of acting on your own judgement and bearing sole responsibility for your own life. You have been called arrogant for your independent mind. You have ben called cruel for your unyielding integrity.”

Between the looters (Ayn, could you have found a less preachy word for this bunch? Looters this and looters that is getting old and I’m not even out of the 600s yet.) planning 10-289 on page 501.

“Wesley, under Point Four, we’ll have to close all research departments, experimental laboratories, scientific foundations and all the rest of the institutions of that kind. They’ll have to be forbidden.”

“It will end wasteful competition,” said James Taggert, “We’ll stop scrambling to beat one another to the untried and unknown. We won’t have to worry about new inventions upsetting the market. We won’t have to pour money down the drain in useless experiments just to keep up with overambitious competitors.”

“Yes,” said Orren Boyle, “Nobody should be allowed to waste money on the new until everybody has plenty of the old. Close all those damn research laboratories–and the sooner the better.”

The conversation on 10-289 continues on page 504.

“I’m a little worried,” said Eugene Lawson, “about Points Three and Four. Taking over patents is fine. Nobody’s going to defend industrialists. But I’m worried about taking over the copyrights. That’s going to antagonize the intellectuals. It’s dangerous. It’s a spiritual issue. DOesn’t Point Four mean that no new books are to be written or published from now on?”

“Yes,” said Mouch, “it does. But we can’t make an exeption for the book-publishing business. It’s an industry like any other. When we say ‘no new products,’ it’s got to mean ‘no new products.'”

“But this is a matter of the spirit,” said Lawson; his voice had a tone, not of rational respect, but of superstitious awe.

On page 592, after Dagny’s return from “exile” she is visited by Hank Rearden.

After a while, she got up, she reached for a cigarette, lighted it, then held it our to him with a slight, questioning lift of her hand; he nodded, still sitting half-stretched on the couch; she placed the cigarette between his lips and lighted another for herself. She felt a great sense of peace between them, and the intimacy of the unimportant gestures underscored the importance of the things they were not saying to each other. Everything was said, she thought–but knew that it waited to be acknowledged.

Over on 694 (maybe I did get to the 700s today) Ragnar Danneskjold says:

“But, you see, my father was a bishop–and of all his teachings there was only once sentence that I accepted: ‘All those that take the sword shall perish with the sword.'”

Dagny considers the role she has taken in John Galt’s house, as his housekeeper and cook on page 710.

That special pleasure she had felt in watching him eat the food she had prepared–she thought, lying still, her eyes closed, her mind moving, like time, through some realm of veiled slowness–it had been the pleasure of knowing that she had provided him with a sensual enjoyment, that one form of his body’s satisfaction had come from her… THere is reason, she though, why a woman would wish to cook for a man… oh, not as a duty, not as a chronic career, only as a special rite in symbol of… but what have they made of it, the preacher’s of a woman’s duty?… The castrated performance of a sickening drudgery was held to be a woman’s proper virtue–while that which gave it meaning and sanction was held as a shameful sin… the work of dealing with grease, steam and slimy peelings in a reeking kitchen was held to be a spiritual matter, an act of compliance with her moral duty–while the meeting of two bodies in a bedroom was held to be a physical indulgence, an act of surrender to an animal instinct, with no glory, meaning or pride of spirit to be claimed by the animals involved.

Just some things I marked. There are a couple more–but they are speeches a couple pages long. One is the list of passengers in the tunnel collapse, another Richard Halley’s comparison of music and industry. As difficult a time as I am having with this book, I am starting to warm to it. Good, since I’m 716 pages into the damn thing. As I walked home from a time warp induced by reading at Metropolis, I thought about my kinship with the heroes of this book. About how it is the same mindset they have that allows me, forces me, to do a good job, to work hard, at any job I hold–but allows me, forces me to leave when the time is up.

It was the same motive that made me be the best cashier Wal-Mart had ever seen, but what made it impossible for me to stay for longer than four months. “I know what they do and I know who you are. I don’t understand how you can work there.” It was the same that made me think I could shape the shop into a successful, socially minded, forward thinking entity–but in the end, I would not rise above manager and had to leave. After all, it wasn’t ever my shop. And why now, that this point in my life, I’ve decided that I can be an administrative assistant–just as I beleive we’ll find out John Galt is the worker in the cafeteria–that a ‘lowly’ job can be a job done well.

That I can get satisfaction from making my cube into a well-run office and then come home and write. Come home and cook dinner for two, perhaps. That is what I want–if I was a smoker, to have that scene between Dagny and Hank. It reminds me of a moment I stole from a couple on the train yesterday. Two men were riding the train. One was asleep and the other had his arm around him. The awake man was lightly scratching the arm of the sleeping man and staring out the window. It was so intimate and sweet and loving. That’s what I’m looking for.

That and someone who will pick me up from the airport. That’s all.

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