Review: “We The Living,” by Ayn Rand

Review: “We The Living,” Ayn Rand (Book 34 of 100)

WE THE LIVING is a great and interesting novel—though to be frank, I wouldn’t necessarily place it on the all-time top 100 book list. My suspicion is that it landed on this list much the same way that 12 Charles de Lint novels did, or 4 L. Ron Hubbards: in a word, “obsession.” There is such a cult-following surrounding the works of Ayn Rand that label anything she’s ever produced as worthy of unquestioned acclaim. Admittedly, I have immensely enjoyed a few of her other works, particularly “The Fountainhead,” a book I read in High School—though not for any class.

How did it happen—my reading that novel? (What’s that? You didn’t ask? Pardon the rhetorical, it serves as a segue for my sharing.) Maybe 10 years ago, in a physics class, a girl named Jessica had said something to a group of people that I happened to overhear. She and a few of her dorky friends that were all in the same “AP English” class were commiserating together—and out loud of course. To be sure, they were a tedious pretentious posse of privileged, pretty girls: sometimes obsequious, sometimes sycophantic, but always hard to ignore. Jessica, the more gregarious alpha-prig of the group had dropped the mention of this novel to my ears for the first time, “The Fountainhead.” Of course, this wasn’t nearly enough persuasion to pick up the strange book for myself, but I remember to this day something she had said soon after that motivated me toward it. What she said was that her older sister had read the book before, and had claimed, “It changed her life.” What an assertion! My interest was immediately piqued. How a fiction novel can change someone’s life, this I had to see for myself. I immediately purloined a copy and dug right in.

After reading, “The Fountainhead,” I actually had to admit it: I think the book did change my life. It is a silly story, with frankly a dull plot, and often very unrealistic dialogue and circumstances, however, there is something laced within the pulp that may adjust your view on certain things. What those certain things are, I haven’t the slightest idea—which I realize is very unhelpful. But, that book, for certain, I really do recommend. Although, I suspect that that same profound effect the book had on me then, was probably augmented by my having still been in High School. Whether it would have a similar affect now—assuming I had never read it—I cannot say for certain, but I’m very willing to doubt it.

Having said that, and now realizing that I’ve said very little about my topic book, “We The Living,” I hope I’ve at least set the background to the extratextual associations surrounding the works of Ayn Rand in many lives, as well as my own, and also in large part to why her books are so sanctimoniously revered—regardless of their literary merit.

“We The Living” was Ayn Rand’s first novel, and like her later works, contains a layer on top of the narrative—best described only as spiritual—that is less substantial and often unrealistic—or perhaps, just Russian. The characters bleed emotion, and are incredibly complex. They engage in philosophical transcendental musings and acts that truly take place nowhere aside from the closed sphere of printed matter. One thing for certain, the book does offer an excellent first-person glimpse into the specifics of communist Russia during the 1920s. You can hear the shouts at the picket rallies, the windy dogmatic speeches bellowing in repetitive ideology to a receptive, though desperately starving, and utterly impoverished proletariat. But, and more closer-to-home, you can see what it’s like to not have a ration card, and try in earnest to support an ailing family. To see your wife cough-out blood and die on a bed, after being refused at a hospital for less-than-perfect party alliances. It is often, a very sad story. If I say more, I would risk ruining it for any that might want to read it.

To describe in brief the general plot, it is about a woman,– a young girl at first–Kira Argnovask-too-long-to-remember, as she grows up in an environment that is completely changing, mostly, if not all, for the worse. But instead of becoming consumed by the exerternalities outside of her control, and falling-in, capitulating, she does what she can to keep her sense of self from being conquered.

As you can see, it is hard for me to describe this book without wading into the metaphysical. In short, I will say that I enjoyed “We The Living.” It wasn’t as fast moving as some other books that I’ve read, and as such, was a bit harder to get into. However, the novel is incredibly complex—one can probably develop an entire course around the book. And I’m sure, I haven’t given this book nearly the credit it deserves. It would probably take me a few more gray hairs, and years under my eyes, and certainly a few more readings, to begin to approach that. But, if you are looking for something deep; if Anna Karenina is your favorite novel; if you have Ayn Rand posters in your bedroom, and an “I’m with Ayn” bumper-sticker on your ’87 Bug, then this book is certainly for you.

Imaginary Lines

I accept the monotony of the routined life implicitly almost all the time: getting up, dressing up, showering, working, laughing, playing, teasing, eating, drinking, yelling, reading, sleeping. And then to repeat that refrain, repeat that refrain, till it would seem silly not to. But, all of sudden, at the heightened numbness of any peripheral sense apart from those familiar gerunds that constitute life as I know it, when all seems regular and commonplace, I do something simple, like cut my nails for instance, and the whole prosaic world and its happenings become engulfed in inapprehensible wonder.

These nails! How perfectly construed? What if they weren’t there? Can you imagine long nail-less stumps for digits? How grotesque and unimaginable. How came it to be so? How came I to be so? What am I doing here, breathing, with a history a life, and who are all these people around me. What gives me thought and a mind so curious and introspective to even contemplate such extraordinary wonder?

These unfathomable wonders of life and our tiny presence in it is so baffling and indescribably awesome, that it seems like our traces through life and our every waking hour should be spent unraveling this mystery of mysteries–for, every mystery in earth is contained within this one encompassing mystery. Who killed John Peters with the saltwater reel? Well, why does John Peter deserve life in the first place? Who gave him life, worry later who took it away? Where are my ill-forsaken keys, how I wonder!? Where could they have mysteriously been deposited? I have looked in every crevice of this house; I have turned over the furniture in every possible direction, every corner of space has been looked after; the chain of events leading from its possession to its uncanny disappearance have been measured and vivisected to every possible degree and circumstance, and yet still, no keys!

How pitiful and irrelevant such a care, when juxtaposed to such a care of cares! How collogued time with space to form such an elaborate grid of life, for which we may lose our keys in some coordinate yet unsearched. The laws of nature, as we may think we know it, are such that a pair of keys cannot be vaporized into nothingness without a cause. The immutable laws, as we may think we know it, assert with virulence that something must occupy space, and the keys therefore, in the finite space of this earth, must exist somewhere.

Yet on further contemplation on such trivialities, I wonder, our existence on earth was accepted in all its mystery and wonder without question — breaking the laws of nature, as we know it. The heavenly bodies, the sun of incalculable magnificence and in whose existence we are all indebted to, exists and is so positioned without question. Even our eyes suddenly retain the memory of life, and we are introduced to a mother a father and we slowly accept this as life — but isn’t it a wonder beyond measure? A wonder that breaks the logic-machine of natural law but we accept this most central awe implicitly, yet the other laws of nature we claim will never bend. If it started with an immense bend of law unwritten, and isn’t the whole container of life supernatural in itself? And, if so, why do we not accept the things within to be capable of the supernatural? It seems preposterous. Superman can exist! Magic is never a farce. The feeding of five thousand with five loaves and two fishes cannot at all seem unreasonable! Neither, the escape of death onto resurrection, or the walking on of water.

To return to the keys, if someone were to say, “perhaps the keys have sprouted wings of such unprecedented proportion that it has escaped the envious grasp of earthly gravity and is now floating through space and time into galaxies yet unknown to us”, such a position, considering the implausibility of happenstance that has created what we know of as life and life has created the keys, isn’t it at all possible?

Do(n’t) read The Kite Runner

My cousin had suggested I read the Kite Runner, ensuring that I particularly would like it. I’m not sure what she meant by me particularly, but I really did enjoy it, and I think anyone that reads it would. Granted, I’m somewhat of a sap, as in, I don’t deal with sad stories very well (don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil any of this book), but this book, at the risk of sounding clique — which at times can’t be helped — this book is really great.

I know what you’re thinking. “Great. Great. Great. Great. Every book seems to be ‘Great'”, and of course, if you sat down and wanted to read every book that the New York Times, or some idiot in a blog (like me), claimed was “great”, you’d have to forfeit your job, or any other interests you might pretend to have, and spend the rest of your life reading. The problem, I think, is with tastes.

You realize, the ancients, the people of old, the people with bad teeth, long beards, wearing white robes while surreptitiously passing gas; these same people loved to arugue and put on airs of profound pontification. I’m talking about the ones responsible for phrases like “I think therefore I am”, which I’m certain I could have come up with had I the time and the gross unemployment. However, even these people recognized the futility of arguing against tastes: des gustibus non disputandam est. There’s no disputing taste.

So, if we’re to logically break this down, logic being the Skelton of philosophy, we end up with this conclusion:

Starting with an objective premise:

P1: You can’t Dispute Taste
P2: Which Implies: someone’s feelings on taste can never be wrong
P3: And equally, someone’s feelings on taste can never be right
P4: Since it is true, that taste can never be right, you shouldn’t listen to someone’s tastes

C: Therefore, don’t read anything anyone tells you is “great”. And, Reading Rainbow is a complete crock: “But don’t take my word for it”, what a bunch of balony.

So, don’t read The Kite Runner. Although, I’ll tell ya, it is a great book.

Phenoix-Vegas Excursion

Phoenix was fun. Laboss, Mardigan, and I, packed a lot in for just a 3 night excursion.

Thursday night was a big Texas Holdem tournament with a dozen or so strangers. It was a “just-for-fun” poker game, our chips weren’t backed by actual money or anything– kind of like the Canadian Dollar.

The Road Trip:
Friday morning, the three of us got up very early (11am), and went to Vegas, which is only a 6 hour drive from Phoenix. An interesting road trip to say the least.

In Las Vegas, we stayed at the Hilton, because it was a Star Trek themed hotel (we’re all geeks). The city was very interesting: glitzy and scintillating on the surface, but shallow and depressing up close. But Star Trek: The Experience on the other hand, was quite amazing. Dinner was at Quark’s Bar.

Saturday at Vegas:
Mardigan and I spent the morning hunting for a place to have breakfast. I couldn’t help but notice people already hitting the bottles, and this while pulling on slot machines and steadily losing their savings, quarter by quarter, and all without betraying the slightest hint of having fun.

When we got back to Phoenix, we visited Dave and played Halo 2 till about midnight– an awful lot of fun. Later that night, Mardigan and I wrestled in front of a large group of hippies at ASU at 2 in the morning– I was egged on.

Well, that’s the trip in a nutshell. Overall, it was very fun and I’m glad I went. 2.0.1

I was starting to get a little bored with my website so I’ve made some slight modifications. I’ve further stratified my blog categories into labels more specific than just “general” and “politics”.

I also ripped-off Monet for my new banner image–ah, he’s dead, he won’t mind. Now the only thing left to upgrade is the content! Don’t you worry, that’s next!

Spam Woes

Spam–the mosquitoes of the Internet. Since I planted my new site on some fresh soil, it has become almost a part-time job for me to try and contain the build-up of Spam from overrunning my site. Every new comment, that has something to do with Texas Holdem, or Poker, or Viagra, or that may contain a slew of links, all to sites that serve no purpose other than surreptitiously installing spy-ware on some unsuspecting victim (who is not using Firefox), and flood their computer screen with a dozen pop-up advertisements for things no one has an interest of purchasing– it has me seething at the teeth.

There are two people I would like to meet in the Spam Market. First, the filthy hoodlums that write the life-giving code behind Spam. Second, the idiots that are actually purchasing this stuff. I imagine they exist? I mean, if spammers weren’t reeling in a few pigeons for all their efforts, would they even bother? 2.0

Like the new site? I’ve upgraded to the latest version of WordPress (V1.5). I’ve also been working on some performance issues. Hopefully this will put an end to my site’s notorious downtime.

The banner I threw together is from a painting called “The Son of Man”, by René Magritte. You may remember it from the movie “The Thomas Crowne Affair.”

Props to Mills for all the help!

Death by Syndication

So, if you’re looking for a website that is seldom updated, brutally turquoise, with an ungainly appearance, and run by the world’s laziest Sri Lankan, Welcome!

I try to stay on top of things, do my homework, read my book, put a post or two on my website, but I just can’t do it as long as Seinfeld reruns are being aired 4 times a day on TV. I’m hoping when they finally release all 9 Seasons of it on DVD, I won’t feel as compelled to watch them, and thereby, get my life back.

The thing is, there are 2 episodes of Seinfeld I still haven’t seen. And It’s this desperate hope, that one day these two episodes will re-air on TV is what keeps me watching. They have become my white whale.

Sad isn’t it?

The Stall:

While in a bathroom stall, Elaine needs some toilet paper, but the woman in the next stall refuses to give her a piece. The woman is Jerry’s girlfriend whose voice Kramer recognizes from a telephone sex line. Elaine’s boyfriend, whose face she just loves, takes George & Kramer rock climbing. After his accident, Elaine isn’t sure his face will be the same.

The Chaperone:

Jerry gets a date with Miss Rhode Island, a Miss America contestant; when they need a chaperone Kramer is available. On the date, Kramer gives her advice and becomes her personal coach. Elaine tries to get a job at Doubleday, filling in the shoes once filled by Jackie Onassis; instead she gets a job being the personal assistant of a top executive who likes white socks. Meanwhile, George decides that the Yankees need to change their uniforms from polyester to cotton.

Procrastination Becomes You

I am the epitome of procrastination. I am what procrastination would be if it took on a human form.

I have had this term paper assigned for class, I believe the second week of school. It is now the last week of school, and I have yet to start. Why is it so hard to start something before the night-of it�s due date? What is it about “starting early” that is so… unattractive?

Even now, instead of working on this paper, I�m over here writing a posting on my website!

Alright, enough distractions, here I go. Two nights, 15 pages, a medium Dunkachino, I can do this!


Finally finished, never thought I’d be able to say that!

Since there was a ton of material I found online that really helped me with research etc. — especially previous essays from students from other computer science courses, I’m going to put some of my CSC320 essays online as well. I don’t recommend reading them, lol. They are dull and estoric, but in the happenstance that someone in a CS course somewhere would find it useful, I’d like to share and do my part.

Minority Report Analysis:
Pre-crime and the Patriot Act
A loss in Privacy

Internet, Law, and the Possibility of Government Regulation