Short Version: Useless chapter is useless.
Long Version: is long.
When we last left our heroes, they had built a railroad that did not crash and then had sex. There’s 850 pages of this crap to go. *passes the popcorn*
Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart wake up at Ellis Wyatt’s house after their post-train trip sexytimes. Hank Rearden awakes in remorse: in the harsh light of day, he’s remembered he has a wife, and that she’s not Dagny Taggart. Ooooooops. Dagny Taggart has no remorse – but then, she doesn’t have a spouse, either. Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart discuss Dagny’s lack of remorse, which – along with remembering that his marital sex life is basically nonexistent – makes Hank much less remorseful. They have more sex. Yawn.
Back in New York City, James Taggart has a bad case of the jealous (about the railroad, not the sexytimes, fyi), and also a head cold. Being out of Kleenex, James picks up a newspaper and learns that Ragnar Danneskjold has stolen a shipment of machine tools. This terrifies James, and rightfully so. Pirates machining things! What’s next – computer-programming ninjas?!
James Taggart throws away the scary newspaper and stops at a dime store, where everything costs a dime including the dimes, to buy some Kleenex. The shop girl recognizes him from his picture in the paper. She’s thrilled to meet such a great innovator, which she thinks he is because the papers won’t shut up about how the John Galt Line was all James Taggart’s idea even though we know that actually Dagny did it by herself and not with the help of Taggart Transcontinental, which is somehow getting all the credit despite that “Taggart Transcontinental is in no way related to that John Galt thingy” conversation in Chapter 7. (Ayn Rand: “What Chapter 7?”)
The shopgirl tries to confide in James Taggart her secret beliefs that everybody except herself is a looter. James cuts her off – he feels like crap and he doesn’t care who knows it. The shopgirl asks James Taggart if he knows what it’s like to earn anything with his own two hands. When he stops laughing hysterically, James offers to take her home “for a drink” and criticizes her wardrobe (“ugly” and “cheap”).
Back at Chez Jimmy, the girl tells James her life story: she grew up in Buffalo, New York, but neither her parents nor her six siblings could hold a job, so six months ago she hopped a train to the big city to “make something of herself,” as they say in pictures. She tells James “we were stinking poor and not giving a damn about it.”
I can’t tell whether Ayn Rand hates poor people or rich people more. I also can’t tell what her point is. She seems to be saying that poor people are poor because they’re lazy, but she also admits that many people are lazy as hell but still manage to be rolling in dough (case in point: James Taggart). So…laziness has no effect on personal economic status?
…After 261 pages, I suppose I should know more than to expect logical consistency from Ayn Rand.
Once James Taggart and the girl get to Chez James, James finally has the decency to ask the girl her name (“Cherryl”), but not to stop judging her clothes (“shabby”), jewelry (“cheap”), or figure (“too thin”). James Taggart bitches that Hank Rearden didn’t “invent” anything and that Dagny is “selfish” for wanting to build a railroad that actually makes money. Cherryl thinks James is joking; she tells James that he “earned” all his own money, which is a joke. Cherryl is dumber than advertised. But then, so is Ayn Rand, for thinking that any reader will believe for five seconds in any character who proclaims that people who accomplish things ought to apologize to people who haven’t. At least, James Taggart has never apologized for being a whiny arsehole.
James Taggart then decides not to get into the girl’s pants, for which she praises him as a fine and upstanding fellow. James Taggart thinks not getting laid is hilarious.
Meanwhile, Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart are going at it like bunnies, which is not entertaining. At all. I’ll say one thing for Ayn Rand: she has an astonishing gift for writing sex scenes that are neither erotic nor hilarious. They are, however, a great cure for insomnia.
In Connecticut, Ayn Rand stages a conversation between another Straw Bankrupt Industrialist Lazypants and Owen Kellogg. You remember Owen Kellogg, right? The guy that Dagny Taggart wanted to hire? Back in Chapter 1? But then it turned out that Owen Kellogg quit? To go do something mysterious and important and mysteriously important? Yeah, I had no idea, either. Straw Industrialist makes some comment about how the Equalization of Opportunity Bill is “sound,” then in the same breath whines that “newcomers shouldn’t be allowed to muscle in” to his straw business. (That crunching sound you just heard was the last shred of logic crumpling under the weight of 1100 pages of idiocy.)
Dagny and Hank have more sex. Then they go on vacation. They drive to Michigan, where they visit an abandoned ore mine and Hank Rearden vows to hire the first competent man he can find to run it. …Well, you won’t find him in this state, d00d. Dagny and Hank then go to Wisconsin, where they search for the gutted remains of the Twentieth Century
Fox Motor Company. On the way, they stop to ask for directions from a family living in Gilded-Age-style squalor. Pre-Triangle-Shirtwaist-Fire Gilded-Age-style squalor. Dagny and Hank are told “you can’t get there from here,” which is true about pretty much everywhere in northern Wisconsin.
Finally, Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden get to the factory, which they explore with no apparent fear of rats, asbestos, or tetanus. Dagny digs out the remains of a motor she’s never seen before, which she decides, based on her years of experience in not seeing this particular motor, immediately decides it’s some kind of Tesla coil. She also finds the manual, which JUST HAPPENS to be the only non-metal thing in the building that has not rotted. Zut alors!
Dagny wants to take the motor home and put it in all her locomotives. Hank helpfully points out that the motor’s creator is probably dead and no one else anywhere ever could possible understand this new motor, let alone make it run properly. Ever.