It’s Stephen King Week over at Insatiable Booksluts, and I can’t recommend Neal’s post on Carrie enough. As I told the Twitters, it makes me (a) envious and (b) challenged. Must! Write! Better! Posts! Which is tough, when what I get to work with isn’t Carrie, but…um…this crap.
By the way: I finally saw the movie version. It’s remarkably faithful to the novel, by which I mean that its plot is every bit as unrealistic, its characters are every bit as wooden, and its dialogue is every bit as stilted.
There is, however, some fantastic B-roll footage of a railroad being built in the Rocky Mountains. And Rebecca Wisocky is delightful as Lillian Rearden. It’s a shame they recast the entire film for Part II, though I bet Kim Rhodes will be fun to watch too. (Here is a great review of the not-at-all-great Part II trailer.)
All of which is 140 more words than necessary to introduce this chapter, which is very short and consists mostly of Dagny Taggart playing Walden while she tries not to think about having quit Taggart Transcontinental back in Chapter 6.
Not only are these bits not bad, they’re almost…good. Rand actually manages to capture Dagny’s genuine sense of mourning over the loss of her job, the only thing that gave her life any meaning:
There were long stretches of calm, when she was able to face her problem with the dispassionate clarity of weighing a problem in engineering. But she could find no answer. She knew that her desperate longing for the railroad would vanish, were she to convince herself that it was impossible or improper. But the longing came from the certainty that the truth and the right were hers…. Why? – she heard herself screaming aloud. There was no answer.
Then stay here until you answer it, she thought. You have no place to go, you can’t move, you can’t start grading a right-of-way until…until you know enough to choose a terminal.
After 600-odd pages of purely contrived emotions (when there were any at all), I actually began to wonder if Rand herself wrote this chapter. It’s not perfect, but there are some real and powerful images here. Dagny’s realization that daily chores like cooking are cyclical and thus contain a sense of futility echoes that moment in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar when the narrator (cruising ever closer to suicide) decides to stop bathing or changing her clothes because she’ll just have to do it again tomorrow; it has no purpose.
That said, if you must choose between The Bell Jar and Atlas Shrugged, go with Plath.
Dagny is mooning around her personal Walden Pond, cooking on a woodstove and building terraces and wondering where Hank Rearden is and whether she should pay Quentin Daniels this month for his work on the perpetual-motion machine we haven’t heard about since Part II, Chapter 1.
(By the way, in Part II THE MOVIE, Dr. Robert Stadler, whom we have also not heard from since Part II, Chapter 1, is being played by Robert Picardo, who played the doctor on Star Trek: Voyager. I can’t wait for this. I hope Picardo makes them exactly the same character. I WILL DIE OF GEEKLOLZ.)
Then a car pulls up, which makes Dagny more excited than a Labrador puppy at Christmas, until she realizes it’s not Hank Rearden. It’s Francisco d’Anconia, and we’re back to the same stilted character descriptions Rand has been flinging around all along:
When he was close enough and she could distinguish his face, she saw the look of that luminous gaiety which transcends the solemn by proclaiming the great innocence of a man who has earned the right to be light-hearted.
So basically, Frisco has turned into Buddy Christ. Good for him.
Then Rand pulls the biggest bait-and-switch in literature since Harry Potter discovered Snape wasn’t really trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone after all:
He stood looking at her, disarmed and smiling. ”Not yet. You have a great deal to forgive me, first. But I can tell you everything now.”
BUT HE DOESN’T. OF COURSE HE DOESN’T. WE HAVE 550 PAGES OF THIS CRAP TO GO.
Then Frisco says something I would actually buy on a bumper sticker, except that it might accidentally signal that I approve of Rand’s econobabble: ”Dagny, we can never lose the things we live for. We may have to change their form at times, if we’ve made an error, but the purpose remains the same and the forms are ours to make.”
He’s nearly got her convinced to disappear into the Nothing with all the other rich elites who are tired of being kicked around by
the 47 percent a bunch of one-legged dime-pinching bums in a rich-elite-kicking contest when the radio interrupts to bring us the end of the previous chapter, which sends Dagny Taggart scurrying back to Taggart Transcontinental to take the blame pick up the pieces.
Because Jim’s not going to do it. Jim is too busy not telling us what happened to his wife and trying to blame anybody who is not sitting at the desk marked “President and CEO,” because OOPS JIM THAT IS YOUR DESK.
Jim is also too busy trying to pass the
dime buck to Eddie Willers by yelling until Eddie tells him where Dagny is. Eddie tells him, in the politest terms possible, to shut his noisy face, because Eddie’s not telling where Dagny went and Dagny’s not coming back – until she walks in the door, of course.
Dagny starts issuing some very illegal but railroad-fixing orders, Jim throws a fit, Wesley Mouch (played by Michael Lerner in the first film – I couldn’t decide whether he looked more like Barney Frank or like the Pope, and whether either of those were intentional), throws an even bigger fit, and Hank Rearden calls Dagny “darling.” Fin.