It’s been hard to get back to Atlas Shrugged, because I’m really starting to feel badly for it. Socially, I mean. It’s like that incredibly awkward acquaintance that you never really want to invite to parties, but he lives just down the street and he’s totally going to notice if you’re having a barbecue, and you know he doesn’t have any other real friends so it’s like what’s the harm, only when he does show up he’s wearing a beer hat and he spends two whole hours detailing the importance of wheat tariffs. This book is basically that dude, except it doesn’t even bring a six-pack.
Anyway! As Chapter 9 opens, Dagny Taggart, back in her apartment, composes a mental love letter to John Galt, even though she doesn’t yet know he exists. Everyone else in the entire universe does, though, and they’ve all stopped pretending they don’t, which makes this scene not so much “dramatic irony” as “a vaguely tasteless joke being played on the main character.”
Dagny then “turn[s] with indifferent astonishment” to open the door, whatever that means, and the ringer of her doorbell turns out to be Frisco, who’s come for a sexy, sexy
two three-page conversation that is probably meant to sound deeply philosophical but that only sounds obtuse. So, basically, it’s Atlas Shrugged.
The philsobtuseversation pretty much boils down to this:
Frisco: I can’t believe you went back to work! You’re such a stupidhead!
Dagny: Well, I can’t believe you quit work! You’re the real stupidhead!
Frisco: Nuh-uh, you are!
Dagny: Nuh-uh, you are!
This masterpiece of dramatic dialogue is interrupted by the sudden entry of Hank Rearden, who apparently has a key to Dagny’s apartment.
Have you ever seen a soap opera? This is a soap opera. There’s a highly predictable love-triangle quarrel complete with obligatory slappings of faces, then somebody storms out. It’s so cliche I can’t even be bothered to remember who does the slapping and who the storming. At least when Gone With the Wind did it, we got some shattered porcelain and hoopskirts.
So after some inestimably boring Dagny/Hank ragesex, the doorman turns up with a letter from Quentin Daniels, Boy Genius. You may remember him from such projects as Trying to Rebuild the Perpetual Motion Machine that Dagny and Hank
Looted Liberated from the Remains of the Twentieth Century Motor Company Back in Part One When It Was Still Possible to Give a Crap About This Travesty of a Novel. Quentin has decided to stop working on the perpetual motion machine, lest his honor be compromised by its falling into the wrong hands or some such nonsense. So Dagny, naturally, has to leave for Utah immediately, to slap some sense into the boy.
Skip to Dagny packing frantically while also giving Eddie Willers detailed instructions on how to contact her in a world that possesses only land-line telephones with unreliable long-distance connections monitored by indifferent operators. I’m terribly curious how Part Two: The Movie dealt with this scene, since it was supposed to be set in 2016 and the characters all obviously owned cell phones. Part Two: The Movie was in theatres for approximately three seconds, so I suppose I’ll have to wait.
Eddie Willers spots Hank’s robe hanging on the back of Dagny’s bedroom door and becomes the last person on Earth to realize they’re having an affair, a fact that forces him to vomit into his briefcase and then run off immediately to narc to his imaginary friend, John Galt. Fin.
Next time: the longest chapter in the history of chapters.