Last year I tore through Steinbeck's East of Eden, and became a reader emboldened with the idea that indeed I could still read a big book. So I picked up Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I read The Fountainhead in high school, as all voracious high school readers have, and remember very little of it. Of course I knew that Ayn Rand was a philosopher-writer, and so of course in my adult life I have avoided reading her for pleasure as much as one avoids Wittgenstein on a beach blanket. But again, Steinbeck wooed me and so I picked up the heavy paperback thinking that I could climb the Great Books mountain once again.
Reading Atlas Shrugged was like rubbernecking on the great literary highway. I was staring at a gruesome accident of literature and couldn't look away. I had a crush on Dagny for three weeks. My own girlfriend would cast sidelong glances at the cover and frown. Friends were like why the hell are you reading that?! If I wasn't a writer I don't think I would have enjoyed it. While I found it a month long frustration with style and content (dear god what else is there?), I thought it was a helluva good story (oh, right, narrative...).
The reason I bring up this not-so-interesting story of my Atlas Shrugged experience is because a couple of days ago I read an interesting New York Times article, Ayn Rand's Literature of Capitalism. Who knew Ayn Rand outsells Jack Welch, and that Alan Greenspan wrote for her magazine, The Objectivist, several times? While I had a fun time reading Atlas Shrugged, I'll take Jay Gatsby over Dagny Taggart anyday, and Sinclair and Steinbeck and Dickens could outwrite Rand with their hands tied behind their backs. But America's CEO's are like any other readers, everybody has a novel where somewhere within the text there is inspiration, and a character becomes your hero.