The Fountainhead climaxes when superhero architect Howard Roark blows up his own buildings. Atlas Shrugged revels in social collapse, laid at the feet of do-gooders. The novel’s central symbol – apart from the illuminated dollar sign that John Galt’s cultists worship so reverently – is an enormous tower of perpetual fire ignited by an oilman indignant about interference with his wells.
Then there is the ending, in which the cultists emerge from their secret valley to rebuild a world conveniently cleansed of all “looters” – i.e., other people – and their messes: cities, government, schools, et cetera.
This distressing vision ultimately wrecked the book’s chances of becoming a major Hollywood film and entrancing the masses. Canadian-born producer Al Ruddy spent years trying to bring it to screen with genuine stars, only to give up after Sept. 11, 2001.
“At the end of Atlas Shrugged, mills, ships and mines are blown up,” Mr. Ruddy told The New York Times last year. “And I thought, wait a second, do people really want to see a movie about America being blown up and destroyed?”
Judging by the commercial and critical failure of a recent independent production (“a stilted, anachronistic curiosity,” according to The Globe’s Liam Lacey), the answer is no. Nonetheless, part 2 (of three) is due to be released soon – in time, its amateur producers hope, to swing the election in favour of Mitt Romney and Mr. Ryan.
The latter’s sudden apostasy is clearly not going to help that cause. But memories are short, and the printing presses keep rumbling.
“Atlas Shrugged is the most important novel of the 20th century,” maintained Mr. Ruddy (who earlier in his career produced The Godfather). “It will rise again.”
Ayn Rand is far from the only political darling of the literary world. The right may have a more defined reading list, as Professor Beverly Gage recently argued, but commenters replied that progressives are skeptical of fixed canons and dogma. (Many even claimed that the liberal canon is world literature.) Still, here are some of the enduring authors – ranting pundits such as Ann Coulter and Michael Moore excluded – on each side of the U.S. political spectrum.
A conservative canon
The Federalist Papers
Albert Jay Nock
Ludwig von Mises
A liberal library
John Maynard Keynes
Martin Luther King Jr.
John Kenneth Galbraith
C. Wright Mills