A couple of months ago I was kvetching to Math is a Plentiful Harvest about my lack of time to read Ayn Rand's colossal classics (The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged). Fortunately, Math is a Plentiful Harvest is an Ayn Rand devotee, and she suggested Rand's novella Anthem to me. (Thank you!) I get excited any time I get a book recommendation, but I got even more excited when Saya seconded Anthem as a book suggestion. Not one but two recommendations! I was also pleased because this book sort of tied in with Sashenka, my book from last week.
Anthem is a fascinating little book - it had me at the first sentence: "It is a sin to write this." If you know me, you know I am an exceptionally nosy person, and I had to find out what was up. Rand wrote Anthem as a protest against communism, and the result is a very compelling condemnation of Marxism. Rand's poignant, bleak story of one man's struggle for independence in the face of collectivism is quite powerful. However, I think the primary strength of this book lies in Equality 7-2521. He is such a sympathetic character. If you don't pity this poor kid (especially when he is still in the institution he is raised in and has his dream crushed), I question your level of compassion. His stark, almost lyrical first person narration is a big plus too. A unique twist Rand put on this book is that none of the characters, including Equality 7-2521 in his narration, refer to themselves as "I" or "me", instead they refer to themselves as "we". This took me a few pages to get used to, but it was an exceptionally effective way of rendering the dehumanization Rand saw as inherent in communism.
Now, I know some readers do not like reading novels with an underlying philosophy - they believe it distracts from their enjoyment of the plot and characters. Personally, as long as the book doesn't descend into a lecture, I am OK with a bit of philosophizing. This book stays with the story until the last chapter, which is Equality 7-2521's tirade against his socialist society. I didn't find it boring - I think that Ayn Rand had some fascinating beliefs, although I don't necessarily agree with her on everything. (Quick Refresher: Rand used her books to propound on her Objectivist philosophy. Namely, that the individual trumps the group. She didn't believe in unabashed selfishness, but she did believe that as long as one's actions were moral, self-interest should come first, not the needs of others.) I find her Objectivist beliefs, when applied to the person, harder to accept than when applied to government, but I can see how her experiences in Russia shaped her beliefs. I think if you read this with an open mind, you'll find a lot of thought-provoking material here, even if you may not entirely concede Rand's view.
Looking for a more meaty read than the usual? Try Anthem. This novel lays the groundwork for her better-known works and presents a powerful story, likable hero, and ultimately triumphant message in a compact 85 pages.
P.S. As I am sure all of you know, Thanksgiving is tomorrow. For starters, that means that I am posting this from the comfort of home on my own dainty little laptop and not fighting my savage classmates for a computer (I swear, our school library is like a scene from Lord of the Flies, just without the cool face paint.) *cough* Anyway, I would like to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. I want all of you to eat until you EXPLODE! Wait! If you do that, you can't come back next week to talk about books with me. I don't want all of my readers to kill themselves with gluttony. So maybe just eat all you can hold. And pass me a piece of pumpkin pie while you're at it. Well, I was hoping for a bigger piece, but thank you. *sprints away with an abundance of pie*
Next Week: I should wrap up my Zella Kate Presents: The Medieval/Renaissance series with *drum roll* Hamlet! I am a huge Shakespeare fan, and Hamlet is probably my favorite Shakespearean play. I cannot wait to review it! Don't fear, if you're not fan of Billy, I will offer some tips that, even if they don't help you love Shakespeare, will help you understand and appreciate his work.