25 November 2009


Ever heard that Twisted Sister song "We're Not Gonna Take It"? I can't say it's one of my favorites (I loathe Twisted Sister's lead singer to the depths of my classic rock soul), but that would be a great, er, anthem for Anthem's main character, Equality 7-2521. Equality 7-2521 resides in a nameless communist utopia (which bears a striking resemblance to Soviet Russia, not too surprising seeing as author Ayn Rand fled communist Russia as a young woman.) Rejected by the authorities at the group home he is raised in for being too independent, Equality 7-2521 is deprived of fulfilling his dream of becoming a scholar. As punishment for his "selfishness", he is chosen to be a lowly street sweeper. Down but far from out, Equality 7-2521 discovers a secret hideaway from the earlier capitalist "Unmentionable Times". The clever teen then makes a discovery that will threaten all he holds dear…

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.


  1. This is so weird. I always say to myself, "Hmmm. I havn't checked on Zella's blog lately. I hope she has a new post up!" and then come here to find you posted only an hour ago!

    Anyhoo... I've read Anthem. I thought it was really interesting! The ending was bizarre.

    I love pie too! Pumpkin is fine, but I like apple better. And peach! Yay for Thanksgiving!

    Nice blog!

  2. Here's your pie.
    I have a friend who's crazy about Ayn Rand. I'll have to ask her about this. :D Thanks!
    Can't wait for Hamlet! I love it. :D

  3. Laura, Thanks! Yes, I thought Anthem was quite interesting - I've ever read anything quite like it.

    I love peach and apple pie too. Pecan pie is excellent too. Now I have made myself hungry. ^^

    Scott, Thanks for the pie. :D My cousin is a huge Ayn Rand fan too. This will probably be our topic of discussion tomorrow.

  4. "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*" LOL oh my word, I can see it! Trench coat, hat pulled low, pie tucked tightly against you as you scurry away into the night to eat pie. : D This book is now in my library waiting list...which is growing longer to my amusement. Btw, pumpkin pie is amazing, as is apple but still. Thanks for the review!

  5. Rebecca, your image of me in the trench coat made me LOL! I am still giggling as I type. :D

    You're welcome! I hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think of Anthem. :)

  6. OMGGGG....

    I am late but this was a great post!!! I thank you profusely for the nice mention.
    And I am glad to help you anytime in your literary pursuits. :)

    Yes, the last chapter is perhaps the greatest deviation (and the one I least liked), and I also don't necessarily agree with all of Rand's ideologies, but the audacity of her writing talent simply cannot be denied.
    The book just caught me at the first sentence, "It is a sin to write this," and I have been hooked ever since.

  7. Math is a Plentiful Harvest, you're welcome! Thanks for recommending it. I loved it! (Although I agree the final chapter was probably my least-favorite part. It was very interesting though.)

    That first line is what hooked me too! The plural "we" was a narration technique that I really enjoyed as well.

    Thanks again! :)