Ellen Stuttle

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Posts posted by Ellen Stuttle

  1. You're right, this [the excerpts I posted from the Gormenghast series] doesn't appeal to me at all... When I try to read this, my mind starts to wander and I can read those scenes ten times and still not have the foggiest idea what it is all about. In my opinion this wordy style is diametrically opposed to Rand's focused style, I really don't see anything common in them.

    The styles are very different, yes, maybe even "diametrically opposed." That was my point, that the styles are very different -- however, IMO, both very good and thus interesting to compare. I gather that you wouldn't agree about the "moonlit" style being "good." I on the other hand love scenes which convey the mysteriousness of moonlight, tales of ghostly castles, "The Highwayman," Walter de la Mere's "The Moon," etc. I'm the ultimate night person.

    Ellen

    ___

  2. From Titus Groan, a scene of moonlit death. The ending

    occasioned grief, since I was hoping for a different outcome

    than occurred.

    ---

    Knives in the Moon

    The moon slid inexorably into its zenith, the shadows shrivelling to

    the feet of all that cast them, and as Rantel approached the hollow

    at the hem of the Twisted Woods he was treading in a pool of his own

    midnight.

    The roof of the Twisted Woods reflected the staring circle in a

    phosphorescent network of branches that undulated to the lower slopes

    of Gormenghast Mountain. Rising from the ground and circumscribing

    this baleful canopy the wood was walled with impenetrable shadow.

    Nothing of what supported the chilly haze of the topmost branches

    was discernible - only a winding facade of blackness.

    The crags of the mountain were ruthless in the moon; cold, deadly

    and shining. Distance had no meaning. The tangled glittering of the

    forest roof rolled away, but its furthermost reaches were brought suddenly

    nearer in a bound by the terrifying effect of proximity in the mountain

    that they swarmed. The mountain was neither far away nor was it close

    at hand. It arose starkly, enormously, across the lens of the eye.

    The hollow itself was a cup of light. Every blade of the grass was of

    consequence, and the few scattered stones held an authority that made

    their solid, separate marks upon the brain - each one with its own

    unduplicated shape: each rising brightly from the ink of its own

    spilling.

    When Rantel had come to the verge of the chosen hollow he stood still.

    His head and body were a mosaic of black and ghastly silver as he gazed

    into the basin of grass below him. His cloak was drawn tightly about

    his spare body and the rhythmic folds of the drapery held the moonlight

    along their upper ridges. He was sculpted, but his head moved suddenly

    at a sound, and lifting his eyes he saw Braigon arise from beyond the

    rim across the hollow.

    They descended together, and when they had come to the level ground they

    unfastened their cloaks, removed their heavy shoes and stripped themselves

    naked. Rantel flung his clothes away to the sloping grass. Braigon folded

    his coarse garments and laid them across a boulder. He saw that Rantel

    was feeling the edge of his blade which danced in the moonlight like a

    splinter of glass.

    [snip]

    As Braigon fought he wondered where Keda was. He wondered whether there

    could ever be happiness for her after himself or Rantel had been killed;

    whether she could forget that she was the wife of a murderer; whether to

    fight were not to escape from some limpid truth. Keda came vividly before

    his eyes, and yet his body worked with mechanical brilliance, warding off

    the savage blade and attacking his assailant with a series of quick thrusts,

    drawing blood from Rantel's side.

    As the figure moved before him he followed the muscles as they wove beneath

    the skin. He was not only fighting with an assailant who was awaiting for

    that split second in which to strike him dead, but he was stabbing at a

    masterpiece - at sculpture that leapt and heaved, at a marvel of inky

    shadow and silver light. A great wave of nausea surged through him and

    his knife felt putrid in his hand. His body went on fighting.

    [snip]

    Keda's trance had fallen from her in a sudden brutal moment and she had

    started to run towards the Twisted Woods. Through the great phosphorescent

    night, cloakless, her hair unfastening as she climbed, she came at last to

    the incline that led to the lip of the hollow. Her pain mounted as she

    ran. The strange, unworldly strength had died in her, the glory was gone -

    only

    an agony of fear was with her now.

    As she climbed to the ridge of the hollow she could hear - so small

    a sound in the enormous night - the panting of the men, and her heart

    for a moment lifted, for they were alive.

    With a bound she reached the brow of the slope and saw them crouching and

    moving in moonlight below her. The cry in her throat was choked as she

    saw the blood upon them, and she sank to her knees.

    Braigon had seen her and his tired arms rang with a sudden strength.

    With a flash of his left arm he whirled Rantel's daggered hand away,

    and springing after him as swiftly as though he were a part of his foe,

    he plunged his knife into the shadowy breast.

    As he struck he withdrew the dagger, and as Rantel sank to the ground,

    Braigon flung his weapon away.

    He did not turn to Keda. He stood motionless, his hands at his head.

    Keda could feel no grief. The corners of her mouth lifted. The time

    for horror was not yet. This was not *real* - yet. She saw Rantel

    raise himself upon his left arm. He groped for his dagger and felt

    it beside him in the dew. His life was pouring from the wound in his

    breast. Keda watched him as, summoning into his right arm what strength

    remained in his whole body, he sent the dagger running through the air

    with a sudden awkward movement of his arm. It found its mark in a statue's

    throat. Braigon's arms fell to his sides like dead weights. He tottered

    forward, swayed for a little, the bone hilt at his gullet, and then

    collapsed lifeless across the body of his destroyer.

    ___

  3. Excerpt from Titus Groan, first volume in the Gormenghast series.

    Steerpike is headed toward performing a dastardly deed.

    ---

    Chapter: Thirty-Eight

    Steerpike's return to the castle's heart was rapid and purposeful.

    A pale sun like a ball of pollen was hung aloft an empty and faded

    sky, and as he sped below it his shadow sped with him, rippling over

    the cobbles of great squares, or cruising alongside, upright, where

    at his elbow the lit and attentuate walls threw back the pallid light.

    For all that within its boundaries, this shadow held nothing but the

    uniform blackness of its tone, yet it seemed every whit as predatory

    and meaningful as the body that cast it - the body that with so many

    aids to expressiveness within the moving outline, from the pallor

    of the young man and the dark red colour of his eyes, to the indefinable

    expressions of lip and eye, was drawing nearer at ever step to a tryst

    of his own making.

    The sun was blocked away. For a few minutes the shadow disappeared

    like the evil dream of some sleeper who on waking finds the substance

    of his nightmare standing beside his bed - for *Steerpike* was there,

    turning the corners, threading the masses, gliding down slopes of stone

    or flights of rotten wood. And yet it was strange that with all the

    vibrancy that lay packed within the margins of his frame, yet his shadow

    when it reappeared reaffirmed its self-sufficiency and richness as a

    scabbard for malignity. Why should this be - why with certain slender

    proportions and certain tricks of movement should a sense of darkness

    be evoked? Shadows more terrible and grotesque than Steerpike's gave

    no such feeling. They moved across their walls bloated or spidery with

    a comparative innocence. It was as though a shadow had a heart - a heart

    where blood was drawn from the margins of a world of less substance than

    air. A world of darkness whose very existence depended upon its enemy,

    the light.

    And there it was, there it slid, this particular shadow - from wall to

    wall, from floor to floor, the shoulders a little high, but not unduly,

    the head cocked, not to one or other side, but forward. In an open space

    it paled as it moved over dried earth, for the sun weakened - and then it

    fainted away altogether as the fringe of a cloud half the size of the sky

    moved over the sun.

    ___

  4. In English. I'll never forget the moment that I picked up a copy of AS in a cellar of a bookshop with English pocket books. I started to read the first page and I was immediately hooked.

    Your reading it in English is impressive. From your description of being "hooked" by the first page, it sounds as if the literary merit of the writing registered from the start. I, too, was hooked by the first page -- and because of how well that opening scene was constructed. After Christmas, I'd enjoy doing a dissection of what's so skillful about the details. Talking to anyone about Atlas from primarily a literary angle has been a rare pleasure for me in all the years since I left Illinois. My best friend in college and I would talk about the details of the story for hours at times, in total innocence of there being any such thing as "Objectivism" and the "Objectivist movement." Neither of us had any idea, in the first two years after I first read Atlas (she read it some months later), that there were courses being taught on Rand's philosophy, etc., and that there were people for whom the book was a Bible. I look back on those conversations as the most fun of any I've ever had about Rand as a writer.

    I'd never heard of [Gormenghast]. I just looked it up at Amazon, but reading the reviews, I think this isn't my kind of book.

    It's of the fantasy genre, Gothic fantasy (using "Gothic" in the original meaning of a "horror" tale quality, not in the later meaning of romance novels like Jane Eyre and its descendants). And I suppose it's unlikely that a book of that type would appeal to you. However, in a couple separate posts, I'll copy a couple scenes from the first book of the threesome, Titus Groan. These are scenes I had already typed, having sent them at one point to a friend, the friend from whom I learned of Gormenghast.

    Ellen

    __

  5. Athough I didn't dislike Roark, Wynand was also my favorite character in The Fountainhead. [...] But I find Roark still quite human compared to John Galt. I'll admit it here: I've always disliked Galt. He's such a nauseatingly good boy and to cap it all he runs off with the girl [...]. In everything he's perfect, it's a little god walking on earth.

    I don't actively dislike either Roark or Galt. I just couldn't say that I actively like either one of them. Galt is presented as a god -- she seems to have thought of him that way. My husband and I describe him as being "so abstract, he isn't there; he's become pure Form [in the sense of the Platonic Forms]."

    Sure, to make him look a little bit human, Rand makes him pace up en down at a certain moment, supposedly hesitating to break his principles and contact Dagny. But it's just paying lip-service, a token exercise, and of course he remains steadfast to his principles.

    A scene which upsets me in the story is the one in which Galt won't let Francisco notify Hank that Dagny is still alive. Nathaniel talks somewhere -- I think in Judgment Day; or maybe it was in the Benefits and Hazards talk -- about being bothered about that, and her telling him that she was afraid of making Galt look "wishy-washy" if he budged on his principles.

    And, oh yes, my favorite character in AS is  Hank Rearden. Francisco is also still too perfect for me (if Galt is God, then Francisco closely resembles Jesus).

    There are scenes in which I find Hank quite real (although there is that respect, discussed in my post starting this thread, in which I could never quite believe that someone with the command over nature -- "the man who belonged on earth" -- he's shown as having would be prey to so severe a problem over his sexuality; in her original planning for the book, Hank was an older person, and then she changed the story so as to include his having a relationship with Dagny; it seems to me that some misfit of characterization was introduced with that change of plot line). But Francisco I find, as I've described him, "the one quicksilver spot of freedom." He seems to me to have elements of spontaneity the others (mostly) lack. I get an Errol (sp?) Flynn kind of "swashbuckling" sense (or a "Zorro" sense, to make it Spanish) from Francisco.

    But speaking of Hank and "realness": One of the scenes I like a lot with him is the first scene where he appears. He's standing high up in the steel mill when the first heat of Rearden Steel is being poured. I once toured a steel mill (Keystone Steel in the Peoria area), and I can visualize that whole scene, what it would look like. She describes it incredibly well.

    Her skill at visual description is among the features of her writing which I love. Speaking of that skill...Did you read her books in English or in translation? And I'm wondering...Have you by any chance ever read the Gormenghast series? That series (which I only read myself in 2003) I find a very interesting one to compare in technique of visual description to Atlas. Both Mervyn Peake and AR were masters at conveying the visual, but their methods were different. It would be fun to compare, if by any lucky chance you've read Gormenghast.

    Ellen

    ___

  6. btw - Are we neighbors?  The best drive is north up Sheridan Rd to Kenilworth.

    Kat,

    Not these days, we aren't neighbors, no. I first read The Fountainhed during the Spring Quarter of my Junior year at Northwestern. (That was spring '63.) My hometown was Peoria. I moved east in September '68 and lived in the New York City vicinity from then till the end of '80 -- one year in West New York, 3+ years in New Rochelle, then, after an abortive start at graduate school at U. Conn, in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn.

    Meanwhile, starting fall '72, Larry went to Philadelphia to continue his graduate work (in physics) at Temple, and later to teach in the Philadelphia area. In addition to my apartment in Brooklyn, we got a nice apartment on which we shared rent in the Germantown area of Philadelphia, and I commuted to Philadelphia on weekends (I was meanwhile working as an editor at J. B. Lippincott's offices in Manhattan). At the end of '80 (I'd by then left my full-time editing job and was instead free-lancing), I gave up my New York apartment and moved all my stuff to the Philadelphia apartment. In '84 he was offered a tenure-track position at the University of Hartford. We've been living in Bloomfield, one of the towns adjacent to Hartford, since '85.

    (Bloomfield is sometimes called a suburb of Hartford, but technically none of the towns surrounding Hartford are suburbs, since they were all independently settled during the Colonial era -- several of them, including Bloomfield, earlier than Hartford. One of the many things I like about living in this area is the sense of its history. For instance, we'll be having New Year's Eve dinner at one of the oldest continuous Inns in the country, the Pettibone Inn, which was once a stopping place on the Boston Post Road. And which, btw, has a ghost: Abigail, who was supposedly murdered upon being found in bed with another man when her husband, the then-owner of the Inn, returned from a business trip. The "supposedly" in the previous sentence is because it isn't clear from the historical record if the Abigail who's thought to be the ghost actually was murdered -- or was even actually married to the tavern owner said to have killed her. But historically accurate or not, the story is popular. And people who work at Pettibone's still enjoy spooking themselves with incidents they attribute to Abigail -- although no one feels scared of her; she's a friendly ghost.)

    Not that any of the above is connected to the subject of this thread. ;-)

    Oh, reverting to your comment about the drive north up Sheridan Rd to Kenilworth. Thanks for refreshing my memory about the name "Sheridan Road." A couple months back I received an issue of the Northwestern alumnus magazine on the front cover of which was a picture of the arches at the main lower entrance to the campus. I was telling Larry that the arches look the same, though the clothes look different, and I commented about driving up and down that road -- and about the number of times I crossed it going to and from classes. But I could not remember the name of the road.

    There were a lot of drives I enjoyed: The one I described (basically around a rectangle: south, west, north, east). Another was to go out Golf Road and then wend to O'Hare and drive several loops through the airport and then maybe around the whole perimeter. Back then the drive looping through the airport enchanted me because there were wonderful sweeping vistas -- now there's a blasted convention hotel in the middle of the circle blocking the views from every side. Another was the drive up past the magnificent Bahai Temple and into the northern suburbs.

    Often I was accompanied on these drives by my roommate and best friend from my college years. A few times, for a lark, we drove all the way to Milwaukee and ate dinner there.

    What part of the Chicago area do you live in? And how long have you been living there?

    Ellen

    ___

  7. I'm very reluctant to talk about The Fountainhead in an even vaguely Objectivist context because of the extremely powerful appeal Roark seems to have had (and to still have) for so many people who came to consider themselves Objectivists. Roark did not have this appeal for me. And I can't honestly say that I understand his appeal for others. There's a greal deal about the psychological dynamics of Roark, and his relationship with Dominique (and I don't mean the "rape, with an engraved invitation" scene) that I found so off-putting, I doubt that if I had read The Fountainhead first of Ayn Rand's novels, instead of reading it two years after I'd first read Atlas Shrugged, I'd have gone on to become curious about Rand's philosophy. Roark seemed to me like a person living in a "cocoon." His being "untouched," which seems to be the characteristic that appeals so much to so many who became Objectivists, to me seemed...like a person missing a dimension. And, as regards his relationship with Dominique, how could he just let her go about finding out for herself -- or whatever he was doing -- instead of trying to help her?

    Wynand did appeal to me, in that he seemed like a potent male force of nature. I realized that Rand was going to end up "destroying" Wynand, and I felt sad about this. Indeed, the night when I finished the book, I went for a long drive (a drive I often took, one of several I liked to take, this one down the outer drive from Evanston, out Congress, as it was called then, back up on Edens, then returning to Evanston -- maybe an hour's drive total), working it out in my mind, or trying to, why she'd felt that the logic of her story required the ending she gave it.

    I don't really know what to say to those who feel that they found an Ideal which attracts them in Roark. I'd like to understand what it is that appeals to them so much. But I don't understand it.

    Ellen

    ___

  8. There were even times it happened in Atlas Shrugged.  There was some unspoken thoughts responded to.  I wish I could think of the quote, it was something like, "we didn't have to take it seriously..."  or something of that nature.

    I think the words are, "We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?"

    They're the first thing Dagny says to Galt -- who's kneeling at her side

    watching her -- when she comes to consciousness after her plane crashes in the Valley ("Galt's Gulch").

    (And, no, I by no means have Atlas memorized. ;-))

    Ellen

    --

  9. Dragonfly wrote:

    It is interesting to note that this "feeling being stared at" syndrome seems to be an example of a paranormal occurence in one of Rand's books. I seem to remember that it is Dagny who has that feeling (she has a feeling that someone is looking at her and turning around she sees there is someone standing there), but I can't remember in what context. I suppose Rand would have vociferously denied the possibility of a paranormal explanation, but it's strange that she didn't realize that many people would read it like that.

    The scene is the one where Dagny first appears in the book -- the scene that starts "She sat listening to the music." At the end of that scene -- after the train's been stopped by a defective signal and Dagny has made known who she is and has given instructions about what to do, and then she's walking off -- she senses someone watching her. The someone is the young brakeman (? was that his job?) who had been whistling Halley's Fifth Concerto.

  10. Barbara, you write:

    "The problem with approaching fiction in this way, if we decided to do so across the board, is that we'd have to rule out most of our favørite firctional characters as ideals or as psychologically healthy. [...]

    "In answer, one could say that one is not asked to emulate Romeo and Juliet or Sydney Carton, etc., but one is asked to emulate Rand's characters. But I suggest that it is this demand that is the mistake."

    Quite. That was one of the points I was making. The other is that

    the claim that her characters are examplars of psychological health

    isn't warranted. (If you had the full context of the original discussion,

    it would probably be clear what I was arguing against.)

    Ellen

  11. Incidental comment, not addressed to the subject of the thread:

    I haven't read the Eliot essay Kevin referred to, but judging from the

    description, it sounds as if Eliot misinterpreted Milton. That line from

    *Paradise Lost* about justifying the ways of God to man was Milton

    being rather trepidatious and apologetic at the task he was attempting

    (and asking the Muse's help with its enormity). Having been alerted

    to the essay, I'll read it one of these days. As you said, Kevin, it's

    Eliot speaking, not you -- but now I'm curious to know what Eliot said.

    Another line of Milton's which has been misinterpreted -- and this one

    widely so -- is from the Sonnet on his blindness, wherein he writes,

    "They also serve who only stand and wait." That's been picked up

    as an excuse for lack of self-assertion, but what it was in context was

    Milton trying to console himself for his forced -- through his becoming

    blind -- retirement from his previously active life.

    As I said, just a sidelight.

    Ellen

  12. Hi, Kat.

    I'm glad to make your acquaintance (via email) and glad that

    you enjoyed my painting-the-roses-red post. That seems to

    have struck a chord with a number of people, judging from

    off-list comments I've received about it.

    Clever of you to think of spelling PARC backward.

    Book unread, I expect that were I to read Valliant's prosecutorial

    attempts therein, I would find them "crap." I'll acquire the book

    one of these days, and I'll read AR's journal entries, as near as

    possible ignoring interpolated remarks telling me how I'm

    supposed to react. I expect that the memory-lane trip which

    reading those journal entries will occasion won't be a pleasant

    one -- though not because of the reasons Jim Valliant and

    Casey Fahy would suppose. Instead, because I expect that

    what I'll see won't be what they did.

    Anyway... Enough of uncheerful subjects on this charming

    thread.

    Ellen

    ___

  13. Inky,

    I love your drawings (I've noticed them when your mom has

    posted a few on the old Solohq site).

    As to fresh thoughts... Bravo and delightful. I doubt that

    anyone thus far joined up on this site would trounce you for

    "unorthodox" ideas, since all of us have those in abundance.

    But anyone who does trounce you will hear from me, as

    well as probably from your mom.

    Ellen

  14. Here's an item I can post now which might be of interest to

    some of the participants here. The explanatory prefatory

    material was included when I posted this on 8/22/04

    to the Salon Total Freedom list.

    The person mentioned who mailed the post "back to me

    in toto with a comment of applause tacked onto the

    bottom" was Nathaniel. He wrote that he agreed with

    everything I'd said.

    One person on the list (Russ Madden) completely

    misinterpreted the post, taking it as *literary*

    criticism -- i.e., as being critical of the skill

    with which the novel was written. As I said to

    Russ at the time: God forbid I should ever criticize

    Rand's ability as a writer!

    Ellen

    --- FWD ---

    About the issue of whether or not the characters Rand presents

    indeed *are* "ideals"...

    Here's a little grist for the mill. It's something I sent,

    I believe on Friday June 18 (might have been June 17) 1999

    to the RandFem list, which at that time was discussing

    Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand.

    (The reason I'm not sure of the original date is because

    I can't find the original post. What I have is a copy of

    the post which was mailed back to me in toto with a

    comment of applause tacked onto the bottom.)

    This is part of the picture of why Objectivist are "the

    way they are." There's much, much more to the picture.

    But one needs to start somewhere.

    I received a fair amount of agreement with what I was

    saying from the RandFem participants -- with the exception

    of the comments about Rearden. A lot of people didn't

    agree with me in finding something unbelievable in the

    way he's characterized.

    ES

    --- FWD ---

    Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 07:36:54 -0700

    [Post by]: Ellen Stuttle <lgould@mail.hartford.edu>

    Subject: Re: Pathological Aspects of Rand's Heroes

    [leaving out an introductory paragraph]

    > The triggering event was Karen Michalson's essay combined with

    > Peter Saint-Andre's asking why Dagny didn't hear of Galt and

    > Ragnar when Francisco was in college. I said in a previous post

    > that I found this lack of communication between Dagny and

    > Francisco pathological if taken from a literal rather than a

    > mythic perspective.

    >

    > Before continuing with thoughts about pathology, I'd like to

    > express gratitude for "Who Is Dagny Taggart?" I thought the essay

    > beautifully written as well as interesting, and I'm thrilled to

    > see someone place Dagny in the context of the archetypal epic-

    > hero. The archetypal study of Rand is an area which could yield

    > fascinating and important insights, but insofar as I'm aware, this

    > is an area which has hardly been explored to date. Thank you,

    > Karen, for examining Rand as a culture-myth creator.

    >

    > What I want to raise here, though, is a question about viewing

    > Rand's characters as if they were actual people:

    >

    > *If the characters are taken literally, are they healthy humans?*

    > (I'm speaking of course of the good guys; obviously the bad guys

    > aren't specimens of sterling health.)

    >

    > Let's start with Eddie Willers, the good guy who's introduced on

    > pg. 1, and of whom a bum asks, "Who is John Galt?"

    >

    > The impression of Eddie which comes across to me from the "little

    > touches" of characterization in the scene is that of someone

    > regimented and repressed. For example: "It seemed to him as if a

    > few rays from [his childhood] reached into his present... like

    > pinpoint spotlights that gave an occasional moment's glitter to

    > his job, to his lonely apartment, to the quiet, scrupulous

    > progression of his existence." (pg. 5; all Atlas pg.#s are from

    > the 1957 edition.)

    >

    > This isn't a vibrant, happy soul who's being described. And

    > consider Eddie's response when asked as a ten-year-old what he

    > wanted to do when he grew up. "'Whatever is right,'" he answered.

    > (pg. 6) Is this the response one would expect -- or be pleased to

    > hear -- from a ten-year-old kid? He doesn't want to do anything

    > more venturesome?

    >

    > I suppose it isn't necessarily indicative of a budding duty-

    > mentality for a child to answer as Eddie answered, but what are

    > we to think of an ambition like this coming from a personage who's

    > presented as a minor exemplar? And what *does* Eddie do with

    > himself as he grows up? The guy becomes a de facto eunuch with

    > his unrequited love for Dagny, as well as becoming a "feudal

    > slave" to the railroad. Is a life such as Eddie's really

    > representative of "the best in the common man"?

    >

    > Next, turning to the big heroes, what about Hank Rearden?

    >

    > For me, the characterization of Hank presents a special problem.

    > Although I find none of Rand's characters fully believable as

    > flesh-and-blood persons (they indeed are *mythic* beings, not

    > human beings), Hank seems outright unreal. Is it plausible that

    > a guy who is so obsessed with moral purity, a guy who's so

    > unforgivingly ruthless in regard to his own suffering, would have

    > the kind of creative fires needed to produce Rearden metal?

    >

    > I can't accept the premise; it doesn't make sense in terms of what

    > I know about human psychology. Thus, I find Hank contradictory in

    > a way that actual humans (for all their manifold possible

    > contradictorinesses) aren't.

    >

    > But to the extent that he is believable, I still have troubles

    > with Hank when considering him as a depiction of an ideal. Rand

    > saw Hank's problem as that of an error of knowledge. My take is

    > to diagnose the problem as a bad lapse from being in touch with

    > himself. Hank is listening to a moral code which he doesn't even

    > believe instead of to his own signals. That's not a practice

    > which leads to mental health.

    >

    > And now, what of Dagny? Dagny, the object of much feminist

    > debate, the hero/ine figure of a great mythic novel. Are there

    > any blemishes in her psyche if she's analyzed as an actual person?

    >

    > Again, my answer is yes. For instance, consider some "little

    > touches" in a scene Karen quotes at length. This is the scene,

    > quoted on pg. 207, where Francisco slaps Dagny for "threaten[ing]

    > to lower her standards and become less of an achiever in return

    > for social popularity." (KM's description, pg. 207)

    >

    > I loved Karen's analysis of the scene, and her statement on

    > pg. 209: "I believe that Dagny is the only important female hero

    > in Western literature who is physically struck for refusing to

    > excel at a nontraditional pursuit." The scene's a great example

    > of Rand's turning everything upside down and inside out.

    >

    > But pause to consider certain details of the first paragraph quoted:

    >

    > "Well, I've always been unpopular in school and it didn't

    > bother me, but now I've discovered the reason. It's an

    > impossible kind of reason. They dislike me, not because I do

    > things badly, but because I do them well. They dislike me

    > because I've always had the best grades in the class. I don't

    > even have to study. I always get A's. Do you suppose I should

    > try to get D's for a change and become the most popular girl in

    > school?" [Then Francisco slaps her.]

    >

    > How is one to take Dagny's analysis of her situation in school?

    > Rand, I think, means for it to be taken straight: Dagny is an

    > ideal person, and there are people, terrible people, who dislike

    > her for "the impossible kind of reason" that she does things well.

    > But I submit that another reason is rationally possible, and is

    > considerably more plausible.

    >

    > If I might present some first-hand evidence here: I myself got the

    > best grades in school without having to study. I also resembled

    > Dagny in not becoming much involved with the activities of my

    > classmates since I was more occupied elsewhere (with horseback-

    > riding activities). I wasn't what would be called "popular."

    > BUT: I wasn't disliked because of getting good grades; I had

    > friendly and happy relationships with my classmates.

    >

    > Thus, I raise the question: Is it so clear that the fault in

    > Dagny's relationship with her classmates was *theirs*? How did

    > she project herself to them? Did she wear an aura of contemptuous

    > disdain? Or maybe of bored indifference? In other words, was she

    > erecting a barrier between herself and her classmates, and is that

    > what they were responding to?

    >

    > The above is speculation, but here's another incident for which

    > we have textual evidence. This pertains to Dagny's and Hank's

    > first night of love-making. Karen draws attention to favorable

    > aspects of the way Dagny is presented:

    >

    > "...it is clear that Dagny is the partner who is consciously and

    > rationally in control, not Rearden...." (pg. 211)

    >

    > "...in another reversal of traditional gender roles, it is Dagny

    > who teaches a confused Rearden about sex...." (pg. 212)

    >

    > "It is Dagny who feels no confusion or shame concerning the

    > fulfillment of her desires, which she refers to as her 'proudest

    > attainment'." (pg. 212)

    >

    > I agree with this praise of Dagny, but there's another little

    > touch which presents a less ideal picture. This is at the start

    > of Dagny's morning-after speech to Hank replying to his speech

    > about the shamefulness of their mutual desire:

    >

    > "I want you, Hank. I'm much more of an animal than you think.

    > I wanted you from the first moment I saw you -- and the only

    > thing I'm ashamed of is that I did not know it. I did not know

    > why, for two years, the brightest moments I found were the ones

    > in your office, where I could lift my head to look up at you.

    > I did not know the nature of what I felt in your presence, nor

    > the reason. I know it now." (pg. 255)

    >

    > To this I have to say: What the hell took her so long?!! Some

    > exemplar if it takes her two years to realize that she's burning

    > with desire for a man. Where's her awareness of her own signals?

    > Had her body not been loudly broadcasting, through various signs,

    > the "nature of" her reaction to Hank? What's her problem that she

    > *didn't* know what she felt?

    >

    > (Remember in this context a scene which has been mentioned before

    > on the list, the first scene where Dagny appears, where these

    > words are used in describing her: "...as if she were unconscious

    > of her own body and that it was a woman's body." There's a subtle

    > point in the wording because Rand says "as if...," not that Dagny

    > IS "unconscious...." Also, certainly it happens that when one is

    > intently concentrating, other awareness, including bodily

    > awareness, can become peripheral. Still, we're presented with a

    > hint of non-attention to inner signals right off the mark in

    > Dagny's characterization.)

    >

    > I think the above is enough to indicate why I ask:

    > *If the characters are taken literally, are they healthy humans?*

    >

    > My own answer is, in some respects yes; in other respects no.

    >

    > Would be very interested to hear what people think.

    >

    > Ellen

  15. Michael,

    I'd like to say that I was very moved by that article.

    I hate to keep repeating the theme song of not having time for

    posting these days. But things are very pressured here:

    My sister-in-law, of whom I'm quite fond, has been diagnosed

    with an aggressive sarcoma. The prognosis is hopeful, but

    the situation is worrisome. And my husband, who's always tense

    at the end of a semester, is even more so than usual. Plus I

    have a 279-page book written by a friend which is on a tight

    schedule and which I've promised to proofread before the

    end of the first week of January.

    When I get the chance, though, I think I'd like to share with

    this group the outline for a book I never wrote -- a book

    about the Objectivist world I encountered in New York City.

    I think that the folks here would find the outline of interest --

    maybe you especially, because of its relevance to the

    issues you're groping with.

    Meanwhile, I just wanted to say how much I liked your

    Mockingbird piece.

    Ellen

    ___