PEN ULTIMATE RARE BOOKS

Greetings from Manhattan

Recommended Posts

Michael, I don't agree with your "caring" analysis of Dagny's character. You ignored her existential context in the various parts of the novel.

Brant,

You can disagree all you want, but it's there. I'm going to write about it and back it up with quotes. And I'm going to include a series of intertwined throughlines.

In screenwriting, they sometimes call the points on a throughline "beats" or "plot points" (they use those terms for other things as well, so put that in your bank of random useless information :smile: ). My point is that throughline thinking is done on purpose and it is taught to creative writers--especially those in Hollywood where Rand cut her chops. (In my meaning, a throughline is the pattern of change through time of a story element.)

Let me give you some references so you will understand I am not talking out my ass.

Ironically, one of the best initial expositions I have come across for thinking in throughlines is right here on OL: The Simplest Effective Plot System I Have Come Across - Dan Wells. What interested me in that analysis was when Wells applied his method to the unfolding of betrayal in a work. A light bulb went off in my head. I thought woah... if that can be applied to the development of a part of a plot in addition to an overall plot and character arcs, it can be applied to other items as well like themes, metaphors, emotional changes, etc. Then I started looking and sure enough it works. When a story clicks, there are underlying patterns in the story elements. When it doesn't, these elements tend to be random, two-dimensional or meander all over the place.

The only caveat is that I found out there are several kinds of throughlines, not just the one Wells does (which is very similar to the plot outline a guy named Syd Field in Hollywood teaches: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting). Another Hollywood guy named John Truby came up with a bunch more throughlines in a book called The Anatomy of Story. They don't call these pattens throughlines, but that's what they are talking about in the wording I use.

I came across even another throughline for sequences that was formally taught in the back rooms of the studios during Rand's time in Hollywood. The current teachers of that approach are Paul Gulino (Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach) and Chris Soth (and probably some others I am not aware of). Here's a YouTube video where Chris briefly mentions where this sequence thinking came from.

He calls a sequence a "mini-movie," but that's just branding crap. The concepts are the same--meaning enough story to fit on a reel (15 minutes max) and still keep the audience's attention so the people will stick around while the reels are changed (which was the case in the early days of Hollywood). My impression is that Rand wrote that way in her fiction (with more sequences than in a movie, of course), but I haven't broken this down enough to write about it with my usual mastery yet. :smile:

As to context, of course there is context. In fact, each sequence is a context. But Dagny is not one person in one context, then suddenly changes into another person in another context, then even another in another context. She is the same person in all of them. And if a pattern in her personality can be shown throughout all the sequences, especially if it is a linear pattern like her gradual erosion of caring for people who do not share her values, I can only presume it was done on purpose. The charm of these sub-throughlines that I am using for analysis is precisely that they run through all the different sequences (or contexts or episodes or mini-movies or whatever you want to call them). They are part of the glue that holds the entire story together instead of the thing being a random series of episodes.

To me, the emotional throughline I see in Dagny makes sense, too. Dagny was the last one to be convinced to join the strike. She had to be convinced intellectually, spiritually and emotionally before she could give up the railroad. This caring throughline to me is just one of her main emotional throughlines (I have to think about it before I talk about others--and there are since, for an easy example, she had three big honking lovers in a linear sequence :smile: ).

I'm talking about a deep premise-level emotional bent, not surface reactions. Think about why a person practices a profession if not to provide value for others. What else is she going to exchange for money? Her opinion of herself? :smile: So what happens when a person stops giving a damn about those she provides value to? How enthusiastic would she be to run a railroad to transport them?

For the fiction writer Rand, caring for them is a legitimate inner obstacle to Dagny joining the strike. I consider this gradual chipping away at Dagny's caring for people when she decided they were unthinking or parasites--until she can shoot one dead in cold blood to get him out of her way in a crisis and not feel a thing--a master-stroke of a master novelist. This throughline illustrates an inner arc in Dagny, not just an abstract intention, so she can legitimately say at the end, "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine," while she could not earlier in the story.

I don't give a crap about how it looks to people who only want Dagny to be seen in a glowing light.

To me the throughline is there. I see it. I can't unsee it just because someone doesn't like the way I describe it.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice of you to reply so rapidly Michael.

My only problem with OL is I can't leave it. I've just learned in the thread about Ayn Rand's anger that she lectured at Bronx Community College is 1970--a college I would teach at in the 90's. Quite amazing what you can find here.

Once again, thank you for making all this available.

Best, Michael

I was at the BCC in the late fall of 1970 when she gave a talk or lecture to a pretty jammed pretty large auditorium. I repaired to the balcony. She was accompanied by The Holzers. I don't remember how I heard of it for I can't find an announcement in "The Objectivist." I do not remember the subject matter. I have a problem with this memory because it seems to be two memories. In one I am looking down on the stage and Mark Holzer is helping Rand with her coat just prior to departure and in the other I seem to see the stage while she's answering questions but now everything is turned 180 degrees. The lighting was darker for the former. The change in perspective may be caused by a false memory I created. It's possible, but not something I tend to do. What's not possible is the memories are for two different events. Switching from one side of the balcony to the other might explain some of this confusion I have.

Someone in the audience asked her if she had ever read one book by Immanuel Kant. She talked around the question without really answering it.

I may be repeating what you've already read on that other thread.

--Brant

Thank you for this extended clarification Brant. I can almost assure you now that there was no announcement in TOM of Rand's speaking at BCC. I will examine my individual issues this weekend, but I'm positive I'd have remembered that. I do remember reading she spoke at Hunter College, where I studied Italian, but not BCC.

Question: did she become angry with the questioner?

Michael

I can't say how angry she became except if she did it was mostly under the surface. I do remember that the young man who asked it had a strong clear voice that implied he was not intimidateable. I was far from that myself back then. Rereading some old articles by her yesterday I was reminded how much Rand opened up my intellectual and moral world and how dramatically she presented her views even in her non-fiction and how she so well redressed reality to do that. Unfortunately, while the ideas were great reality got grossly distorted on the human level where she greatly relied on ad hominem. Her description of Woodstock is an example of that where all her information was second and third hand. She cherry-picked the whole thing for her supportive examples.

--Brant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rand was primarily a philosopher and storyteller in Near Aesopian mode. Šhe...

Is "šhe" Canadian for "she"?

...was a cinematic writer, with little regard for literary convention or the novel form itself, except for the primacy of plot, plot, plot. She employed a limited vocabulary to create startling two dimensional characters in a bold, near-surreal world dominated by her unique philosophy. Her novels are as unique as she was, but they are not great literature.

You and Rand are opposite sides of the same coin. She liked plot, you like other stuff. Both of you think that what you like is the true nature of literature, and the other stuff is garbage.

J

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael, I don't agree with your "caring" analysis of Dagny's character. You ignored her existential context in the various parts of the novel.

Brant,

You can disagree all you want, but it's there. I'm going to write about it and back it up with quotes. And I'm going to include a series of intertwined throughlines.

In screenwriting, they sometimes call the points on a throughline "beats" or "plot points" (they use those terms for other things as well, so put that in your bank of random useless information :smile: ). My point is that throughline thinking is done on purpose and it is taught to creative writers--especially those in Hollywood where Rand cut her chops. (In my meaning, a throughline is the pattern of change through time of a story element.)

Let me give you some references so you will understand I am not talking out my ass.

Ironically, one of the best initial expositions I have come across for thinking in throughlines is right here on OL: The Simplest Effective Plot System I Have Come Across - Dan Wells. What interested me in that analysis was when Wells applied his method to the unfolding of betrayal in a work. A light bulb went off in my head. I thought woah... if that can be applied to the development of a part of a plot in addition to an overall plot and character arcs, it can be applied to other items as well like themes, metaphors, emotional changes, etc. Then I started looking and sure enough it works. When a story clicks, there are underlying patterns in the story elements. When it doesn't, these elements tend to be random, two-dimensional or meander all over the place.

The only caveat is that I found out there are several kinds of throughlines, not just the one Wells does (which is very similar to the plot outline a guy named Syd Field in Hollywood teaches: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting). Another Hollywood guy named John Truby came up with a bunch more throughlines in a book called The Anatomy of Story. They don't call these pattens throughlines, but that's what they are talking about in the wording I use.

I came across even another throughline for sequences that was formally taught in the back rooms of the studios during Rand's time in Hollywood. The current teachers of that approach are Paul Gulino (Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach) and Chris Soth (and probably some others I am not aware of). Here's a YouTube video where Chris briefly mentions where this sequence thinking came from.

He calls a sequence a "mini-movie," but that's just branding crap. The concepts are the same--meaning enough story to fit on a reel (15 minutes max) and still keep the audience's attention so the people will stick around while the reels are changed (which was the case in the early days of Hollywood). My impression is that Rand wrote that way in her fiction (with more sequences than in a movie, of course), but I haven't broken this down enough to write about it with my usual mastery yet. :smile:

As to context, of course there is context. In fact, each sequence is a context. But Dagny is not one person in one context, then suddenly changes into another person in another context, then even another in another context. She is the same person in all of them. And if a pattern in her personality can be shown throughout all the sequences, especially if it is a linear pattern like her gradual erosion of caring for people who do not share her values, I can only presume it was done on purpose. The charm of these sub-throughlines that I am using for analysis is precisely that they run through all the different sequences (or contexts or episodes or mini-movies or whatever you want to call them). They are part of the glue that holds the entire story together instead of the thing being a random series of episodes.

To me, the emotional throughline I see in Dagny makes sense, too. Dagny was the last one to be convinced to join the strike. She had to be convinced intellectually, spiritually and emotionally before she could give up the railroad. This caring throughline to me is just one of her main emotional throughlines (I have to think about it before I talk about others--and there are since, for an easy example, she had three big honking lovers in a linear sequence :smile: ).

I'm talking about a deep premise-level emotional bent, not surface reactions. Think about why a person practices a profession if not to provide value for others. What else is she going to exchange for money? Her opinion of herself? :smile: So what happens when a person stops giving a damn about those she provides value to? How enthusiastic would she be to run a railroad to transport them?

For the fiction writer Rand, caring for them is a legitimate inner obstacle to Dagny joining the strike. I consider this gradual chipping away at Dagny's caring for people when she decided they were unthinking or parasites--until she can shoot one dead in cold blood to get him out of her way in a crisis and not feel a thing--a master-stroke of a master novelist. This throughline illustrates an inner arc in Dagny, not just an abstract intention, so she can legitimately say at the end, "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine," while she could not earlier in the story.

I don't give a crap about how it looks to people who only want Dagny to be seen in a glowing light.

To me the throughline is there. I see it. I can't unsee it just because someone doesn't like the way I describe it.

Michael

Michael, I'm not disputing a throughline in Dagny's character, just some of the way you illustrated it. The basic congruence of her throughline and that of the novel itself was the novel was on the good side all along--as represented by the character of John Galt. There's a nice synmetry in that he was the first major character therein to go on strike and she was the last and they ended up as a couple. Dagny, however, was on the novel's bad side and she needed to be educated about that from head to toe before switching to the good side. End of story. What she learned was she was sanctioning her own destruction--the sanction of the victim--and her coldness was only not doing any more sanctioning. She already had a low opinion of her brother and the looters et al. from the beginning of the story. This was also Hank's journey. He left his ex, mother and brother and in his mind he was watching them from the rear of a departing train getting smaller and smaller. He was emotionally disengaged from them but his inner state was not that he was no longer capable of emotional involvement only more selective.

In real life you cannot cut yourself off so easily from others almost no matter what the justification. You pay an emotional price. The more you're a thinking machine than an emotional being the easier this is. The real trick is not to get involved with the wrong people to begin with. It's relatively easy for a young person to disown his abusive family, but when the love starts--romantic involvement--so does a much more difficult ballgame. Yeah, Dagny was a cold-blooded killer with the guard but not a cold-blooded person. I once did that. I once had that throughline. One week a fellow soldier next to me got a bullet between his eyes--I escorted the body to the morgue at Saigon--and the next I pulled the trigger. Like Dagny I had no choice. Not to kill would have meant endangering your life and the lives of your compatriots. The choice was to be there. Hers was right and mine a mistake. That's why my story didn't end there. I was still searching for the good side. I think I'm mostly there though I won't stop looking for "right" as long as I'm alive.

--Brant

I know I'm probably as much confirming as denying what you've said, but I'm not locused on an argument

Once the throughlines start for a major Atlas character on the good side it's essentially become a static character. It's the one side to the other trip that's interesting and without that there is, obviously, no story and no novel. So with all the good guys on the good side it's "The End". It was also Rand's end as a novelist, naturally enough.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the welcome A (Selene above)

Too, I'd thought that perhaps you thought Rand doubted her accomplishments as a novelist for the reason that I once thought the same: she didn't evaluate her own novels in her essays on literary criticism. But yet again, I was mistaken.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Michael

My pleasure Pen! I am not aware that Rand ever did evaluate herself as a novelist, do you have more info on this? very intriguing!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My pleasure Pen! I am not aware that Rand ever did evaluate herself as a novelist, do you have more info on this? very intriguing!

Hmm, widow women flirting with the new potential millionaire...

Could this be the proof that the "pen" is mightier than the "sword."

Some really fun images in there...lol

A...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the welcome A (Selene above)

Too, I'd thought that perhaps you thought Rand doubted her accomplishments as a novelist for the reason that I once thought the same: she didn't evaluate her own novels in her essays on literary criticism. But yet again, I was mistaken.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Michael

My pleasure Pen! I am not aware that Rand ever did evaluate herself as a novelist, do you have more info on this? very intriguing!

Carol

I was mistaken about your reason for doubting Rand's assessment of herself. Rand never did publicly evaluate herself as a novelist in her essays or elsewhere. At a FHF Q&A, she was once asked why. She replied--I am not quoting her here, but I recall the essence--that as a critic, it's proper to exclude your own work from the criticism. Of course, this did not prevent her from comparing 'style" in Thomas Woolf to herself. But there (in "Basic Principles of Literature"), I think, she was a teacher rather than a critic.

Michael

My pleasure Pen! I am not aware that Rand ever did evaluate herself as a novelist, do you have more info on this? very intriguing!

Hmm, widow women flirting with the new potential millionaire...

Could this be the proof that the "pen" is mightier than the "sword."

Some really fun images in there...lol

A...

Adam

Had no idea that anyone was flirting with me. Can't wait to tell my partner of 26 years how you called "pen mightier than the sword", His name's Joe..

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We can infer Rand's opinion of herself as a novelist from the fact that she publicly endorsed Who is Ayn Rand? Branden's chapter on literature indicates a high opinion indeed, including

"In Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand has created more than a great novel. By any rational, objective literary standard - from the standpoint of plot-structure, suspense, drama, imaginativeness, evocative and communicative use of language, originality, scope of theme and subject, psychological profundity and philosophical richness - Atlas Shrugged is the climax of the novel form, carrying that form to unprecedented heights of intellectual and artistic power."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey. She wrote two great novels. You think she didn't know that and what that meant qua novelist?

--Brant

Not questioning your designation of two (2), and I would assume you mean Atlas and Fountainhead, however, We The Living should be considered. Actually, I need to read that again.

I have not read We The Living more than four (4) times and I cannot stand reading it because it "presents to me" a depressing resolution of plot. I still perceive it as an excellent novel.

A...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Adam,

Let me help you with the depression.

I learned this from Booker's book I mentioned above (The Seven Basic Plots).

A good hunk of the world's literature, the vast majority, in fact (and this includes schlock) is a movement from dark to light, or light to dark to light. (These are metaphors for evil to good, imprisoned to free, tortured to happy, etc.)

But here's the thing. This holds even for tragedies. For instance, in the traditional tragedy (Othello and Macbeth from Shakespeare come to mind right off the bat), the hero descends into so much darkness he literally dies in that misery in some manner--usually by being killed. He goes too far, past the point of no return. But there's a catch. As he descends, he casts his darkness on those around him and they increasingly suffer. After he dies, the light appears for them again. So the movement of the overall story still stands, from dark to light.

We The Living is a bit different in that the heroine (Kira) does not descend into darkness. The society is dark and stays there. But Kira found a way out, even though she herself was unable to get out. And Rand insinuates that just as Kira found the way, others can and will, too. So the story's movement is from the totally stifled darkness of the Communist society to the light of hope and a path out. I don't think Rand did the snow metaphor on purpose, but all that vast white countryside certainly reinforces this movement toward the light. A dark society was not enough to snuff out the creative life-affirming human spirit in the story, even though it snuffed out the individual life of the protagonist.

In that sense, We The Living is a dark story, but not one that encourages hopelessness and tacit submission to fate. On the contrary, it is an indictment, a slap in the face of Communist Russia, so to speak.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kira narrowly rates as my favorite Rand character, I recall as the utmost indomitable spirit.

Right up to her last thoughts. It's not that one dies or when, the author could be saying, it's how one lives.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do not pay any attention to Adam and his silly long memory , Manhattan Mike. Respectable Widows do not flirt as he well knows, especially not on Objectivist websites where proof exists that you can contrary to popular belief, take it with you.

I am still in the dark if Rand expressed any self analysis of her achievements as a novelist.

Ellen? if anyone has any recollections, she might!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do not pay any attention to Adam and his silly long memory ,

Moi? Absolutely...

"respectable widows."

ok that was an unfair characterization...

However, I know many men who have known a widow woman, as well as all the gender permutations that changed him, and or, the world...

A...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do not pay any attention to Adam and his silly long memory , Manhattan Mike. Respectable Widows do not flirt as he well knows, especially not on Objectivist websites where proof exists that you can contrary to popular belief, take it with you.

I am still in the dark if Rand expressed any self analysis of her achievements as a novelist.

Ellen? if anyone has any recollections, she might!

Rand (end of life quote [spurious?]): "I cast pearls of literary genius and didn't even get a pork chop back."

--Brant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rand was primarily a philosopher and storyteller in Near Aesopian mode. Šhe...

Is "šhe" Canadian for "she"?

...was a cinematic writer, with little regard for literary convention or the novel form itself, except for the primacy of plot, plot, plot. She employed a limited vocabulary to create startling two dimensional characters in a bold, near-surreal world dominated by her unique philosophy. Her novels are as unique as she was, but they are not great literature.

You and Rand are opposite sides of the same coin. She liked plot, you like other stuff. Both of you think that what you like is the true nature of literature, and the other stuff is garbage.

J

No, Jonathan, no I am not the obverse of Rand in this. Just because I have my own subjective set of artistic responses, and a certain confidence in my own assessments of literature, does not mean that I judge what I don't enjoy to be garbage. "Great literature" like great music or art is determined by collective subjectivism, by continued rediscovery and love of consumers and critics long after the artist's "brief candle" has guttered out, and by history's quirks and passions. Good literature, enjoyable literature, interesting and unique literature, can be appreciated on its own merits. And yes, there are technical standards which when unmet render a novel to be garbage. This need not stop any readers from enjoying any book, and never has stopped them.

Rand was not a great novelist, and her novels were not garbage either. it is no use for you to attribute to me a value-swooning hierarchy of aesthetic judgments. Not even when you're wearing your Sunday-best sun bonnet and Stanley Cup goalie gloves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PS. That version of She is not Canucki dialect (that would be Her) but my homage attempt to redefine the female pronoun to reflect Rand's utterly singular redefinition of the essence of femaleness.

I can't find out how I produced it though, this IPad is the work of Satan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So you are a non atheist who worships Satan?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure she wasn't, but I grant you yours.

From curiosity, what other novelists do you consider great? (Warning I cannot read Portuguese!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...