Chambers' review of Atlas Shrugged is perhaps the worst review in the history of literature. I do not mean by that that is it the least complimentary (although god knows it's not a love letter) but that it is the least accurate. Generally when a review misreports a work it is perceived as innocent incompetence, but this is hardly likely here. Atlas Shrugged is not a complex work by the standards of a nationally known reviewer and some of the “mistakes” he makes are obvious to anyone of average intelligence who actually read the book. Some of the claims he makes about AS and Rand are merely unsupported, but others are directly contradicted by the work itself. I am forced to conclude that the review isn't just nasty, it's dishonest.
“It is the more persuasive, in some quarters, because the author deals wholly in the blackest blacks and the whitest whites. In this fiction everything, everybody, is either all good or all bad, without any of those intermediate shades which, in life, complicate reality and perplex the eye that seeks to probe it truly. “
“The Children of Light are largely operatic caricatures. Insofar as any of them suggests anything known to the business community, they resemble the occasional curmudgeon millionaire, tales about whose outrageously crude and shrewd eccentricities sometimes provide the lighter moments in boardrooms. “
“All Miss Rand's chief heroes are also breathtakingly beautiful. “
“Yet from the impromptu and surprisingly gymnastic matings of the heroine and three of the heroes, no children — it suddenly strikes you — ever result. “
“Their archetypes are Left-Liberals, New Dealers, Welfare Statists, One Worlders, or, at any rate, such ogreish semblances of these as may stalk the nightmares of those who think little about people as people, but tend to think a great deal in labels and effigies. “
“This spares her the playguy business of performing one service that her fiction might have performed, namely: that of examining in human depth how so feeble a lot came to exist at all, let alone be powerful enough to be worth hating and fearing. Instead, she bundles them into one undifferentiated damnation.”
“Robin Hood is the author's image of absolute evil — robbing the strong (and hence good) to give to the weak (and hence no good). “
“I submit that she is indebted, and much more heavily, to Nietzsche. Just as her operatic businessmen are, in fact, Nietzschean supermen, “
“Happily, in Atlas Shrugged (though not in life), all the Children of Darkness are utterly incompetent.”
“In the end, they troop out of their Rocky Mountain hideaway to repossess the ruins. “
“More importantly, it is meant to seal the fact that mankind is ready to submit abjectly to an elite of technocrats, “
“by Miss Rand's ideas that the good life is one which 'has resolved personal worth into exchange value,' 'has left no other nexus between man and man than naked selfinterest, than callous cash-payment.' “
“It is, in sum, a forthright philosophic materialism. “
“Henceforth man's fate, without God, is up to him, and to him alone. His happiness, in strict materialist terms, lies with his own workaday hands and ingenious brain. His happiness becomes, in Miss Rand's words, 'the moral purpose of his life.' Here occurs a little rub whose effects are just as observable in a free-enterprise system, which is in practice materialist (whatever else it claims or supposes itself to be), as they would be under an atheist socialism, if one were ever to deliver that material abundance that all promise. The rub is that the pursuit of happiness, as an end in itself, tends automatically, and widely, to be replaced by the pursuit of pleasure, with a consequent general softening of the fibers of will, intelligence, spirit. No doubt, Miss Rand has brooded upon that little rub. “.
“For, if Man's heroism (some will prefer to say: 'human dignity') no longer derives from God, or is not a function of that godless integrity which was a root of Nietzsche's anguish, then Man becomes merely the most consuming of animals, with glut as the condition of his happiness and its replenishment his foremost activity."
“So Randian Man, at least in his ruling caste, “
“For politics, of course, arise, though the author of Atlas Shrugged stares stonily past them, “
“In an age like ours, in which a highly complex technological society is everywhere in a high state of instability, such answers, however philosophic, translate quickly into political realities. “
“Miss Rand, as the enemy of any socializing force, “ What the hell does he mean here? Rand had nothing against socialising, and did it constantly. She had nothing against people being “socialised” in the sense of treating people decently either. Neither of these conclusions is in any way justified by AS.
“calls in a Big Brother of her own contriving to do battle with the other. In the name of free enterprise, therefore, she plumps for a technocratic elite (I find no more inclusive word than technocratic to bracket the industrial-financial-engineering caste she seems to have in mind). “ I don't see how a sculptor and a musician count as part of the “industrial-financial-engineering elite”. Although the sculptor did run a foundry for a while. Again he uses the word “caste” to falsely imply that this group is both monolithic and permanent. Nothing in AS even remotely suggests this, in fact one of the main antagonists seem to regard themselves as having a right to be in an elite not the protangonists. Nowhere do any of the protagonists suggest being given the powers of a Big Brother, in fact John Galt specifically rejects the offer, considering it absurd even to command men to be free.
“When she calls 'productive achievement man's noblest activity,' she means, almost exclusively, technological achievement, supervised by such a managerial political bureau. “ Actually she means and says she means whatever expands a man's life. That someone could be ignorant of this is startling but I guess when you're mining a work for things to slander it with it's easy to miss the little stuff. “She might object that she means much, much more; and we can freely entertain her objections. But, in sum, that is just what she means. For that is what, in reality, it works out to. “ Yes she can object but we'll simply make a baseless assertion and that takes care of that.
“And in reality, too, by contrast with fiction, this can only head into a dictatorship, however benign, living and acting beyond good and evil, a law unto itself (as Miss Rand believes it should be), and feeling any restraint on itself as, in practice, criminal, and, in morals, vicious (as Miss Rand clearly feels it to be). “
“I take her to be calling for an aristocracy of talents. We cannot labor here why, in the modern world, the pre-conditions for aristocracy, an organic growth, no longer exist, so that the impulse toward aristocracy always emerges now in the form of dictatorship. “
“Nor has the author, apparently, brooded on the degree to which, in a wicked world, a materialism of the Right and a materialism of the Left first surprisingly resemble, then, in action, tend to blend each with each, because, while differing at the top in avowed purpose, and possibly in conflict there, at bottom they are much the same thing. The embarrassing similarities between Hitler's National Socialism and Stalin's brand of Communism are familiar. “
“Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. “
“There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber — go!' “
“mislaid the discriminating knack that most of us pray will warn us in time of the difference between what is effective and firm, and what is wildly grotesque and excessive. “
“We struggle to be just. “
* It should be noted here that the character development of “Non-absolute” is the most detailed and convincing in the entire work, yet it consumers at least an order of magnitude less words than other characters. What this says about Rand is significant, but I don't know what it is.