Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ayn Rand vs. Cormac McCarthy

In the blue corner: Ayn Rand. Author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. I read The Fountainhead a few years ago and it instantly became an all-time fave. I loved the artistic struggle and the hand-of-God attitude of the architect about his work. Sure, it was 900 pages long, but I got into it and enjoyed it. So a few weeks ago I finally checked out Atlas Shrugged from the library. 1130 pages! I'm a fairly busy guy and not a fast reader and could tell that this book was going to take me at least 2 months to read (and that's if I lugged it on the bus back and forth to work every day for the 25 minutes of reading each way).

But I lugged. And about 300 pages in I had a revelation. It occurred for me at the confluence of a few thoughts. First, I realized that Rand's schtick (if I may) is extreme detail. For every character you encounter in her books she feels the need to write in extreme detail about who they are, where they came from, their childhood, the hem on their pants or skirt, etc. This is all well and good and can be admired in a lot of ways. She paints a very vivid picture.

I was also read a couple poems around this time (the ones that are linked on the right side of this blog, actually) and was reminded about how they say one of the goals of poetry is to say the most with the least words. Brevity. Conciseness. Indubitably! When I see a 1000-page book or a 3-hour movie, I challenge the creator to do more with less.

Third, roundabout this time my library request for Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian came through and I picked it up. I was introduced to McCarthy (in the red corner) when a number of his books turned up on the Notable Books List put out by the American Library Association. It's a great resource if you're looking for something to read. I read McCarthy's No Country for Old Men this past summer and loved it. Maybe you've seen the film which also kicks ass. Blood Meridian is 335 pages and McCarthy is one of those authors whose schtick is to accurately depict the language of his derelict characters. And oh yeah, he doesn't use quotation marks. It's amazing how quickly you fall in and realize that quotes are nothing but a waste of ink because you can always tell who is talking from the context.

So Rand vs. McCarthy. They're both great authors with their own styles. But I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'll wait for the Atlas Shrugged movie to come out.

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