This photo may or may not be authentic. It shows House Speaker Paul Ryan with a cutout of the late novelist Ayn Rand. The Speaker has been quoted as saying her best seller, Atlas Shrugged, is one of his favorites.
It is this relationship between a powerful politician and an author of fiction that inspired me to release my second novel in the Chronicles of Spartak series on January 16. Ryan is known for his antipathy to social programs, adoration of tax cuts and deep belief in libertarianism. Rand is known for her best sellers on “the value of selfishness.” Her audience, it seems to me, is mostly male college freshmen flirting with big ideas and being away from home and hard-core libertarians. I was taken with her as a nineteen-year-old. But the romance just wasn’t long term.
In high school, I was in a play, The Night of January 16. It was by Ayn Rand (born Alissa Rosenbaum), written before her best sellers Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. She championed something called Objectivism, admired laissez-faire capitalism and opposed socialism and altruism. Being selfish was a virtue.
Spartak understands her. In 22nd century America, unfettered capitalism has led to a dozen families controlling all wealth. Gerrymandering has kept all the wrong people from voting. The middle class has collapsed. Sounds a little like headlines today. And a bored elite in Spartak’s world are looking for new gewgaws to flout their wealth. Diamonds and yachts are so yesterday. Humans as trophies are the newest toys to show off to your friends. “Why buy a painting,” one man comments, “when you can own the artist?”
Ayn Rand is seen as a prophet in 2115 America. And Spartak detests her but must remain mute. What I see happening in America today led me to write the two-book series.
Spartak has a different set of values. He protects family and friends, is selfless and willing to take risks for the common good. Like a Musketeer in the Alexandre Dumas novel. And he is kidnapped and taken as a slave, a birthday present for the richest teenager on the planet. The guy had no idea what he was getting. Or, how together, they would change America.
I suspect Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan would not like Spartak and their heirs would learn to fear him. So, I celebrate Ayn Rand, Speaker Ryan and Spartak on a special date.
A bit more on Ayn Rand.
In a 1940s movie, Fountainhead starring Gary Cooper, architect Howard Roark burns down a building he has designed rather than deal with the petty government officials and planners, like the Lilliputians in Johnathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt gets the truly creative people to pull back from society to watch it collapse without them.
I suspect President Putin likes this Rand quote. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
Rand died decades before President Trump but she seems prescient about some of his supporters in Congress: “The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.”
From her best seller:
“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders – What would you tell him?”
“I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”
Spartak could relate to this Rand quote: “Don’t fool yourself, my dear. You’re much worse than a bitch. You’re a saint. Which shows why saints are dangerous and undesirable.”
Humor was not her strong point: “The worst evil that you can do, psychologically, is to laugh at yourself. That means spitting in your own face.”
Thanks Ayn and Paul for the inspiration.