Gut Rumbles

June 30, 2005

don't get me started

I could talk for hours on this topic. I believe that I've read everything Robert Heinlein or Ayn Rand ever wrote, and both have affected my personal philosophy a GREAT DEAL. In the end, after thinking long and hard on it all, I agree more with Heinlein than I do Rand.

Rand saw things in pure black and white--- no room for compromise in there. Heinlein posited ideas and welcomed debate. Both thought a lot alike, but they were completely different in how they framed their philosophies.

Don't get me wrong--- I admire both of them. But Rand was like a strict school marm and Heinlein was more like a Socrates. Rand was ready to beat you over the head with her ideas, and she did exactly that in her books. They were GOOD ideas, but she was a battle-axe in the way she expressed them. Some of her work reminds me of screeching fingernails on a blackboard.

Heinlein, on the other hand, was more the type to laugh when you disagreed with him and ask, "Well, my son... WHY do you think that way?" And he wanted to hear what you had to say. He might puncture every one of your arguments with the skill of an expert swordsman, but he'd give you the chance to speak.

If you want to read Ayn Rand, start with We, the Living, then read Anthem and THEN read The Fountainhead. Only after that tutorial on Ayn Rand should you jump into Atlas Shrugged. If you DON"T do it that way, you'll never grasp what Ayn Rand spent her whole life saying.

(That's just MY humble advice as an English Major.)

Heinlein is someone you can read at ANY time in your life and you don't need to take his books in order to "get" what he meant to say. I still believe that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a POWERFUL book, speaking about what made America great and how that greatness slipped away when people sacrificed their individualism for the "comfort" of government control.

Read 'em both. But don't say the two were alike.

They weren't. And for all you people who think I'm a red-necked. moonshine-making, gun-owning, cat-hating sumbitch, you're absolutely right about me. But I read some, too.


I am buzzing way too much right now to analyze this.....(I will check back later)

PS...wheres my bumper sticker?

Posted by: Ruth on June 30, 2005 04:26 PM

Not much chance of those two authors showing up on a reading list in today's government schools, Rob. The transformation from individual to herd is more complete every day.

We got a holiday coming up. Everyone in the media and most of the populace call it "4th of July". That's just a bank holiday with fireworks. I'd like to know how many of us are left that celebrate INDEPENDENCE DAY. Sorry for shouting . . . On second thought, no, I'm not.

Posted by: Larry Kephart on June 30, 2005 04:47 PM

Pleased to see you single out The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Rob. I have long believed that to be his best book.

Although, unlike either RAH or Ayn, I have come to believe the American system is not doomed to fall apart any time soon. I think they both wrote at times when things were slowly falling apart, lived to see our country's lowest ebb since the Great Depression, the 1970s. Yet I believe things are and have been getting better in most respects in ways that most grouchy old Jubal Harshaw types haven't recognized but should.

We always make it by the skin of our teeth. It's just how we work.

Posted by: Dean Esmay on June 30, 2005 05:34 PM

I teach 7th grade social studies. I have stocked my "free reading" bookshelves with Heinlein. It's a pity that so much of his best work is inappropriate for kids that young.

I have had several students tell me that the book Starship Troopers is much better than the movie.

When I move up to the high school and teach government, I'm making Starship Troopers required reading and devoting class time to discussing it.

Posted by: Gahrie on June 30, 2005 05:34 PM

You're instincts are right on there, Rob

Although I find that typical of Women...

Pure black and white, right and wrong.
No gray area in between.

They make good judges and terrible Senators.

Posted by: GrampaPinhead on June 30, 2005 05:55 PM

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Posted by: givemepink on June 30, 2005 06:48 PM

My personal Heinlein favourite is "Stranger in a Strange Land"

Posted by: 11B on June 30, 2005 07:04 PM

Well, I guess I'm doing it ass backwards. I just discovered Ayn Rand and I started with Atlas Shrugged. I'm not done with it yet, I'll do the rest in order.
As for Heinlein, he is my all time favorite. He supplanted Asimov. The first book of his I read was The Cat who Walks Through Walls. That book helped solidify my personal philosophy as a libertarian.

Posted by: bbuddha on June 30, 2005 07:14 PM

It's ironic that you mentioned The Moon is a Harsh Mistress today, because I had related to a coworker my favorite small bit in that book.

It was a brief explanation on manners. When everyone around you is working in a zero-g spacesuit, everyone learns good manners. You certainly don't want to be the neighborhood bully when the guy you are picking on can settle matters by making a small cut in your suit.

For some odd reason that one scene in that book has stayed with me for a very long time.

Posted by: Dimitrios on June 30, 2005 07:19 PM

I have read every word of Heinlein's I've been able to find with the exception of his last, posthumously published work. I just finished re-reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for the umpteenth time (don't know how many, exactly. I've worn out at least three copies.)

I've read several of Rand's essays - The Comprachicos is one that really seems spot-on and prescient to me - and I tried (really I did!) to read Atlas Shrugged, but was ultimately unsuccessful at finishing it. This is saying something, as I've probably read somewhere close to ten thousand books, and can count on my fingers the ones I haven't finished. (I actually read Battlefield Earth all the way through!)

As a novelist, Rand makes a decent, but bombastic essayist. Her characters were two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, the only colors in her universe were, as you say, black and white (no gray anywhere), and I got tired of having her repeat her points over and over and over and over and OVER.... Well, anyway, I couldn't finish it.

But I got her point. (And decided she had some serious sexual hangups having to do with control, too.)

Anyway, one of the most accurate things I've ever seen written about Rand comes from fellow blogger Dipnut of Isn'tapundit:

"Perhaps the biggest mistake an intellectual can make is to try to parlay his one brilliant insight into a unified theory of existence. Ayn Rand made this mistake with Objectivism. Objectivism was useful for thinking in certain limited realms, but Rand sought to apply Objectivist thinking to every aspect of the human experience, including love. The result is a sterile philosophical landscape, extending out of sight in all directions. Tellingly, Rand was unable to live according to her ideals. This is part of what makes Rand so disagreeable; the almost hysterical denial of subjectivity's inevitable, essential role in our lives. And it makes her not only disagreeable, but wrong."

Thought you might appreciate the sentiment.

Posted by: Kevin Baker on June 30, 2005 09:21 PM

I just finished reading "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" like yesterday. I loved it.

A used book store near here had like 6 Heinlein novels, I only had money to buy a couple, but hopefully the others will still be there when I go back next time.

The first Heinlein novel I ever read was Have Spacesuit Will Travel, and they had that one at that book shop so I was sure to pick it up. I'm just now starting to reread it. Though I barely remember it from the first time cause I was in the sixth grade.

Posted by: Nick Wright on June 30, 2005 09:31 PM

I agree completely with your comparison of the two and why she can be hard to take. I'd maybe flip Anthem to first, but otherwise that's a good order. On the other hand, I found We The Living tough slogging at times compared to Fountainhead. It does a lot to take you inside what made her tick though, and inside what exactly the USSR was.

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is one of the best books ever. I read it again periodically, but that's true of other Heinlein as well, most notably his Past Through Tomorrow future history.

Posted by: Jay on June 30, 2005 11:53 PM

On another note, Deb and I always talk about what an interesting concept line marriage is.

Posted by: Jay on June 30, 2005 11:56 PM

i didnt read anything by rand until i read atlas shrugged and i got her point in the first fifty pages and then she spent the next twelve hundred pages repeatedly beating it into me in case i didnt get it the first time....

Posted by: mr. helpful on July 1, 2005 12:14 AM

I must admit to not having read Rand. I thank you for your suggestion on what order to take her books. On the other hand, I too have read everything Heinlein wrote, and reread them when the mood and/or opportunity strikes. I never tire of him.

Yeah, he gets a little sexy in some of the books meant for the adult market, "Time Enough for Love" comes immediately to mind, but he did clean it up for the ones intended for juveniles. The interesting thing is that that's the only difference in them. His ideas and concepts remain the same.

Funny that you should mention "expert swordsman", I believe that he was on the fencing team at Annapolis.

Posted by: StinKerr on July 1, 2005 01:32 AM

Rand: ugh. Boring crap. And she spends 2 million pages (give or take a few) in Atlas Shrugged preaching about how the system will eventually die -- and then, after the system dies, the book ends.

My question: with WHAT would Rand have replaced the system she destroyed?

Answer: not much, except a bunch of moony anarcho-syndicalists, or "libertarians", as they seem to call themselves these days. And that system would have collapsed more quickly than the one it replaced.

Remember, libertarianism/objectivism works perfectly: right up until Hitler or Stalin crashes the party. The it's exposed for the wishful thinking it really is.

Heinlein: excellent. And I don't even like Sci-Fi.

Posted by: Kim du Toit on July 1, 2005 01:47 AM

Your topics on here often seem to be redundant. Below is a repeat of my post from Jun 11, 2005. I guess I will just recycle it again to apply to your current regurgitated issue here. You state that Ayn Rand has "affected your personal philosophy A GREAT DEAL", but you have never bothered to sum up what you thought HER philosophy to be.

My interpretation. Please feel free to debate.

We The Living was Ayn's first novel, but it was The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged that highlighted HER philosophy of Objectivism....which basically argued for the justification of narcissism as a necessary component of a productive society. Without ego's and selfish agenda's, where would a capitalistic society be? Which in itself is a good question for today....Where does a democratic society draw the line on an individual's money, power and influence over what is good for the nation as a whole?

Posted by: PJ on June 11, 2005 03:46 AM

Society with ego's run amuck can result in exactly what we have today. George W. Bush, Halliburton, Jack Abramoff, etc. Nothing but pilferage at the expense of the masses.

Posted by: PJ on July 1, 2005 04:32 AM

Someone mentioned "Stranger in a Strange Land." After his death, a family member found the original manuscript, and it was about twice as long as the original release. The original editors thought it too risque , so they cut half of it out. The uncut version was republished after his death. Get it. It's good!

Posted by: Ed on July 1, 2005 09:08 AM

Rand did preach quite a bit while Robert took the more laid back route and you fell into the path he was trying to show you.

Posted by: Sean on July 1, 2005 11:02 AM

Yeah, PJ. I live my life to steal YOUR wonderful ideas. I've never read your blog in my life and I don't intend to. I already know what's there.

If you want "regurgitation," just read the fucking comments you leave on my blog.


Posted by: Acidman on July 1, 2005 11:49 AM

I'll take George of the Bush variety over the Soros variety anyday. Which one has the most money btw, PJ?

Posted by: Ed on July 1, 2005 01:54 PM

"she did teach me who the greedy ones really are and it is not the Halliburtons of the world but the ones who expect the free lunch."


Yep, you are definitely a Republican GUYK. Only a right-wing nut job would consider it giving free lunch to help fund programs for those less fortunate while paying billions of American taxpayer dollars to corrupt, bid rigging contractors like Halliburton.

Posted by: PJ on July 2, 2005 03:49 AM

Well, I read AR backwards, I guess, starting with Atlas Shrugged the summer I was 15, then Fountainhead, then WTL and Anthem last -- read 'em all several times over the years, and yes, profoundly affected. Ditto for Heinlein -- he is the best and there is an appropriately pithy Lazarus Long comment for practically any situation. But here's a RAH quote that I ran across yesterday and thought immediately of Acidman: "Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea." :-)

Posted by: Marianne on July 4, 2005 05:33 AM
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