"When forced to assume [self-government], we were novices in its science. Its principles and forms had entered little into our former education. We established, however, some, although not all its important principles."                                --Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824.
One evening after the publication of The Fountainhead , Ayn Rand was on the phone, discussing her disappointment over early sales with author Isabel Paterson. Paterson suggested that Rand stop trying to offer her radical ideas in fictional form, and instead write a nonfiction treatise. Rand disagreed.
Ayn Rand called Atlas Shrugged a “stunt novel.” She meant that it is a rollicking entertainment: a mystery novel with dramatic twists and revelations, a satirical burlesque of collectivist and irrationalist culture, a heroic quest, and a steamy romance novel with plenty of rough sex. But I think the real stunt is the way Rand combines all this in a high-concept intellectual tour de force, rich in symbols and thematic integrity, taking on the intellectual traditions of Western civilization and dishing up a fresh perspective on the fundamental issues behind those traditions. 
Exactly forty years ago, this month, I was contemplating the tattered wreckage of my college career.  And The Book was responsible. 
Dagny Taggart shoots guns and flies airplanes. These rational survival skills exhilarate all the heroes in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Because I learned to shoot and to fly as a Jewish child during World War II, I confirm that flying and shooting teach the power of the mind to surpass the body's limitations as earth-bound and as vulnerable to vicious thugs. Both flying and shooting require mental and physical discipline, preparation, practice, and bravura technique.


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