Anthem – Ayn Rand

This was my first venture into Rand’s work.  I can say she was a very eloquent writer, I enjoyed how she developed the short story and used her writing to describe a dystopia that man, though highly unlikely, may encounter.  The story was great, but I was not a big fan of the message.

Equality 7-2521 is the central character. He is living in a world where the word ‘I’ is forbidden.  He refers to himself as ‘our’ and groups as ‘we’.  He struggles in school and has feeling of sin as he explores his own thoughts and desires.  Everyone in his world is there for each other, as one.  The Council of Vocations has assigned Equality 7-2521 to be a street sweeper.  He is disappointed as he loves thinking, so he wanted to be a thinker, and to study and help the world he lived in.

One day, while cleaning a street, he found a secret passage.  Every night when the city went to the theater, he would sneak away and spend three hours in his secret underground passage.  Soon he discovered an ancient clear ball, which produced light like the sun (a light bulb).  He decided to take his discovery to the great minds to make the people’s lives better.  The elders decided that it would be foolish to use this as they just accepted their new tool, a candle.  Using the light would put hundreds out of a job because they wouldn’t need to make candles any more.

Equality ran away to start a new life, and found that a woman he knew and liked followed him out of the city into the uncharted forest. (I found it ironic that Rand wrote in a woman to follow Equality, when the theme of the story was independence.)  They found a house in the mountains and settled into it.  The house had a large collection of books, which Equality read and discovered the word ‘I’ and then the book went into a strong emphasis that ‘we’ was a thought that only hurt the progress of men.

“The word ‘We’ is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it  It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.”

As a special education teacher, I read her message and disagree.  I am tasked with helping to provide an education to students who struggle with reading and math.  Without assistance, my students may not achieve goals in life that many others could take for granted.  I consider my occupation to be a part of the ‘we’ as I put others first.  I make students, their parents, and our school happy by helping them earn a high school diploma.  I concede there are parts of that message that are important.  I push students to help themselves. I want them to feel the achievement they deserve.  ‘I’ is important in that aspect.  These students will only go as far as they want to.  There are also students who have higher degrees of disabilities.  There are students who cannot talk, cannot communicate as well as others.  How can I put myself first to say they are not my concern.  Isn’t our world a little better by trying to get these students as far as they can go?

Rating: ****** 6/10

A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway

I read Old Man and the Sea in one setting so I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on more Hemingway and I finally found a copy of A Farewell to Arms in a thrift store.  The balance of love and pain Hemingway puts into his writing reminds me of another great American writer I enjoy, Steinbeck.  Farewell was a nice read and had me all the way to the end.

An American, Frederick Henry, joins the Italian army to join the war effort against Austria.  He counts himself lucky to find his way to becoming an ambulance driver.  The position, he knew, had some danger but he considered it much more mild experience than the grunts at the front saw.  Early in the book, Hemingway built the grim scene of the war in Italy.  It seemed very light (in comparison to today’s standards), as soon as the snow came, the two sides settled down and put off the fighting until spring.  War was merely a summer job, while Henry traveled and experienced Italian culture in the winter. Henry and his friend, Ronaldi, talked of women, travel, and booze.  They were men’s men as Hemingway is known to build masculine characters.  Ronaldi introduced Frederick to Catherine, a British nurse and the two became playful as she warned Henry not to fall in love.  She had been in love with another soldier and his life was taken, so she was unsure she could love another soldier.

As the next war session commenced, Henry was preparing to start his duty near the front and was severely wounded.  His leg was blown with a bomb and he spent the rest of the summer in a hospital in Milan.  Catherine was transferred there and a proper romance began between the two.  Soon Catherine found herself carrying his child and they made plans to be together after the war.

After surgery, Henry returned to the war.  The Austrians were strong and led the Italians into a massive retreat.  This was a major low-point of the novel.  Lines of trucks were waiting for the proceeding vehicles to move forward.  As they patiently waited, in the back of their minds, the Austrians were getting nearer.  Henry made a decision to lead his group of ambulances to side roads to bypass the traffic jam.  A peaceful man, readers are surprised to find Henry killing a couple of engineers who walk away when he orders them to help get the trucks free from the mud they were trapped in.  Henry’s group walks the rest of the retreat.  As they neared their destination, Henry realized officers were being killed for leading their men in a cowardly retreat.  He was being questioned and about to be shot, when he dashed and dove into a river and floated to freedom.

Henry hopped a train and found his pregnant love, Catherine waiting.  He was unsure of the plan, but a friend alerted him in the middle of the night that he was identified and would be arrested in the morning.  Henry and Catherine borrowed the friend’s boat and rowed all night across a lake to the safety of Switzerland.  There, the couple enjoyed the winter and talked of where to settle down.

***SPOILER-

Catherine went into labor early in the Spring.  As they waited in the hospital, the contractions continued, but the baby wasn’t coming.  The doctor ordered a cesarean and prepped for surgery.  Henry worried and prayed.  He knew his love was in danger.  The baby had been strangled by his cord and didn’t survive. Catherine was recovering later that morning and they found she was hemorrhaging.  She was lost as well.  Henry was left with nothing.

While the ending sad, it was expected.  Though he wrote such a romantic escape, they were so close to living out their happy lives together, alas, life is not perfect. Hemingway showed us it can completely fall apart in the last chapter of our book.

Rating **********10/10

Author Peter S. Beagle Q&A

image

PETER S. BEAGLE
*Author of The Last Unicorn (1968)
     -Voted Top 5 Fantasy Novel of All Time by Locus subscribers
*Wrote the screenplay for the 1978 animated film, Lord of the Rings
*Awards: 2006 Hugo Award (Novella- Two Hearts), 2007 Nebula Award (Novella- Two Hearts), 2011 World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement

Until this week, I had not heard of the author, Mr. Beagle, nor his highly esteemed novel, The Last Unicorn. Normally, I reserve my blog for books I have read, but I haven’t actually read Beagle’s books, yet. I’m writing this blog because our local movie theater screened The Last Unicorn and had a Q&A with the author so I was able to meet him and have him sign a book for me (I chose The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche).

He was a genuinely kind man and spoke fondly of watching Gunsmoke as a child (I live in Dodge City, Kansas, by the way). Since I work for the city in the summer, this opened a door for me to exchange emails with Peter. I’m planning to send him some Dodge City souvenirs to thank him for taking the time to visit us. After a quick email exchange he sent a very nice message to say that a Dodge City badge I mentioned would look nice on the wall at his home. I look forward to keeping in touch with Mr. Beagle, and perhaps convincing him to make another trek to our little town in Southwest Kansas.

The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche will be on my review list soon, but we already give Peter two thumbs up!

image

image

PETER S. BEAGLE
*Author of The Last Unicorn (1968)
     -Voted Top 5 Fantasy Novel of All Time by Locus subscribers
*Wrote the screenplay for the 1978 animated film, Lord of the Rings
*Awards: 2006 Hugo Award (Novella- Two Hearts), 2007 Nebula Award (Novella- Two Hearts), 2011 World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement

Until this week, I had not heard of the author, Mr. Beagle, nor his highly esteemed novel, The Last Unicorn. Normally, I reserve my blog for books I have read, but I haven’t actually read Beagle’s books, yet. I’m writing this blog because our local movie theater screened The Last Unicorn and had a Q&A with the author so I was able to meet him and have him sign a book for me (I chose The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche).

He was a genuinely kind man and spoke fondly of watching Gunsmoke as a child (I live in Dodge City, Kansas, by the way). Since I work for the city in the summer, this opened a door for me to exchange emails with Peter. I’m planning to send him some Dodge City souvenirs to thank him for taking the time to visit us. After a quick email exchange he sent a very nice message to say that a Dodge City badge I mentioned would look nice on the wall at his home. I look forward to keeping in touch with Mr. Beagle, and perhaps convincing him to make another trek to our little town in Southwest Kansas.

The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche will be on my review list soon, but we already give Peter two thumbs up!

image