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A Reader of Fictions: I Am Mine - Pearl Jam

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Am Mine - Pearl Jam

Anthem

Author: Ayn Rand
Pages: 105
Publisher: Signet
Source: Own

Description from Goodreads:
Anthem has long been hailed as one of Ayn Rand's classic novels, and a clear predecessor to her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In Anthem, Rand examines a frightening future in which individuals have no name, no independence, and no values. Equality 7-2521 lives in the dark ages of the future where all decisions are made by committee, all people live in collectives, and all traces of individualism have been wiped out. Despite such a restrictive environment, the spark of individual thought and freedom still burns in him--a passion which he has been taught to call sinful. In a purely egalitarian world, Equality 7-2521 dares to stand apart from the herd--to think and choose for himself, to discover electricity, and to love the woman of his choice. Now he has been marked for death for committing the ultimate sin. In a world where the great "we" reign supreme, he has rediscovered the lost and holy word--"I."

First Sentence: "It is a sin to write this."

Review:
Due to the influx of shiny new dystopias into the world, this is probably the only dystopian classic I'll be reviewing this month. Actually, I have already read Anthem, ages ago, when I was in my sophomore year of high school, so long, apparently, that the yellow of my highlighting is scarcely discernible. At the time, I loathed it, as I did much of my required reading. Now that I'm older and better educated, I have a much better understanding of what Ayn Rand was up to. Though heavy-handed, there is a lot that is interesting in Ayn Rand's brief philosophical work.

Readers unfamiliar with Ayn Rand should know some things before they launch into Anthem. One thing that would be helpful to know is that she's crazy. Her ideas are incredibly radical. She believes in the power of the individual and has loathing for anything that compels a person to do anything. As such, she very much does not approve of collectivism, and that is what she is challenging in Anthem. Though written in story format, Anthem is a thinly veiled philosophical and political tract. This was just a way for her to tell you her opinions, which she will do via her character.

The dystopian society depicted in Anthem is a fascinating one, and I really wish that she had done justice to it. This story would have benefited greatly from more pages and less of the dreaded opinion hammer. In the world of Anthem, men live in the collective, raised to be entirely equal. They go from the Home of the Infants to the Home of the Students to the Home of their designated employment to the Home of the Useless. This is the life of all men. There is no individual, only the collective.

To accomplish this sense of the group, the story is told in first person plural, a very unusual storytelling method, also seen earlier in Dystopian August in What's Left of Me. In essence, this means that the main character, Equality 7-2521 refers to himself as we, because there is only the we. All his life, Equality 7-2521 has not fit in properly, because he is too clever, too curious, too tall and too aware of his superiority. As such, he is forced into a menial profession. His desire for learning cannot be quenched, though, and he finds ways to sneak around and gather knowledge, quickly surpassing the Scholars of his community.

Along the way, he becomes attracted to a woman, something entirely forbidden. He even has the audacity to speak with her and to call her by an individual name (The Golden One). Through all of his rebellion, however, his ultimate goal is to gain acceptance from his community. He wants to show them what he has discovered and to improve their lives. He just wants to be one of them, and, if not admired himself, have his invention admired.

As I said, this could be a powerful tale about the importance of language and individualism. Rand could have made her point more strongly had she shown the reader the truth of it, rather than telling us, from her lordly perch, what we should believe, a rather ironic issue. Her tale about the importance of learning for oneself and not being told what to do is trying to set the reader's opinions.

The other aspect I find rather upsetting is the role of the female character, Liberty 5-3000. She too sees something wrong in the society, as evidenced by her fearless, sharp eyes. However, the reader does not get to learn anything about her besides that and her attraction to Equality 7-2521. While he is inventing things, she continues to do her work. He thinks of her as The Golden One (which refers to her lovely appearance), while she thinks of him as The Unconquered (which speaks to his powerful spirit and intelligence). Even worse, when they learn about people having names just for themselves, he gives himself a name he finds fitting...and then he chooses one for her. Let her pick her own goddamn name. The patriarchal attitude inherent in this made me so incredibly angry, especially when coming from a powerful woman.

For anyone interested in reading dystopias, Anthem is certainly worth perusing, especially since it's so brief. Were Ayn Rand still alive, I bet she would have some choice things to say about No Child Left Behind; imagining this really amuses me.


Favorite Quote: "I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers, but such as each of them shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than to have been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned." 

"The selfish, they're all standing in line
Faithing and hoping to buy themselves time
Me, I figure as each breath goes by
I only own my mind
"

Remember: Every comment on a post during Dystopian August is an entry to win one of fourteen dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels IF you've filled out the form from this post.

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20 Comments:

Blogger Lilian said...

I read Anthem during high school too during my dystopian obsession phase, even though it wasn't assigned. And it taught be the world "collectivism," I swear I used it in as least two essays after I read it. And it was shorter than her other famous works (Atlas Struggled, Fountainhead, etc.); even if I don't like it, it wouldn't be too painful to finish.

I don't remember what I thought about it. Other than it's ideas were a lot more straightforward. The whole story shoves what Rand stands for in your face.

I don't remember anything about the story though, I didn't even remember reading this until recently. I faintly remember the ending..and them running off. I think he had a screwdriver or something. Yep, I really don't remember anything from The Anthem. *bangs head on desk*

"Let her pick her own goddamn name."
*spurts milk*

August 12, 2012 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Adriana said...

I read this in High School too but of my own accord. I absolutely hated it. The main thing that ticked me off really was I remember something about the man taking control of the situation or woman and it just really pissed me off. The girl just followed him everywhere and something like that... She's a woman and she's supposed be all radical but if she was all that radical she would have created a stronger female role.

August 12, 2012 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, it probably would be a much more well known and better book if it were as long as those too, though. Instead, she was just like LET ME TELL YOU HOW SMART I AM AND HOW WRONG EVERYONE ELSE IS!

IN YO FACE.

He made the electric light.

WHY CAN'T SHE CHOOSE HER OWN NAME? *flips table*

August 13, 2012 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yup. That was my huge issue. Like WTF is that Ayn Rand. Shouldn't she be like you and beating everyone with her opinions? No? WHY NOT?

August 13, 2012 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Lilian said...

"LET ME TELL YOU HOW SMART I AM AND HOW WRONG EVERYONE ELSE IS!"
Why does that sound so much like my agenda? hmmmmm.... *wink*

WHAT? HE DID? WHY DOES THAT NOT RING ANY BELLS?!?!? ARE YOU LYING TO ME?

I DON'T KNOW, MAYBE SHE DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO CHOOSE NAMES?!?!! NOW YOU'VE CAUGHT MY FLIPPING TABLE HABITS!

August 13, 2012 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh man, you can be the Ayn Rand of our generation. Get ready to be the best, if only in your own head. First step: develop your own radical philosophy.

HE DID. NOT THIS TIME.

MAYBE. YOU ARE A BAD INFLUENCE.

August 13, 2012 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Lilian said...

Oh, I have to gigantic ego part down already. Radical philosophy....hm, how about ALL COWS AND PIGS SHOULD BE GIVEN SUFFRAGE!? Radical enough?

I AM STILL SKEPTICAL. BUT WHATEVER. I am too lazy to reread it. So I'll take your word.

*gasp* ME? BAD INFLUENCE? IMPOSSIBRU! I am a great influence, I make people awesome.

August 13, 2012 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Pretty sure that book has been written. It's called Animal Farm.

WHY YOU NO TRUST ME?

*is skeptical*

August 13, 2012 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Lilian said...

oh yeah. That thing.
FINE. DOLPHINS AND SEA TURTLES SHOULD BE MODES OF TRANSPORTATION. And while I'm at it, TABLE FLIPPING SHOULD BE AN OLYMPIC SPORT.

BECAUSE THIS IS THE INTERNET. AND EVERYONE IS A FLITHY LIAR ON THE INTERNET. INCLUDING ME. I could be a old hairy guy for all you know...muhahahahahaha

August 13, 2012 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

BEST MODE OF TRANSPORTATION EVER. ALSO, YES, YES, IT SHOULD.

EWWW.

*gasps*

I BET YOU'RE NOT EVEN ASIAN!

August 13, 2012 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Lilian said...

What took you so long to realize it? *smirks*
Didn't you think it was odd I had such good English?

August 13, 2012 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

*weeps*

I WILL NEVER TRUST AGAIN!

August 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Alessandra @Out of the Blue said...

I had never heard of Ayn Rand before I started blogging about books and read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In Italy she is almost unknown. I guess we already had Oriana Fallaci.

It turns out, Anthem was translated into Italian in 2003 and released by a very small publisher. 88 pages for ā‚¬13,00 plus shipping costs to order it. I wonder why I am not tempted, especially after reading your ecstatic review (*sarcasm mode off*)

BTW: I deleted my browser's cache and history yesterday. Today I typed your whole URL as I remembered it, http://readeroffiction.blogspot.com - it told me the blog had been removed. I was almost scared you had pulled a MochaLatteReads on me and deleted your blog overnight.

August 13, 2012 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger aLilLacey said...

I've never read a classic dystopian book before so this would be a fun read. Thanks for the review. Added TBR

August 13, 2012 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Wow! And I've never heard of Oriana Fallaci. It's cool that in English, her name looks like the word fallacy. *is random*

Holy cow. Yeah, no one in Italy should EVER read Anthem. Ever. I found it interesting from a philosophical point of view, but no. Maybe a library?

Oh no! I don't think I would ever delete my blog. Even if I stopped blogging, I would leave it up, because I put so much effort into it and the reviews up could still be a resource!

August 14, 2012 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Cool. Hope it entertains you!

August 14, 2012 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger Alessandra @Out of the Blue said...

If you're interested in Oriana Fallaci, try looking her up on Wikipedia. She's one of the most famous Italian journalists, mostly active during the 1960s to early 1980s. After 9/11 she made the news with her incendiary anti-Islamic positions. An Italian singer-songwriter called her, "the journalist who loves war because it reminds her of the times when she was young and beautiful".

I've deliberately kept myself from reading her work so far. She deeply unnerved me. Now, however, it's been a few years since she passed away, and I ended up buying a heavily discounted paperback of her last novel - her own family saga, published posthumously. You know, as much as she irritated me, I must admit that she lived adventurously, had guts, and also wrote beautiful prose.

(I didn't know it before, but according to Wikipedia the Ayn Rand Institute apparently supported her cause: see Oriana Fallaci controversy)

Libraries in my area often only keep books by big-name publishers and/or books which are frequently requested. They seem to have Fountainhead (2004), but not the three volumes of Atlas Shrugged (2007). This is from the same publisher of, among others, Jodi Picoult, Diana Gabaldon, and Charlotte Link and it's marketed as "women's fiction". This publisher claims Ayn Rand has enjoyed great success in Italy when they first came out (I guess in the 1950s or 1960s), and it might well be, but I had never heard of her since very recently, and I'm pretty sure most Italian people who are now in their 20s or early to mid 30s have never heard of her. My interest in her comes from her being a part of the required reading in US schools.

August 14, 2012 at 3:40 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Whoa! I was assuming she was in the same generation as Ayn Rand. Also, that singer-songwriter is hilarious. What a good burn!

We are learning so many things! No wonder you guys don't need Ayn Rand. Sounds like that will be some interesting reading when you get to it.

Fountainhead comes in three volumes in Italy? Do they split up long books a lot? I've read that one, but not Atlas Shrugged yet. Her books are good, even if she is anti-feminist and has crazy ideas. I feel so lucky (for once) to live in the US, where I have access to all of the books, though I do miss out on some non-translate authors. I can't have ALL of them. This is a sad thing.

August 15, 2012 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Alessandra @Out of the Blue said...

I could write a series of blog posts just in response to your comments. Uhm, maybe I will.

As for splitting up long books: consider that when you translate a literary work from English into Italian, it will always be at least a bit longer than the original. Italian has longer words, longer sentences, longer everything. Up to very recent times, it was perfectly normal to split up longer translated books. Critical editions of Russian classics, just to make an example, are often in 2 or 3 volumes. From each book in A Song of Ice and Fire, the Italian publisher released 2 or 3 different books. Books are easier to carry that way, but they are also more expensive. Titles get changed so much that they are not often easily recognizable. Now they are re-publishing each book in the saga as 1 single volume (they are BIG and HEAVY, but cheaper, and that's what fans want- ho have the complete book so that they can compare it to the screen adaptation).

August 16, 2012 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oooh, I would totally read that blog post.

I am learning so many things from you! I had no idea Italian was SO MUCH LONGER.

On an unrelated note, I love Italy. I want to live in Tuscany or at least visit for a good long while.

August 16, 2012 at 4:31 PM  

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