Thursday, 31 May 2012

Illuminatus! vs Atlas Shrugged

As has been widely noted, the twenty-first century is strange, worrying and makes very little sense. Help is at hand, however, because the late twentieth century produced two huge novels which shed light on our current predicament. These two books are polar opposites, yet oddly similar - opposed twins, in other words, like Cain and Abel.

Both novels are ridiculously long. Both were largely ignored by the literary and educational establishments, due to their unmistakable whiff of madness (This fear of insanity is, of course, why the literary and educational establishments always miss out on all the good stuff.) They have both, however, found a devoted readership, been hailed as life changing, and have remained in print since publication. Between them, they explain much of our current twenty-first century world, from the underground anarchism of Anonymous and the shift from hierarchies to networks, to the Tea Party and neo-conservative hijack of American politics and the massive shift in wealth distribution towards the super rich.

These two books are, of course Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! Trilogy (Co-written with Robert Shea, who I'm rudely leaving out of the picture in order to portray a false RAW/Rand dichotomy).

But - which is which? Fear not, the following guide will explain all:



Illuminatus!

Atlas Shrugged

Opening line: 
“It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton.”

Opening line: 
“Who is John Galt?”
804 pages

1184 pages.
Superficially a sci-fi tinged mystery novel, but really the philosophy of Discordianism in fictional form.

Superficially a sci-fi tinged mystery novel, but really the philosophy of Objectivism in fictional form.
Views the world through the metaphor of the Greek Goddess Eris.

Views the world through the metaphor of the Greek Titan Atlas.
Has been known to turn previously sane readers into paranoid schizophrenics.

Has been known to turn previously sane readers into sociopaths.
Portrays hierarchical systems abstracted to the point of absurdity, although some readers find that absurdity plausible.

Portrays individual liberty abstracted to the point of absurdity, although some readers find that absurdity plausible.
Written by a sane man who believed he was insane.

Written by an insane woman who believed she was sane.

Portrays powerful men as utterly deluded about their influence on world history.

Portrays powerful men as utterly pivotal due to their influence on world history.
Characters who lack a sense of empathy and connection find sex devoid of meaning.

Characters who lack a sense of self-interest and purpose find sex devoid of meaning.
Author never makes things simple for his readers.

Author never makes things difficult for her readers.
Has the ability to make those who haven’t read it bemused.

Has the ability to make those who haven’t read it extremely angry.
Completely unfilmable.
Completely unfilmable (see the 2011 film Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 for more details)

Portrays the powerful elite in ways utterly removed from how the powerful elite actual act.

Portrays the proletariat in ways utterly removed from how the proletariat actual act.
Views government as dangerous and deluded.

Views government as dangerous and parasitical.
Author is so extreme that they were at one point accused of being an undercover CIA agent working to discredit conspiracy theories.

Author is so extreme that they were at one point accused of being a Soviet sleeper agent working to discredit capitalism.
At one point, a character fucks a giant apple.

No-one fucks any apples.
Considers an individual’s belief that their personal philosophy is the only true philosophy to be the cause of all the confusion, misery and problems in the world.

Considers the author’s personal philosophy to be the only true philosophy.
It is seemingly impossible to find anyone who knew the author who has a bad word to say about him.
*shudder*

  



(Students of bias may wish to note that, whilst at least one review of my novel The Brandy of the Damned noted the influence of Robert Anton Wilson, no review of any of my books has yet mentioned influence from Ayn Rand.)