I would hesitate to call it literature but Ayn Rand’s 1168 page opus Atlas Shrugged, which was published on October 10, 1957, has certainly had an impact as out-sized as its physical bulk. It has influenced generations of conservatives, libertarians, “Objectivists” and various cranks.
It debuted at #13 on the New York Times bestseller list and reached #3 two months later, staying on the list for 22 weeks. It sold steadily over the next decades but sales took off again during the financial uncertainties of the late 2000s, winding up as the #1 bestselling fiction book on Amazon in early 2009.
In the novel Rand championed an exaggerated form of “rational selfishness” that came to be known as “Objectivism,” where she declared that it was irrational for a person to do anything that was not in their own self-interest.
“The issue,” she wrote, “is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence.”
The convoluted plot of the novel expresses these views through heroic business titans who fight against an overgrown American government in an unspecified future that is imposing strict regulations on business.
Gore Vidal called the novel “nearly perfect in its immorality.”
I haven’t read a word of Atlas Shrugged, nor do I plan to. Which I’m sure Ayn Rand would say is my perfect self-interested right.