“Every age must look to its poets…”

joyce“In fine the truth is not that the artist requires a document of
licence from householders entitling him to proceed in this or that
fashion but that every age must look for its sanction to its poets and
philosophers. The poet is the intense centre of the life of his age to
which he stands in a relation than which none can be more vital. He
alone is capable of absorbing in himself the life that surrounds him
and of flinging it abroad again amid planetary music. When the poetic
phenomenon is signalled in the heavens, exclaimed this
heaven-ascending essayist, it is time for the critics to verify their
calculations in accordance with it. It is time for them to acknowledge
that here the imagination has contemplated intensely the truth of the
being of the visible world and that beauty, the splendour of truth,
has been born. The age, though it bury itself fathoms deep in formulas
and machinery, has need of these realities which alone give and
sustain life and it must await from those chosen centres of
vivification the force to live, the security for life which can come
to it only from them. Thus the spirit of man makes a continual
affirmation.”

–James Joyce, Stephen Hero, ch. XIX

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The Atlas Shrugged Quote Book

Recently I talked with someone who would love Ayn Rand’s prophetic dystopian classic, Atlas Shrugged, but she was daunted by its immense size.  That’s unfortunate, and it made me want to do this as a teaser to invite people in.  By no means is this a “condensed” summary of the novel, but it is a collection of my favorite, representative quotes. 

I went through my copy of the book, and I typed up the passages I’d marked which were short and especially relevant.  I had to skip ones that were long (though I did include one whole paragraph below), and items that were simply examples of excellent writing.  My choices focus on the life-affirming aspects of the text, its insistence on patriotism and how Rand’s vision brings joy to life.  Most of the quotes about music, education, and political criticism had to be left out–I wanted my collection to be no more than three pages long, and that’s what it is.  This collection represents about a quarter of what I have marked in my copy. 

The page numbers refer to the mass market paperback edition, which I believe is still the current edition in print. 

Enjoy this introduction to the awesome world of Atlas Shrugged

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“We who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom?” (69)

“The reason my family has lasted for such a long time is that none of us has ever been permitted to think he is born a d’Anconia. We are expected to become one.” (89)

“Francisco, what’s the most depraved type of human being?”

“The man without a purpose.” (98)

“One is not supposed to be intellectual at a ball. One is simply supposed to be gay.”

“How? By being stupid?” (102)

“Then why do you want to struggle for years, squeezing out your gains in the form of pennies per ton–rather than accept a fortune for Rearden Metal? Why?”

“Because it’s mine.” (172)

“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” (188)

“He’s the looter who thinks that his end justifies his seizure of my means.” (189, first appearance of term “looter” in text)

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