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levi-neptuneTwenty years ago, in 1994, the internet was very different from today. This was long before blogging, before the idea of social media (Mark Zuckerberg was only ten years old), and two years before Sergey Brin and Larry Page started the project that would end up becoming Google. It was the year that Lycos and Yahoo! (then known as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web”) were founded, that someone registered www.sex.com, and the White House, then occupied by Bill Clinton, moved online at www.whitehouse.gov. It was also the year that Levi Asher founded a website called Literary Kicks at http://www.charm.net/~brooklyn.1 It was one of only 2,738 websites occupying a rather uncluttered and unorganized internet, and it survives today as one of the longest running websites around.

 

I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged.   —Paul Ryan

 

Barack has pushed Malia to read some classics, The Grapes of Wrath, Tender Is the Night—she’s reading those, so I’ve been doing a lot of re-reading.   —Michelle Obama

 

Next Week: Everything good and bad about China crammed into one six inch rectangle!

 

Hi, I’m Stacie and I might need professional help. Sometimes I get really bored and end up writing fake excerpts from fake books written by authors I’m not overly fond of to a hopefully humorous effect. Like so:

Excerpt from a completely made up book that Ayn Rand could have written –

Tawnie Fipplestein surveyed the vast grey parking lot in front of him. It takes a man, a real man, to look at an empty lot and say “I’m going to put a horse-meat factory there!” And that’s exactly what Tawnie intended on doing.

He kicked at a small pebble on the ground. Insignificant stone! With its feminine curves and weak nature. He stepped on the stone and it crumbled under his Sperry loafers with an exciting pop. “I’ll crush all the stones,” Tawnie thought to himself, “I’ll leave no stone unturned.”

Behind him was Christabelle, sitting on a park bench and admiring Tawnie’s round yet manly buttocks. “It’s takes a real man to look at an empty lot and say ‘I’m going to put a horse-meat factory there!” she thought to herself. As though he read her mind, Tawnie set his arms akimbo and flexed his cheeks. Christabelle sighed lustily and fanned herself with her kerchief.

Excerpt from a completely made up book that Stephenie Meyer could have written –

I rose from my bed and groaned groggily, the night before still sour on my mind as I trudged towards my pink perfect bathroom. Mother insisted.

“All girls love pink!” she’d said, making my eyes roll so far back in my head I thought they might get lost. I raised my tooth brush, also pink, to my white, straight teeth and thought of Elton. Laurie introduced us the night before. Everyone knew of him, but no one really knew him, as evidenced by Laurie’s halting introduction.

“He lives in the old Manor house. Now, I always thought that place was condemned?”

“No, it’s…beautiful,” he replied, his blue eyes, the color of freshly cleaned toilet water, trained on my face.

Raining again, of course, I thought to myself as I regarded my foamy-mouthed reflection. It always rains here in Spooner, Washington, where I was born and where I still lived. No one ever left Spooner. It was an inescapable place.

I piled my luxurious raven hair atop my head and pulled on my favorite pair of size two jeans. “Sardonica, breakfast!” my mother shouted up the carpeted stairs. I gulped a breath and padded down to the kitchen.

Excerpt from a completely made up book that Dan Brown could have written –

Dr. Bone Inquisitor, Esq. surveyed the scene; one dead woman, covered in cornbread dust, a hanged Pomeranian, and a door stop. What could it mean, he thought moodily.

Chief Inspector Hannibal C. Blount entered the room. He looked around quickly, summing up events, as was his way.

“What we have here,” he started, picking an errant blond hair off his impeccable suit, “is one dead woman covered in cornbread dust, a hanged Pomeranian, and a door stop. What do you think it means?”

Bone knelt over the woman and took a whiff, waving his hand upwards to drum up more of the scent. “Smells like…”

“Maple syrup,” Inspector Blount offered with a snap of his fingers. Bone nodded perilously.

“Exactly,” he said, putting his pen in his mouth. “Maple syrup.”

Excerpt from a completely made up book that Chuck Palahniuk could have written –

This dude, the one who’s blowing me in the alley, he takes my floppy dog from between his dick-sucking lips, looks up, and says,

“Did you know Houdini died from a blow to the torso?”

Keep on sucking, I tell him. He wraps his fat hairy hand around my dong and strokes it as he goes on.

“No, it’s true. Houdini challenged a strong man to punch him in the gut and the guy did it before he was ready. He had to brace himself for the blow.”

“Less talky, more sucky.”

“Marcel Proust was a mama’s boy, it’s a proven fact.”

I push the dude’s face into my crotch. The rest of his words were garbled by my dick and ratty pubic hair.

“Genghis Khan had tiny feet. Marilyn Monroe was really a guy. The colon can hold ten gallons of dung before it explodes.”

Little did I know just how right he was.

Photo credit:  Wah-Ming Chang.

On April 15, 2011, almost thirty years after Ayn Rand’s death in 1982, Atlas Shrugged opened in theatres around the country. The movie is based on Rand’s bestselling dystopian novel of the same name, a literary vehicle expressing her trademark worldview: the morality of rational self-interest, or, “Objectivism.” It was financed by a wealthy devotee of Ayn Rand’s work, and marketed aggressively to the Tea Party demographic by FreedomWorks, one of the prime movers in the Tea Party movement, which engaged in a massive campaign to encourage audience attendance, and to push the film into as many theaters as possible. The opening line of Atlas Shrugged — “Who is John Galt?” — has appeared on signs at Tea Party protests across America. Glenn Beck praises Atlas Shrugged regularly, and hosted a panel discussion dedicated to asking if Rand’s fiction is finally becoming reality. Once a shadowy cult presence in the margins of American life, Ayn Rand is now one of the central intellectual and cultural inspirations for the base of the Republican Party.

Mary Gaitskill published a novel called Two Girls, Fat and Thin in 1991. The novel featured a thinly disguised Rand character, Anna Granite, and her philosophy of “Definitism.” Like the character Justine in her novel, Gaitskill had actually interviewed followers of Ayn Rand.

It seemed an opportune time to ask Mary Gaitskill, what is it about Ayn Rand, and why is she still here? What inspired her to write about Ayn Rand? And some other questions. She graciously consented to an interview.