The Art of Fiction gives writers (and readers) tools for thinking about how writing is done, and specially how Ms. Rand wrote. If you read her books, you will particularly find her insights to her own works very helpful. She is speaking of "romantic" literature as opposed to "naturalistic" literature, and shows the differences in the purposes of these types of literature. Much of the criticisms leveled at a book such as "Atlas Shrugged" can be understood in light of the specific type of literature that Ms. Rand wrote, and the purposes of such a type.
I read the reviews before I purchased the book, and find the criticism to be a bit strange. Yes, Arn Rand thinks she is a good writer, and shows examples of other writings that she deemed require improvement - one would expect as much given the purpose of the personal talks that she gave to a group of friends and interested acquaintances that were later edited into this book. The book is short and rather episodic, rather than flowing - again a product of the converting informal lectures into a book.
In any case, as someone who wanted to use the book to become a better reader, I found it very insightful as a reader in general, and specifically as a reader of Ms. Rand.
I read the Audible reviews prior to buying the book, and decided that this narrator was worth the try since the cost was half of the other choice. I was not disappointed! I loved the book, not because I agree with all that is in it, but because it makes me think. I am a serious Christian, and this book is written from an athestic view point. What is interesting is the chief premise, among so many, is that we must live by what is, or A = A, or what is, is. I have had my last several months captivated by analyzing this book's many ideas against A = A, when in fact A starts with "there is a God, who is Creator, who is the center of all things." Then one can take the ideas and determine if they really hold up to the real A that is.
The story brings out so many ideas that to list them is daunting, but if you want to have "story" provide you a place for working on, chewing on, thinking about ideas -- and especially those ideas that confront our economy, or governing ideas, and our postmodern age of "there is no absolute truth", then you will most likely enjoy this book. That the author lived through the early days of Soviet and communist rule gives a great deal of credance to her portrayal of the realities of what happens when Marxist ideas are implemented.
The narration was fantastic, in my opionion, contrary to what some have said. If you want to save money and wonder if you should take a chance on this version, I recommended it whole-heartedly. Some have said that Dagne, as the Operating Vice President of the railroad, is too breathy, but I felt the voice used by the narrator projected a very controlled power - an undercurrent of constantly sheathed strength.
Topics of discussion of particular interest and that are unusally well thought out were the unity of mind and body, the role of money, the necessity of the motive power of thinkers in the world, and the excellence of excellence. By definition, an atheist writing about A = A will leave out the most foundational A of all, that is God, thereby producing contradictions of a foundational, critical, and very serious nature. But even these contradictions are well worth THINKING on. THINKING, afterall, is the chief purpose of the book.
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