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James hearted Ayn, and I am not surprised

One side effect of my actually getting work done is that I start obsessively rereading old fiction favorites instead of trying new stuff. Not that I don't normally do a lot of rereading anyway, but something about having a real or self-imposed deadline exaggerates the impulse. Recently I've been back through Spook Country, the Sprawl trilogy, Cryptonomicon, "The Events at Poroth Farm," and my very battered volume 2 of Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Then last week I started dipping into the James Clavell, beginning with Shogun, which is still my all-time favorite multi-culti novel. This week I'm onto Noble House, which doesn't work nearly as well -- it feels bloated where Shogun was, if anything, too short, and it takes way too long to get moving. But one of the things I do like about it is that it makes an interesting counterpoint to Atlas Shrugged. Clavell's early '60s-era Hong Kong is a freewheeling capitalist society a la Galt's Gulch, but one whose inhabitants are capable of jealousy, racial and sexual prejudice, magical thinking, family and clan loyalty, and other demonstrations of irrational human nature.

So you can imagine my amusement when I looked up the James Clavell entry on Wikipedia, and found this:

Clavell admired Ayn Rand, founder of the Objectivist school of philosophy, and sent Ayn Rand a copy of Noble House in 1981 with the following inscription - "This is for Ayn Rand – one of the real, true talents on this earth for which many, many thanks. James C, New York, 2 Sept 81."

Rand would have been in poor health when she received the book -- she died in March of 1982 -- so I don't know whether she'd actually have read it. But I'd love to know what she thought of it if she did.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
uke
Jul. 23rd, 2008 05:43 pm (UTC)
Interesting collection of novels you have there. Anything to do with your subject matter per se?
matt_ruff
Jul. 24th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
The Stephenson, Gibson, and Clavell are all arguably related, but only in a very broad sense. The Lovecraft stuff ties in more with the piece I'm writing for my October appearance at Richard Hugo House.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 23rd, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC)
Not Capitalist
Did you skip Tai Pan? It is terrific. The political and economic society of that time did not have effective contract enforcement, nor effective policing against the use of force and fraud. As such it was more anarchist than anything. In the midst of the confusion, the British were struggling to do business (the tea trade) according to their homeland's economic model, a fairly effective mercantilism.

Noble House is centuries later, and takes place in Hong Kong's Mixed Economy. It is not the mix of socialism and capitalism that we have here in the Western World, it is a mix of Chinese trading standards and capitalism. I suspect Clavell understood that. He certainly related it very well.

If you read Rand's short collection of essays gathered under the book title "Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal", you may see what a) she actually stands for, and why I argue the world of Noble House was not very Capitalist at all.

Richard
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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