November 2022


Despite having mocked the philosophy of Ayn Rand more than a decade ago when I wrote that preface to “The Myth of Natural Rights”, I had not actually read any of her books until this one. I said as much when I suggested covering this at the end of my last review of a novel. Part of what makes Rand mockable (as in “Mozart Was a Red“) is her elevation of abstract ideas over concrete reality, so that the concrete things she does value are as symbols. Anthem is an extreme example of that, not even qualifying as her usual “Romantic Realism”, and being entirely a novella of ideas rather than plot. Without a plot it culminates not in an event that would normally end a story, but instead in the protagonist writing a word that Rand likes.

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The Third Chimpanzee is actually Jared Diamond’s first book, but I’m only getting to it now years after reading his more famous “Guns, Germs & Steel” & “Collapse”. I’ve heard the contrarian take that it’s actually his best book, but reading it now it comes across as frequently dated, as well as serving as a preview for those later books (each of which gets a chapter/section covering the same subject). Part of the issue is that I read this so close after The Secret of Our Success, and the material on early humans compared to our closest relatives has a lot of overlap with that less dated book. When I say dated, it’s on multiple levels.

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