ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Aug 14, 2012

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Hello all!

Exciting news!

I have purchased copies of 50 Shades of Gray -- and Atlas Shrugged.

The guy at the Barnes and Noble checkout gave me one of those looks you give people making that sort of purchase.

"It's for work," I told him.

"What do you do?" he asked.

"...I'm trying to understand Paul Ryan."

My basic thinking is that Paul Ryan is famed for his love of, then disillusionment with, Ayn Rand. Also, the Internet seems to think that he is sexy. In order to learn about Objectivism and Objectivization, these seemed like the relevant books. Also, I needed something to hide Atlas Shrugged in on the subway.

Thoughts on this plan?

As one of the few people who actually read the Ryan Budget Proposal several months, I have to admit I read it on the Metro hiding it under a still unread copy of "50 Shades of Grey". Now, things have reversed. When I finally get to read "50 Shades", I will have to hide it behind my copy of the Ryan Budget Proposal


Yes, the question of which book to hide inside which other book remains as perplexing as ever.

I think we have taken Shark Week too far. Has Shark Week jumped the shark?

Oh no you didn't!

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Although I'm sort of puzzled by the classic 30 Rock advice to live every week like it's Shark Week. So far Shark Week has involved my reading Ayn Rand and forgetting there were sharks on television. I really hope I don't have to keep doing this.

I am against political debates moderated by octogenarians. For real cool debates, we need debates moderated by Betty White.

Seconded! Let's start a petition!

I am proud to state the my book is the #2,554,121 best selling book in history. I believe I have so much to look forward to. Should I mention this fact in my class reunion highlights?

Depends what reunion. If it's 5 or fewer, you are contractually obligated to keep telling the truth. By 10 you can start rounding up. By 15 you can hire impersonators to show up as your wildly successful wife and six children.

Which would you choose?

Spotted Cow, definitely. Although I'm also a fan of the Fat Squirrel.

Our politicians should be beautiful, because our love for them will inspire us to be more generous to our fellow men and more vigorous in following them to war.

But how do we explain Abraham Lincoln?

Also, I don't know, I would qualify all this by saying that there are some people one considers devastatingly attractive, who look as though their ancestors were proficient at slaying musk oxen with their bare hands and dragging swooning women off to caves, and there are others who look as though they would build a really competent watertight nest for your brood and read illustrated books to children, and for me he falls in the latter category.

Buy 10 books, for work! Turn in sales slips to the boss. I'd get a ton of DVD's too, for research.

I try not to abuse this, because I would like my workplace to be there in ten years, and I have a horrible bookbuying habit. I still have a receipt for the Bieber autobiography sitting on my desk that I've never turned in.

50 Shades is about a man who puts a woman through some pain. For instance when he blindfolds her, instead of feeding her asparagus, he feeds her broccoli.

The horror! The horror!

If Paul Ryan is sexy, how come Newsweek doesn't have a photo of him blindfolded eating asparagus?

How do you know they don't? We're still 90 days out, after all.

I had to read Atlas Shrugged in college, because my boyfriend told me that was the only way to truly understand him. Frankly, it reads like a really long and pretentious romance novel with a tedious 100 page long speech in the middle. So maybe that's what the two books have in common!

So far, there are quite a few trace similarities.

Although I don't think Anastasia Steele is as excited about anything as the Rand people are about metallurgy. And knowing Ayn Rand she would probably want to replace her with someone lighter and more durable named Anastasia Rearden Metale.


Are we playing Name Dominoes


This is fun. Let me try!

Mitt Romney.

Wait, I'm out.

Thank you for that advice! I may hire people someone to pretend to be my wife. Are you free for the role of my grown child? You may bring your accordion,

I think that might have the opposite of its intended effect on your reunion. At least if your intent is to inspire the attendees with a warm and lively envy of your existence. It is hard to envy anyone who lives in proximity to my level of accordion playing.

In a book of reminiscences about the Golden Age of the studio system, I learned that Ayn Rand was briefly a contract writer--at MGM I think. It's a marvelous image to me, the founder of Objectivism toiling in the most regimented system ever devised in the U.S., short of the military.


Maybe that's what inspired her.

I used to read Atlas Shrugged every couple of years - (what can I say, I love long books). I found it in a free paperback cart in the hallway of my high school when I was 17 - As a teenager, I found the story compelling, and the characters and the ideas cartoonish. The last time I tried to read it, about 5 years ago, I realized that not only were the political beliefs in the book poorly conceived, but it was an utter piece of crap as literature. Read The Fountainhead, and save your self some time. You'll get to the same place and waste less of your life. (By the way - In Ayn Rand's world in Atlas Shrugged - there is no middle class - those in love with the politics tend to miss that point. There are just geniuses, freeloaders and the "noble working class, content to live in poverty with the knowledge that they do a good job each day")

I don't know, I wanted to pick the one Ryan handed out to his staffers. Also I'm, like, 5 percent of the way through already, and it would be like abandoning a day's worth of downloading in the late 1990s.

He's meh. He's tallish and slim, but his face is gawky. Aaron Schock is way better looking if we're talking Republican dreamboats. And if we're comparing VP candidates, compare Ryan to a young college-grad Joe Biden, then get back to me.

And for further comparison purposes...

I presume the Justin Bieber book you purchased was for research and not because you were a Bieber die hard fan, correct? Is it OK if I take down the Justin Bieber poster in your old room?

These are LIES and I will not stand for them! It was research! Research I say!

God bless. I never made it past the rape. Blech! Although, if my only other option was 50 Shades, I might have to try again. Thank God, these are not our only options!

I feel like this is the reading equivalent of gaining 50 pounds for a role...

I think he looks like a grown-up Eddie Munster! Getting more serious, how can a practicing Catholic be such a follower of Ayn Rand who was vehemently anti-Catholic? Also, doesn't his support of cuts for programs for the poor undercut the Catholic church's teachings for caring for the poor?

Well, I think that was what spurred the Rand falling out.

This is, possibly, the third Eddie Munster comparison I've gotten in this chat.

People ask why I stopped working on Capitol Hill. I knew this was not the place for me when, on my first day of work, my new boss gave me a 700 page book that had nothing to do with current legislation and told me to read it.

What's even weirder is that the book was 50 Shades of Grey with 116 additional pages of pictures and diagrams!

Tomorrow I return to D.C. after nearly four weeks away. In that time I've read one newspaper and watched no news, nor read any online news sites. So, what have I missed?


That's about it, though.

We had to read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" in High School (mid 70s) and some of my friends were totally enthralled by the book. On the other hand, I was reminded of what Dorothy Parker once said about a book she reviewed, "This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly, but should be thrown with great force."

Ha! Yes, that's a great one.

Reminds me of my favorite thank-you for a book:

"Thank you for the book! I'll waste no time in reading it!"

Thank you for that link -- Eric Cantor's feathered mullet may be the greatest thing I'll see this week.

I know, right? God bless you, Buzzfeed. I'm sorry for calling you the Internet's id last week.

then ask the boss for an assistant to help read them and take notes! You are too busy at the book store getting more books to read them all.

Oh, but that takes all the fun out of it! That's like clawing your way up in the ranks to owning a harem and then hiring a substitute.

Reading about Ayn Rand during Shark Week is permitted. After all, free enterprise business people and sharks share a professional courtesy.


The last time I saw this joke, it was about lawyers! Happy Shark Week, joke! How's things? New industry, I see.

Just bought my Nats' post-season tickets. Have you gotten caught up in the natitude fever?

Oh heck yes!

At least in the sense that the baseball games I currently do not attend are Nats games. But I really, really mean to! Clown question, bro! Strasberg! Enthusiastic muttering!

Maybe Romney just got them mixed up, He really wanted to shake the race up by shedding the stuffy GOP image.

Oh, that would shake the race up, all right. I would watch the heck out of that!

I have faith you will see the entire "Altas Shrugged". Yet for readers too lazy to do so, there is a movie version of the book. Or, if you are too lazy to do that, just watch "Mad Men."

Good thought!

I have in fact watched the episode of the Simpsons where Lisa escapes from the Ayn Rand preschool. But this is the only context I have.

And by Lisa I mean Maggie, obviously.

So how do you pronounce the Ayn in Any Rand?

Like it's spelled!

*I think it's "ANN"?

Quote: There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.


I think I'll emerge from this with a similar formulation for 50 Shades of Gray and Atlas Shrugged -- one is about improbable rich people doing unspeakable things in tall buildings with bad dialogue, and the other one ...

Well, you know, standard joke structure.

By golly, I'd HAVE to support that ticket..and s/he'd look fabulous at the inauguration!

Someone needs to make a Ru Paul Ryan Twitter/tumblr/anything, stat.

See, this is why I will never be a politician. People will dig up old photos and put them on the internet. Or world wide web. I can never remember which.

If you're over 65, it's the world wide web. Otherwise, Internet.

I thought Ayn should be pronounced Ein - as in the first part of Einstein. Who knew?

I could be wrong, though. I don't hang out in circles who pronounce the words "Ayn Rand" very often.

Willard Romney

Oh, huzzah!

Saxby Chambliss.

Are you reading the one 50 Shades book or the trilogy? Note to authors: If you find a hot topic, write it as a trilogy. You sell more books that way.

Why limit yourself? Go for a sexology!

I remember that cashier look when you buy a strange combination. I once bought a copy of "Mein Kempt" the same time I bought a book by Newt Gingrich.

I am not joking, after I paid and was walking away with the books, the cashier shouts after me: "Try not to kill yourself!"

When did the world wide web become the Internet? Why wasn't I told this? Which reminds me, does anyone know where I may get my Betamax fixed?

Oh good, I'm glad you're getting it fixed. Nothing sadder than a litter of unwanted little Betamaxes roaming around.

Maybe I'll write a novel in which a hot Paul Ryan-like character casts a mesmerizing spell of sexual dominance over 50-54-year-old cougars to convince them how great his budget is going to work out for them.

I'd buy it! But as we've established, I bought the Justin Bieber memoir, so maybe get confirmation from someone else before you start.

Just out of curiosity, but what age group do you think you're aiming at in your column?

I write for the ages -- of zero to four.

Honestly, I aim at anyone who wants to read. I think it clusters in my demographic and the parents of my demographic, but I might be wrong.

Saxby Chambliss

...Prince William


The winternet. Why does the signal not work? We're on a mountain in the middle of nowhere Honey! Put that away and pass the Brandy.

Er, yes.

And on that note, it's about time for me to wrap up! Speak now or forever hold your peace!

You know 50 Shades is derived from Twilight? So it it follows reality, she is only going to cheat on him.

My God, you're right!

Nuts, now you've ruined it!

I love those high school photos of Mitt Romney. I know there is a logical explanation, but does it help a candidate downplaying his Mormonism to have Romney photographed in high school with two girls?

As long as he's married to neither, I don't see the harm in it!

I never bothered with Atlas Shrugged, but I find The Fountainhead to be hilarious good fun and always gives me a laugh. That Dominique is [redacted but used to involve the guano of bats -the person editing this chat] crazypants, y'all. I don't know how anyone takes Objectivism seriously though (if anyone does). Even Howard Roark doesn't strike me as being 100% only out for his own self-interest. Not to mention that going to jail because you didn't like how someone altered your building is kind of a self-interest fail in its own right. Like all the other isms, it sounds great until you try to do it in real life on a practical level.

That's a very astute point about 'isms, I think. And some of them don't even sound that great.

And on that note, thank you for a delightful chat! Did you know that F-bomb is now in the dictionary?

Stay tuned!

Keep reading the Compost and feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter!

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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