Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cinder Buggy - part I - introductory comments

Cinder Buggy was the third of Garet Garrett's major works of fiction. Published in 1923, it was labeled "A Fable in Iron and Steel." This focus on one industry provided a similarity with The Driver (railroads) and Satan's Bushel (wheat). I have referred previously to Garrett's books as "industrial novels" for this reason.

I have read only a small portion of the book thus far. I will post updates as I read each portion. The discussion of the plot may become vague, as I seek to avoid plot spoilers.

From what little I have read, it appears that there may be similarities between the Cinder Buggy characters and those of Ayn Rand's novels. The characters do not appear to be identical, only similar with overlapping and rearranged elements. These similarities reinforce my belief that Garrett was one of many influences upon the later works of Ayn Rand. I have written at length about this issue in part 13 of my review of The Driver (and elsewhere). I will write more about these characters and their similarities as this review goes on.

Cinder Buggy preview from Satan's Bushel dust jacket

The inside of the Satan's Bushel dust jacket is pictured above, containing an original advertisement for Cinder Buggy.

While I will avoid revealing too much of the plot, I hope to provide information and background from the book on how this story fits into Garrett's philosophy and the political and economic situations that currently plague the United States and the western world.

The Driver was much more obviously relevant to the current financial crisis, as The Driver explicitly focused on the Panic of 1893. I do not expect Cinder Buggy to present such obvious parallels. Even without such clear battle lines as are drawn in Driver (and in the U.S. of 2010), it is possible to present industrialization as fiction in a way that promotes the idea of economic liberty.

The story will seem less focused than we might expect, as the New Deal was still a decade away at the time Garrett wrote Cinder Buggy. The New Deal drew the battle lines that define the eight decades (and beyond) that have since elapsed. From 1933 onward, economics and politics have been little more than a battle between those who favor greater government control over the economy and those who oppose such control. The battle takes many forms and is fought in many arenas, but the goals of the opposing sides remain the same (even though the opponents of gevernment control have substantially watered down their message as the decades have dragged on). A decade before the New Deal brought this battle to Washington D.C. (and beyond) in a permanent way, writers like Garrett wrote more generally and without the urgency and focus that we would expect of one who was trying to stop a government takeover.

My approach with each Garrett novel I read is to enjoy the story without looking for a political or economic message. Usually the nuggets (such as this one and this one and this one) start to appear shortly after the story begins.

Click here for part 2.

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