“The perverse allure of a damaged woman”

How Ayn Rand became an American woman (via Slate)

Ayn Rand is one of America’s great mysteries. She was an amphetamine-addicted author of sub-Dan Brown potboilers, who in her spare time wrote lavish torrents of praise for serial killers and the Bernie Madoff-style embezzlers of her day. She opposed democracy on the grounds that “the masses”—her readers—were “lice” and “parasites” who scarcely deserved to live. Yet she remains one of the most popular writers in the United States, still selling 800,000 books a year from beyond the grave. [...] So how did this little Russian bomb of pure immorality in a black wig become an American icon?

A few days ago I suggested The Fountain (century-crossing meta-romance painted in black and gold, yay!) to one of my friends for our weekly movie night, and was mightily confused when she made a disgusted expression and said, “Isn’t that by Ayn Rand?”  She had apparently misheard my suggestion as The Fountainhead.

I’ve never read Ayn Rand and am only familiar with Objectivism in the vaguest way (much of that knowledge coming, pathetically, from Bioshock), so this article in today’s Slate, which examines how Rand’s traumatic, warped life mapped onto her cultishly successful writing, went a long way towards explaining my roommate’s reaction. The ending of the article gets a little frantically polemical, but as usual, I’m not savvy enough to examine its claims with a critical eye.

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  1. kakaner’s avatar

    Will you judge me a horrible person for considering The Fountainhead to be one of the best books i’ve ever read? Well, if we go purely by literary merits… I just really liked the writing and characters and story. I really couldn’t put it down.

    I also don’t have your normal mindset… so yea….

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  2. Emera’s avatar

    You’re also not an egotistical maniac who thinks that success is defined on a financial basis. The problem isn’t people enjoying her works as novels, it’s people taking her philosophy seriously – or at least not recognizing its apparently rather pathological basis.

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  3. SC’s avatar

    ha saw this slate piece too. was the fountain made into a hugh jackman movie? i watched it and it was awful except for rachel weisz who is awesome.

    btw i’ve read both the fountainhead and atlas shrugged, and liked them. if you read them knowing that her family’s pharmacy was confiscated during the Bolshevik revolution when she was 12, it’s not quite as “pathological.”

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  4. kim’s avatar

    hugh & rachel were superb in the fountain!

    when he argues with the ghost rachel

    while starving on the remains of the rachel tree

    that they’ll make it, not to worry

    is one of many dualities in the film

    after the fountain,

    as conquistador, brain surgeon, a timeless monk

    i stopped seeing hugh as wolverine

    but as a very gifted actor

    “while watching, you kept fumbling with the ring,”

    rachel said to me,

    the ring her mother gave to me

    that i carry around my neck –

    “keep her safe, this is the wedding band i wore when pregnant.”

    Reply

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