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.