Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Fascinating to read that in her last years Ayn Rand, who spent her career condemning government aid of almost any kind, deigned to accept government-funded health care for herself.

Ayn Rand, aka Ann O’Connor, poured her daddy-issue-fueled “rugged individualist” fantasies into a series of riotously awful novels that have become fetishes of some American conservatives; signs referring to Atlas Shrugged were seen at the Tea Party rallies. Her breakthrough novel, The Fountainhead, was about studly architect Howard Roark, who dynamites a building project when his design is changed without his consent. When he’s tried for this epic act of adolescent petulance, his impassioned defense is simply that he had to fight for his individual vision at any cost. He’s acquitted.

The book was turned into a sleek & sparkingly glamorous film in 1949, directed by King Vidor from Ayn Rand’s own screenplay, & starring Gary Cooper & Patricia Neal. Though a laugh-riot in its own right, it’s a comparatively well-crafted, engaging laugh-riot. Predictably, Ayn Rand hated it. So my question has always been this: Did it somehow slip her mind to dynamite Warner Brothers Studios?

RIP to comedian David Frye, briefly famous in the ‘70s for his impression of Richard Nixon, passed on at 77, & to composer John Barry, famed for his 007 scores, also departed at 77.


  1. You have an ATLAS SHRUGGED movie to look forward to this year. I believe it's set to be released in April.

  2. Hey there hi there ho there and a big whoa there Mr MV! Riotous, indeed!

    I read The Fountainhead about ten years back as a copy'd been laying around the house since a sister read it in school. It was a bit of a challenge for me to maintain interest and complete; but, though quite pretentious as to the scale in which her point is made, I didn't find it "riotous." Then again, I didn't like her style or message enough to ever seek out or read her works again. WHen my son was required to read Anthem in high school, I wasn't surprised, although we did not much discuss it.

    The Fountainhead did, however, do two things for me. One, it caused me to examine the viewpoint of a selfishness of existence, which I don't necessarily nor completely disagree with (at least as a point of discussion.)

    I was not aware until the past few years that Rand had made an actual defined philosophy of the idea, which would have disinterested me as well.

    Anyhow, the second thing Rand's books (actually just the covers) did for me was introduce me to the art of Tamara de Lempicka, which I found both arousing and demanding of my attention. For that, I thank her paperback publishers.

    Perhaps your "riotous" term applies to the idea of using a book as a standard based on its having been published (as if that makes its message valid) and the information somebody found on wikipedia.

  3. Ayn Rand wrote: "The advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it . . . ."

  4. ...and thereby decrease the surplus population...

  5. Using the word ‘morally’ in a sentence does not validate that sentence’s meaning. Let’s discuss morality as encompassed by Roark, Rand’s apparent perfect man from The Fountainhead.

    A man alone requires no morality. A man alone on an island holds no moral consideration. Any action this man takes, any decision he makes, bears no moral burden as there is no one else involved. Without fellow humans, there is no morality, nor is there need for it. Only upon this man’s introduction to another human being does morality begin. (Unless one believes that an inherent morality derives directly from some creator god, and that a morality grows from a relationship between man and god. Let’s just say ‘no.’)

    Morality is that course of decision-making or action based on the concept of an individual’s place in the society of fellow human beings. Morality develops out of what appears the best decisions/actions taken by the individual or group with the consideration of the whole society in mind. Thus, the idea of morality varies from human culture to culture, depending on its history, geography, external or internal interaction, etc. A single morality is not universal.

    But for Rand, Roark’s ‘morality’ grows out of his own desires and self-importance. Rand purports, then, that human morality is individually self-defining and self-determining.

    Strangely then, Roark is borne of society and thrives within it, finding an outlet for his artistic expressive need, which brings him success and respect from fellow human beings. (In fact, one can argue that any artistic expression is a product of the human social experience.) This interaction with others allows Roark to continue designing, working and achieving. Interestingly, the design of any building at its most basic level is a concession to the needs of those humans who will occupy it.

    Yet Rand paints Roark as an elitist, a self-defining artistic idealist who should not be bound by traditional human restraint due his intense selfish vision. It is this very unbounded self-importance that fails in Rand’s philosophy.

    Roark’s criminal destruction is Roark’s failure to compromise; a failure to recognize that he is not alone, that he must cooperate. Rand wants this action to be that of a man alone, a man oppressed, a man striking out for what he believes is right, for what actually is right, and for what must be universally accepted as right by all. Nonsense. Again, it is to satisfy only Roark.

    And what more disturbing than the rape of the Dominique character by Roark. I couldn’t believe this scene when I read the book. But in retrospect, it certainly clarifies Roark’s viewpoint as the selfishly motivated being taking what he wants because he feels entitled, is justified by his success and by his vision. What? I’m sure the same idea flashes through the mind of every rapist, yet none are idolized as a hero outside their own fiction. And to have the Dominique character marry him in the end...to concede to His glory, His righteousness...is just sickening.

    MVM appears right about Rand’s “father figure’ issue. Roark is her attempt to demonstrate that there are indeed gods among us, and that we must simply excuse them for their sometimes human behavior. Quite republican, indeed.

    And for the republican tea party, constantly shouting about traditional values, the waving of Rand’s philosophy is a highpoint of irony. Can a society exist where all the members share only Roark’s self-centered focus?

  6. Misterioso: Yeah, I had read the passage you posted; my less verbose reply would have to be “Nice try.” There ought to be a title for this (not uncommon) line of argument; maybe something like the “Let Them Eat Cake & Let Me Both Have & Eat Mine” school.

    Triztan: My use of “riotous” doesn’t refer to the “philosophical” content of the books. While I’m repelled Ayn Rand’s doctrine of selfishness—we all practice selfishness to some degree, of course, but I find elevating it to the status of a doctrine repellent—I don’t doubt that great literature could be derived from it. Not by her, though. What’s riotous to me is, as you note in your 2nd comment, the nakedness of her psychology: Her attitudes toward morality (your comments on which, by the way, open a discussion bigger than I want to go into here) seem to proceed directly from an obsessive need to justify her erotic fetishizing of lean, strong Men Who Don’t Care What Other People Think About Them, or who even really take any notice of other people at some level, & who thus earn the reflexive spiteful envy of the rest of us mediocrities (her heroes may not care about what other people think of them, but Ayn Rand certainly does).

    Phil: I wasn’t aware of the Atlas Shrugged movie! I’ll be most intrigued to see it—I confess the book defeated me.