September 26, 2013

All those commenters who wanted me to read "The Fountainhead."

All I did was buy the ebook "Atlas Shrugged" so I could blog about things Ted Cruz — "Political anarchist or genius?" — said in his (not a) filibuster yesterday. Having riffed on and sniffed at some bloody metaphors in the Ayn Rand tome, I was beset with comments telling me the Ayn Rand book I really must read is "The Fountainhead."

Surfed started it:
The Fountainhead was a better read, a more cogent and focused book and you get the same dose of the philosophy....

Addendum: In the movie Dirty Dancing (1987) Baby confronts Robbie to pay for Penny's abortion. Robbie refuses to take responsibility and preaches “Some people count and some people don’t” and then hands Baby a used paperback copy of The Fountainhead saying, “Read it. I think it's a book you'll enjoy, but make sure you return it; I have notes in the margin."

And then Kit Carson said:
Yes, Atlas Shrugged is great. But her earlier novel, Fountainhead, is her greatest work. Fountainhead is much shorter and she presents all her main themes and her analysis more clearly and in more entertaining fashion. The epic scene where Ellsworth Toohey explains himself and his intentions is one of the most significant pieces of writing of the modern world. Reading those few pages may well change your life.
And Tank:
I too would recommend The Fountainhead instead.
And the (here inaptly named) SomeoneHasToSayIt said:
Yes. Read Fountainhead before Atlas Shrugged, which would have been better served, imo, by the title Rand wanted, The Strike.
And Tom began with an excellent appeal to my vanity:
Althouse, I believe you'd find The Fountainhead a more enjoyable read. In fact, I've often though of you, as a blogger, blogging in a similar manner as Howard Roark worked in architecture. To the point that I could see you destroying this blog if it was co-oped and transformed into something without your consent. What I believe that Rand was getting at - at least in my limited understanding - was a sense of personal ownership and self-accountability.

In Atlas Shrugged, she explores these concepts more. And while she always warns against the "looters" and "moochers", it is on the productive and creative that she aims her lesson - your success or failure is owned by you and is created or destroyed by your choices. What she telling the productive and creative is that there are those would will use all manner of tactics to instill in your a sense of guilt. But it is your choice to accept or reject this premise. This is not moderation in the political sense of, "should we put the road in this location or that?" -- those choices are not what Rand is getting at. Rand is asking the virtuous to understand the nature of personal ownership and self-sovereignty.

My initial reaction to both books was probably more of an adolescent "I'll take my ball and go home" reaction. Only over time did I understand that life really requires me to understand my values and to live those values based on my choices, not others. It doesn't mean I divorce myself from others - in fact, just the opposite - it means valuing who I love in the deepest sense.
Henry dumps a pitcher of cold water:
Atlas Shrugged was readable as a kind of gaseous Hindenburg melodrama. I'm baffled how anyone can recommend The Fountainhead. That was as unreadable as any novel I've ever picked up. It doesn't help that Rand conflates ideology with aesthetics. Foolishness results.
Mike Dini had a different approach to appealing to my vanity:
Ann -- You are normally interesting. It isn't April fools. Are intentionally trying to piss off the type of individual that tends to follow your blog? This is the sort of tripe I’d expect out of Chris Matthews.

Don't jump into Atlas Shrugged from Anthem. Read Fountainhead first. You've decided beforehand not to like the books but at least you will be able to talk intelligently about the novels. You didn't do that here.
Stay away from me. Stay away from my sister, or I'll have you fired.

78 comments:

Carol said...

Yeah it's a fun read if you skip over the long speeches she favored so much. (Who really thinks lecturing your enemies ad nauseam will win them over?)

Shawn Levasseur said...

Just to clarify, you bought "Atlas Shrugged" merely as reference for when people quote it?

If so, it seems like most of us misinterpreted your purchase as an intent to read it.

Amy said...

I think the best Rand book is We the Living - it is much shorter and semi-autobiographical. I'd try that first.

http://www.amazon.com/We-the-Living-ebook/dp/B002PA0LWA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1380211051&sr=1-1&keywords=we+the+living

Gabriel Hanna said...

I suppose the way I would put it is that since Ayn Rand is so widely misunderstood and misrepresented, one ought to at least find out what people who like what she writes (I am not one) have to say about it, if you can't find the time to read anything for yourself, before passing judgement.

I find her books are terrible literature and terrible philosophy, but they are also, I fear, excellent prophecy. The novels describe a cartoon world full of stereotypes, and these stereotypes are based on reality.

Like the Onion, it keeps coming true.

Bob Ellison said...

Atlas Shrugged is fantastically long and boring. Kinda like Deuteronomy. It should have been an essay, not a novel. Obama is more compelling.

Alan said...

May I suggest WE THE LIVING, Rands first and, IMO, best novel. Chilling.

Rusty said...

It's like reading Proust without all the excitement.

Ann Althouse said...

"If so, it seems like most of us misinterpreted your purchase as an intent to read it."

Why should I listen to the statements about a long book made by readers who are unable to understand what I wrote in short blog post?!

I'd like to see these misunderstanders quote any statement of mine that deserved to be interpreted as an intent to undertake actually reading the book.

Well, maybe these are people who need an idea beaten into their heads for 1000 pages.

That's not the way I write and not the kind of writing I admire and would want to be influenced by. "Atlas Shrugged" — as literature — is pulp fiction, fine for those who like to be carried away by the characters and the plot. I don't have any interest in that sort of thing. It's not why I read and not what I do.

I wanted to be able to write about the passage Cruz quoted about the "man in the middle." I wanted to get the transfusion metaphor, and I wanted to critique that passage to some extent.

I like to get to an interesting chunk of writing and write about it in my own way, for my own purposes, and maybe Rand would approve. I think she cared about getting her message out and putting it in a big, pulpy novel with lots of sex and love and beautiful people was the way to get it across.

I asked in my first post: Why did Ayn Rand write fiction?

Anyway, if I'm right and it's the ideas that matter, it's much easier to read the ideas summarized straight and not in some big gooey sugar pill of a novel.

Leif said...

Ayn Rand was a terrible writer and a sloppy thinker. She's like Karl Marx in that she makes a big impression on young people in college. Then, as one experiences the world, reads more philosophy, and observes human nature, it dawns on one: "Hey, that was a bunch of crap!"

For a relatively apolitical critique of Rand, see David Bentley Hart: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/05/the-trouble-with-ayn-rand

surfed said...

There's a whole subsection of commentary linking a Frank Lloyd Wright connection. From what I've read Frank had fun with it though in many ways he was the antithesis of Howard Roark.

RecChief said...

"Why should I listen to the statements about a long book made by readers who are unable to understand what I wrote in short blog post?!"

Indeed. I frequently have that problem.

Carol said...

Why did Ayn Rand write fiction?

To influence the masses. It's easier with fiction than non-fiction. Plus, it's easier than scholarly work. And much more fun! You get to create your own universe and make up little stick figures, big handsome men with broad shoulders, and beautiful intelligent women with hair like helmets.

Henry said...

Since I only read the first third of the Fountainhead before putting it down forever, I may have missed the "change your life" part.

In her essays Rand is a succinct and readable summarist of philosophical ideas. Her dictum "check your premises" is extremely valuable and I'm glad to have it. She is also, in her unblinking certitude that she stands atop a pyramid of philosophical skulls, completely unreliable.

RecChief said...

I've noticed, as a cultural phenomenon, that people tend to not really listen to what others are saying, and charge ahead with what they themselves find interesting or want to say.

It seems to have gotten worse in the last 20-25 years, and unfortunately, at times, I am guilty of it as well. Is it because we see people in press conferences and debates ignore the questions asked of them and plow into their canned talking points? Is it because of the internet? Was it always like this?

Tank said...

Perhaps this threw us off.

You've wandered into my lair, and maybe you're saying "Yeah, why would anyone after resisting 'Atlas Shrugged' all those years finally relent?" .

Sounds like you're relenting and are going to read it now.

Or maybe we got distracted by the long commercial that preceded it.

Ann Althouse said...

"Sounds like you're relenting and are going to read it now."

Why don't you admit that when you go back and actually read what I wrote, it's quite clear that I never once said I was going to read it. I am explicit about why I put it in my Kindle, and the quote you pulled out in response to my request for a quote is in quotation marks and put in the form of a question, asked by a hypothetical character who has "wandered into my lair," and even he doesn't add "and read it" after "finally relent."

Come on, if you won't give me credit for what I've written and the way I wrote it, then I'm not going to value your writing recommendations.

Ann Althouse said...

If you don't like the way this blog is written, why are you reading it?

I don't read stuff that I don't like (unless I'm reading tax forms or something the govt requires).

surfed said...

Well I guess I'm living proof of the Dora Dictum that salt water destroys brain cells.

Joel said...

She did write quite a bit of non-fiction:

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_nonfiction

Tank said...

Why don't you admit that when you go back and actually read what I wrote, it's quite clear that I never once said I was going to read it

Why don't you admit that you frequently write in ways that cloak your actual intentions, are ambiguous or are meant to mislead?

Joel said...

She did write quite a bit of non-fiction:

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_nonfiction

ASM826 said...

Ayn Rand can be right, she can even be a prophet as to the world we are living in today, and still be a half-assed author in serious need of editing.

Crunchy Frog said...

Ann likes nonfiction. I wonder why she reads any fiction at all, seeing as she does not care about such trifles as plot and characters.

Many times it is easier to illustrate a philosophical point if one wraps it in a story. It also helps to get people to read it.

George Orwell wrote plenty of polemics against totalitarianism that nobody's ever heard of. But everyone knows Animal Farm and 1984.

David Carlson said...

If you don't like the way this blog is written, why are you reading it?

Now isn't that just the question

Inga said...

She wrapped her philosophical drek in a novel to disguise the worship of selfishess and narcissism. If made to stand alone it would look quite ugly, like the interview she did with Phil Donahue and others. People who seem to be able to identify with Objectivism and Ayn Rand also tend to wrap these ugly qualities in such things as Bible verses (strange because she was such a virulent atheist), the Constitution, silly fictional stories, etc.

Those of us who see her clearly and what she stood for, and those who revere her as "life changing", see that it is nothing more than extreme selfishness and narcissism, not at all admirable and certainly not a worthy philosophy to be used by those who wish to govern.

She liked to say certain traits long held by Christianity is "evil". Objectivism the antithesis of Christianity. Would Christians be fooled by pretty words of Anton LeVay if he said what they wanted to hear, that greed is good and giving is evil? No? How they can be fooled by an Ayn Rand's words is beyond me.

Sigivald said...

Rand's (long) books are tolerable, if not very well written, if you skip the speeches like Carol said.

I think she's philosophically overrated, though she had a few excellent ideas; Objectivists are all about expressing Rand's ideas, both the literary ones and the ones she didn't put in the fiction, and some parts of Objectivism are just baffling outside of the context of a cult of personality - even to a libertarian*, the most sympathetic political philosophy.

(* As much as people on the Left seem to think they're the same, they're not. Objectivists tend to be quite insistent on Not Being Libertarians, and libertarians will say the same if anyone bothers to bring up Objectivists.)

machine said...

What about her last book:

Do as I say, not as I do?


SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Yeah, you probably shouldn't read it. You might learn something.

Luke Lea said...

In a poll of New Yorkers years ago people were asked what book was the most important in their lives. Atlas Shrugged came in first (or it may have been The Fountainhead, can't remember which), edging out the Bible. That tells you more about New York (Manhattan?) than anything else.

Mark Trade said...

Wait, you prefer nonfiction, right Ann? And you question why Rand would write fiction when she is so concerned about truth? Let me appeal to your reason and personal preferences, then, and recommend that you read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and The Virtue of Selfishness. Rand actually did write a great deal of nonfiction and reading those books is what made me interested in her fiction.

What got me to read her nonfiction in the first place was reading Alan Greenspan's memoir and learning that he wrote alongside Rand in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. I went there to read his essays and ended up reading hers as well, along with Nathaniel Branden's, who Rand said understood her philosophy better than she did, and also wrote a great deal of nonfiction. I recommend his work as well, even (or especially) as an antidote to some of Rand's stricter more unforgiving language.

Even Christopher Hitchens, someone you and I both admire, panned Rand's fiction but admitted to finding her nonfiction work The Virtue of Selfishness very interesting.

I would say you can do better than either The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged by reading these nonfiction books or another written by Nathaniel Branden, such as, Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, which is especially relevant today as we debate whether psychological healthcare is a public good.

Robert Cook said...

"In a poll of New Yorkers years ago people were asked what book was the most important in their lives. Atlas Shrugged came in first (or it may have been The Fountainhead, can't remember which), edging out the Bible. That tells you more about New York (Manhattan?) than anything else."

It tells you about the people polled, who probably were not representative of all Manhattan residents.

RecChief said...

hahahahaha it really is quite funny if you read all the comments. maybe you should go back to no comments at all.

Ralph Hyatt said...

I haven't read either novel, but after watching that video, I suddenly understand her purported obsession with railroads.

Inga said...

"Ms. Rand was one of the most extreme public intellectuals of the twentieth century. As her central creed, she rejected the idea that people in a community should approach each other with charity, compassion, and altruism. According to Ayn Rand, a charitable heart is for suckers. Selfishness is the way to go. Lest you think I am exaggerating, one of Ayn Rand's important works, a collection of philosophical essays, is entitled "The Virtue of Selfishness," and it is an extended attack upon the idea of altruism.

That morality is one of selfishness -- the selfishness of the rich, the selfishness of the corporation, the selfishness of the powerful -- joined with utter contempt for the virtues of charity, community, and the imperative to love your neighbor as yourself.

Ayn Rand spent a lot of time attacking government programs that are based on a public-minded spirit -- programs like Social Security and Medicare, which aim to ensure that everyone can lead a stable and dignified life in their later years, even if they are not wealthy. Politicians like Paul Ryan often emphasize Rand's attacks on government when they invoke her name. But make no mistake: Private acts of altruism and charity were equally pathetic and worthless to Ayn Rand. If a disaster struck your community, would you pitch in to help your neighbors, doing what you could to make sure they were safe and had adequate food and shelter? Ayn Rand would ask, "What's in it for me? Where's my profit?" Hers was the Vulture Capitalist response."

Tobias Barrington Wolff, Professor of Constitutional Law, Pennsylvania Law School.
---------------------------
What did she do at the end of her many years of smoking and claiming it didn't cause lung cancer? She accepted Social Security and Medicare.

Amadeus 48 said...

A lot of Atlas Shrugged is really bad, but a lot is really good, too. She nailed the command and control outlook on life of a morally corrupt bureaucracy pretty well. Consider the following passage:
"Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.”
In this context, consider Glenn Reynolds's law review comment, "Due Process When Everything is a Crime."

Carol said...

It is funny how Atlas Shrugged seems to be the beginning and the end of a lot of pols' literary education. I think what you have here are a lot of practical Men of Action who haven't read a lot of anything, really, except what they need to advance in the world.

Actually I knew a woman like that - never read any books. She was a reading teacher too.

phx said...

I like the description of Rand as a "gateway drug to right-wing politics."

George Grady said...

So, what you're saying, Ann, is that all those years, you were resisting buying "Atlas Shrugged", not reading it. Because that's the important thing about books; the buying, not the reading.

Or maybe you're saying that all those years, you were resisting looking things up in "Atlas Shrugged"? And Ted Cruz put you over the top, and you could no longer resist looking things up there?

I'm trying here, Ann. I know that you put an extreme amount of care into your word choice, and you want your readers to read you carefully, so perhaps you could clarify what exactly you were resisting. For all those years. But no longer are.

Ann Althouse said...

"Consider the following passage..."

Am I supposed to believe a real person could talk like that?

Ludicrous.

How anyone gets "lost" inside a story told like that, I don't know.

A polemical pamphlet could say all those things quite quickly. I'm supposed to buy the analysis because some mustache-twirling villain is saying it?

mikeski said...

Young Patricia Neal was allllllright.

Freeman Hunt said...

I would enjoy it if Althouse read and analyzed all of the sex-related passages in these books. I and mine found them hilarious, and so I think they could be entertainingly incised.

Freeman Hunt said...

Rand had some interesting insights and perspective changers on bureaucrats and supposed do-gooders. On virtue generally and relations between men and women? Not so much as much as not.

Kit Carson said...

Howard Roark laughed.

That's the first sentence, an affirmation of life.

Dominique Francon, mmmmm, elegant, provocative. sort of like maureen dowd used to be.

But Ellsworth Toohey...he is Ayn Rand's gift to humanity. As treacherous as Iago, as pitiless as Stalin, he is your friendly neighbor who beguiles you with his concern for your well-being.

But, it is his 2 methods that we must learn to watch for. The overarching one he reveals in that epic confession scene with Peter Keating. The other may be likened to what happened to the Ford foundation, and many other formerly great institutions like the Associated Press.

hombre said...

Igna: "People who seem to be able to identify with Objectivism and Ayn Rand also tend to wrap these ugly qualities in such things as Bible verses (strange because she was such a virulent atheist), the Constitution, silly fictional stories, etc."

Yes, of course it must be so, because in the minds of the Ignas we Christians and constitutionalists lack the intellectual capacity and power of discernment to see the disparities between our ideals and objectivism.

In the meantime, in my own ungifted way, I'm struggling to find bible verses and constitutional provisions that illustrate approvingly the Rand philosophy.

hombre said...

Phx: "I like the description of Rand as a "gateway drug to right-wing politics."

I like the description of Stalin as "the inspiration for the Frankfurt School and modern liberalism."

Lem said...

In a world where it's "crazy" to fight like Ted Cruz and it's "crazy" to give up like John Galt... the only alternative seems to be "join the party."

At your command.

luagha said...

Amongst other themes, Atlas Shrugged is a view through a science-fictional lens of the effects of a slide into a socialist hell.

It is the exact same slide into a socialist hell that she lived through in Russia and escaped from.

Because that part of it is drawn from real history, that is what gives it its prophetic, frightening, and truthful nature.

Other parts of it are not so valuable. She doesn't get the seesaw between cooperation and competition right, but then, that's not the theme she is working with. She is portraying super science heroes in a science fiction land who invent fabulous things and that's the focus, not how they build honorable cooperative competing organizations where everyone works together and at the same time serves their best interest. (Although she does mention that top engineers vie to work at Rearden's company because he pays well and is engaged in the most top-level cutting edge research.)

hombre said...

"That morality is one of selfishness -- the selfishness of the rich, the selfishness of the corporation, the selfishness of the powerful -- joined with utter contempt for the virtues of charity, community, and the imperative to love your neighbor as yourself." (2:12 pm)

The great irony is that neither Prof. Wolff, nor Igna can see the reflection of their own predilections in these characterizations.

Is the morality of selfishness most likely found, and only evil, among the rich, corporations and the powerful, who are responsible for a disproportionate share of charitable giving?

Is the virtue of selflessness most likely found among the beneficiaries of government largesse? Welfare queens? Black absentee fathers? Chronic unemployment recipients? Or for that matter, liberals, who, as a group, lag notoriously behind conservatives in charitable giving ("after all, that's what the gov't is for")?

Is the great liberal ideal promoting the "imperative to love your neighbor as yourself?" Or is it promoting the necessity to love your neighbor's money as your own?

Amadeus 48 said...

Re: Althouse at 3:10 pm

Actually, Althouse, the head of the Science Institute said it in the book. I don't think he had a moustache, but whatever. We all know that characters in potboilers should talk exactly like people do in real life. They always do, don't they?
Rand was an extreme individualist who had a vogue pushing back against the post-war, central planning consensus of Big Industry, Big Labor and Big Government. In Atlas Shrugged, she went after rent-seekers, cronyism and co-opted regulators in story set in a dystopian, undefined future, where the the state had grabbed extraordinary powers because of an unspecified "Emergency." Her presentation of how people relate to each other is stilted and mockable, but there is a certain power underlying the whole big mess.
You ought to read it if you are going to mock it, but it's a free country.

Paddy O said...

"For a relatively apolitical critique of Rand, see David Bentley Hart..."

Curiously, I find much of Hart fits the same description in your first paragraph.

Paddy O said...

"or something the govt requires..."

It turns out Althouse is part of Obamacare.

Hyphenated American said...

"That morality is one of selfishness -- the selfishness of the rich, the selfishness of the corporation, the selfishness of the powerful -- joined with utter contempt for the virtues of charity, community, and the imperative to love your neighbor as yourself. "

Amazing - from "corporations are not people" to "corporations are selfish". Weird.
BTW, Ayn Rand is surely not against communities - except that leftists don't see a difference between a "community" and "government".
And speaking of "love your neighbor as yourself", do you Inga believe in this? Do you really love everyone as yourself? Even the people who live nearby? Do you really believe that their well-being is just as important to you as yours?

AprilApple said...

The opposite of Ayn Rand is Barney Frank.

Ayn Rand tried to expose real greed - The greed of tyrannical bureaucratic busy-bodies who bulldoze the creative entrepreneurial spirit of the individual.

Hyphenated American said...

"Ayn Rand spent a lot of time attacking government programs that are based on a public-minded spirit -- programs like Social Security and Medicare, which aim to ensure that everyone can lead a stable and dignified life in their later years, even if they are not wealthy. "

Given that Social Security and Medicare are extremely badly thought through and are going bankrupt, it's quite an insult to say that they are based on "public-minded spirit". And moreover, SS and Medicare subsidizes all elderly people, which means there are NOT designed to protect people from poverty.

"If a disaster struck your community, would you pitch in to help your neighbors, doing what you could to make sure they were safe and had adequate food and shelter? Ayn Rand would ask, "What's in it for me? Where's my profit?"

It's easy to read Atlas Shrugged and find out that this is not true. All the main characters got together and risked their life to save John Galt from the likes of Inga. And let's also not forget how everyone rushed to save Dagny from the airplane accident. In short, Inga, what your quoted is nonsense, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

AprilApple said...

The left do not understand her and they don't read her books. That is why they are so threatened by her, and often write garbage that has nothing to do with her way of thinking.

Hyphenated American said...

Last but not least...

"What did she do at the end of her many years of smoking and claiming it didn't cause lung cancer? She accepted Social Security and Medicare. "

She paid into SS and Medicare all her life. Of course, the proper thing would be for Ayn Rand to refuse to be paid through SS and Medicare - and then get all her money that she paid in taxes back in interest. Would that be okay for Inga? I guess she forgot that FDR sold SS as insurance - and yet, apparently, Inga does not believe that SS and Medicare owes you back the money you paid for it. It all belongs to the community, right, Inga?

AprilApple said...

Ayn Rand was an atheist.

Ayn Rand prophesized about the extreme selfishness and narcissism of a bloated uncaring over-bearing state.

Salamandyr said...

Say what you will, I found "Atlas Shrugged" impossible to put down--okay, that's an exaggeration. As it's too long to read in one sitting, I obviously was able to put it down.

But I read it obsessively, and loved every page of it.

I don't have much interest in reading it again though.

surfed said...

They're just a couple of books for cryin' out loud. The original Foundation trilogy had more import for me in my late teens early twenties anything Rand wrote. The Toohey is a timeless classic...

Inga said...

Ayn Rand said "There can be no compromise on basic principles".

She compromised when she herself needed to, didn't she? I can't blame her, but it makes her a monumental hypocrite. That's her legacy, that and elevating the worst traits a human being can have, selfishness and narcissism ....oh yes and did I say she was a hypocrite?

John Lynch said...

"Sub-Nietzschean," is what Alan Bloom called Atlas Shrugged.

All Rand adds to Nietzsche is a specific critique of 20th century socialism. While it's accurate, she's not the only critic. I think Solzhenitsyn or Conquest has a lot more to say about where it all leads.

For someone who hasn't read much Rand seems revelatory, but that's more a reflection of how poor our education has become.

It's all the same. Read one thing by Rand and you've read it all. It has a fractal quality where any small piece resembles the whole.

C Stanley said...

I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged and Fountainheadas a teen and it got me thinking about things in ways I hadn't prior to that. I don't remember much of either book, except character and plot details that people tend to refer to. What stuck with me was the idea that capitalism makes more sense than collectivism because human nature isn't altruistic enough to support a system based on it. I gather that this isn't the extent of her philosophy, and that I wouldn't agree with a lot of the rest, but on that point I think she is absolutely correct. And @Inga- if you really want to understand the crossover appeal to Christians, it's wrapped up in this idea that man is a fallen creature.

AprilApple said...

Barack Obama said... "There can be no compromise on basic principles".


Clearly he's a selfish narcissist pig.

AprilApple said...

Ayn Rand tried to expose real greed - The greed of tyrannical bureaucratic busy-bodies who bulldoze the creative entrepreneurial spirit of the individual.

That's boring to some people who don't mind the bulldozing.

It also threatens leftists and makes them crap their pants.

The Godfather said...

I am not a Rand fan, but I did read her novels and some of her essays when I was in college, and I learned something from the experience, as, for example, I did reading Galbraith, Dewey, etc.

I AM an Althouse fan, and I'm disturbed that you have decided that Rand's works are not worth reading without reading them.

You seem offended that some people who read your blog on a regular basis were excited to think that you might be open-minded enough to read the masterwork (or other works) of an influential author who has influenced them. Instead, you proudly proclaim that you know it's junk without reading it. This is disappointing.

The Godfather said...

Oh, and by the way, attributing the "some people count, some people don't" line from Dirty Dancing to a "young Paul Ryan" could be funny in a different context, but in this context it implies that Rand and Ryan hold that view, whereas that's the opposite of their view: Every individual "counts". Robbie seems to think he doesn't need to take responsibility for the girl he's "gotten into trouble" (if I remember the movie correctly) because she doesn't "count", and that's not either Ryanish or Randian values.

Hyphenated American said...

"She compromised when she herself needed to, didn't she? I can't blame her, but it makes her a monumental hypocrite. "

I don't remember any liberals who explain why rands attempt to get her money back front the social security and Medicare "lockbox" is somehow hypocritical. It's as if she did not pay for it, as if the only came from Santa Claus. Liberal ignorance and stupidity are amazing.


"That's her legacy, that and elevating the worst traits a human being can have, selfishness and narcissism ....oh yes and did I say she was a hypocrite?"

Yap. When you want to take at gun point the money that I earned and give it to somebody else, just that you feel good about yourself, that's compasses and stuff. When I try to keep what I earned, it's selfish,narcissistic and hypocritical. Yap, that must be it.

Oh, and when Obama, the man who whines about the richest one percent, and evil tax cuts fort he rich, and how the rich don't pay their fair share - and use all possible,iPhones to pay less in taxes, and sends the air force one to bring in his doggies, nah, that ain't hypocrisy, it's Ayn Rand who is aa hypocrite, for trying to get back the money she paid to the regime. Yap, that's inga's logic.

Oh, and one more thing. Obama talks about ring his brothers keeper, and yet he does not want to send a penny to his own brother who lives in poverty. That does not disturbing a, not at all. After all, Obama is not a selfish narcissist, he is doing all that for the community, public good and stuff. Right?

friscoda said...

The Godfather is right. Some of your readers wanted to share their enthusiasms with you and you said "ha! fooled you. I was not planning on reading it."

Rather juvenile, no?

Tom said...

Althouse, you're right that I did attempt to convince you to read The Fountainhead. However, that was not because I misunderstood what you wrote. I realized you didn't want to read Atlas Shrugged. And so I suggested an alternative. I don't know if my argument was designed to appeal to your vanity "or mine". But it was an attempt to appeal to your sense of ownership of this blog -- so that's probably close enough to vanity. Anyway, it was cool to get quoted in one of your posts, even if my comment went down in flames.

William said...

The screen clip posted above is a typical Hollywwod bank shot. The annoying young man has apparently got some girl pregnant and means to leave her in the lurch. This has something to do with him being an Ayn Rand fan. Do you think it's possible they could have played out that same scene with him handing her a copy of On The Road? My guess is that Kerouac fans are three to four times more likely to knock up their girl friends and then take a walk than Ayn Rand fans.

Shawn Levasseur said...

"Anyway, if I'm right and it's the ideas that matter, it's much easier to read the ideas summarized straight and not in some big gooey sugar pill of a novel."

Even then, Ayn can go off the rails. John Galt's broadcast is essentially a philosophical essay stuck in the middle of the story, and goes on far too long.

It will be interesting to see how the movie handles it.

What is John Galt? Long winded.

machine said...

She was so brave to get her money back that she didn't even use the name of Ayn Rand....so brave.

Hyphenated American said...

"She was so brave to get her money back that she didn't even use the name of Ayn Rand....so brave. "

Of course "Ayn Rand" was not her real name, she had to take it as a pen name in order to protect her relatives in the ussr from obama's progressives like Stalin and the like.

Gabriel Hanna said...

One thing to remember about Atlas Shrugged is that many of the events she describes had actually happened in America in the 1930s.

The National Recovery Administration in 1933 provides some of the most egregious examples. The more extreme events Rand described did not in America, but did happen in Europe, Russia, and China. She changed some of the names around, mostly.

Donald Richburg of NRA: There is no choice presented to American business between intelligently planned and uncontrolled industrial operations and a return to the gold-plated anarchy that masqueraded as "rugged individualism."...Unless industry is sufficiently socialized by its private owners and managers so that great essential industries are operated under public obligation appropriate to the public interest in them, the advance of political control over private industry is inevitable.

Ayn Rand's character Orren Boyle: “My purpose is the preservation of a free economy. It’s generally conceded that free economy is now on trial. Unless it proves its social value and assumes its social responsibilities, the people won’t stand for it. If it doesn’t develop a public spirit, it’s done for, make no mistake about that.....The only justification of private property is public service.

jeff said...

"Why should I listen to the statements about a long book made by readers who are unable to understand what I wrote in short blog post?!"
Yes, Obama has the same problem.

Mike Dini said...

"The fact that her work has altered the life trajectory of millions of people is balderdash. From my lofty perch as a preeminent blogger and law professor, I deem Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead beneath me and not worthy of my time. I will play CLEVERLAWYER words games and ridicule anybody who then says "Ummm Ann, maybe you really should read these books.” You can fix my paraphrase of your tantrum if you’d like. You are welcome to mock me now.

PS – This is obviously a sensitive subject, but could you load Fountainhead also? I’ll front you the $7.58 or donate $100 to your favorite charity.

Ann Althouse said...

"I AM an Althouse fan, and I'm disturbed that you have decided that Rand's works are not worth reading without reading them."

You have to do everything before deciding that you don't want to do it?!

Obviously, that can't work as a general principle. The working presumption about everything is no. You need a reason to say yes. The non-yes isn't a pronouncement that no one should say yes.

Make you own decisions.

I read a minuscule fraction of even the excellent books that are written. It's almost a mystery that anything crosses over the line into things I read.

Or movies I watch.

I don't have time. I already read more hours in the day than makes sense. I need to cut myself off and do more things in walking-around world.

Mark Trade said...

Ann, that's great. Actually I remember reading Rand quotes as a teen and not understanding the fuss. Usually it was something about freedom and creativity and I was just sort of like "duh." They seemed a bit bland and definitely boring.

It wasn't until after I faced trouble becoming an adult and I had been broken by prevailing wisdom, religion, feminism, and everything else that said the only way I could be a good person was through self-annihilation. I had to be reminded, or in any case I appreciated the reminder, that it was right to make decisions for my own benefit. It may be that Rand is for broken people with who once possessed strong minds and good hearts, to heal. Maybe you don't need to heal.