Eric_W’s review of The Fountainhead > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by C. (new)

C. I haven't read The Fountainhead, but I have read Atlas Shrugged, which is her opus magnum, and in that book her economics are incredibly right-wing. Reactionary is hardly strong enough to describe it.

I find it interesting that you didn't mention her writing style at all. Most people hate it. What did you think?


message 2: by Eric_W (last edited Apr 05, 2009 05:56AM) (new)

Eric_W I rarely comment on writing style because I don't trust my judgment on such things. I also admit shamefacedly to liking a good story, narrative and reading for ideas rather than writing style.

I have read several biographies of Rand as well as many writings from her acolytes. I'm quite uncomfortable with labels such as right-wing, left-wing, etc. because they seem to have lost any ability to define or to illuminate. The distinctions between the left and right become indistinguishable at the edges, anyway. Both believe in using power to control.

Rand was very much a believer in capitalism and the so-called free market. She arrived from Russia at a fairly young age and given what she saw happen to her father, had a horror of fascism, Communism, and "collectivism" which she defined as doing everything for the "group" as opposed to celebration of the individual. She vigorously opposed any kind of coercion, a belief I find myself having great sympathy for. She was about as existential as one could get. Personally, her life was a screwed up mess, and her affair with a much younger, married acolyte, Nathaniel Branden, supposedly supported by all parties involved was grotesque.

Alan Greenspan was, of course, one of her apostles. He was revered as the patron saint of the free market until it all came crashing down and I guess he has sort of reneged on laissez-faire. From that standpoint alone, Rand is worth reading to try to understand the extraordinary influence she had on his generation.

It has been my experience that many people have instant gut reactions to Ayn Rand, especially those who have not read any of her work. That bothers me. My father always said that if you haven't read something you can't talk about it. He was right, so I can't yet speak about Atlas Shrugged, but it's on my extraordinarily large list of books to read.


References to books I have read and reviewed: Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies
My Years with Ayn Rand
The Ayn Rand Cult
The Passion of Ayn Rand


message 3: by Asamg1 (new)

Asamg1 Like Choupette, I've read Atlas Shrugged (and haven't read The Fountainhead), and enjoyed it immensely, but probably for all the wrong reasons. I consider it the unconscious comic masterpiece of the twentieth century. The characters are so adamant that it sounds like literary socialist realism, and pretty funny socialist realism at that. Anybody who takes him or herself that seriously is a caricature, pure and simple. Not having read any other Rand novels, I don't know whether this is her stock in trade, but I found it quite entertaining in this case. I rather suspect Rand would not, however, be pleased with this assessment...
Just a thought...


message 4: by Brad (new)

Brad One of the best reviews of Rand and the Fountainhead I've seen, Eric_W. And I am in full agreement about the ability of Right and Left Wing labels to contain any meaning anymore. Their usefulness is long past, and when it is applied to someone whose work is as complex as Rand's...well, it is absolutely meaningless. It is important to read the author's work to understand their position, but to label that position is unnecessary once one's own understanding is reached.


message 5: by C. (new)

C. I completely forgot about this thread! Whoops. Eric, I totally agree about people having gut reactions to Ayn Rand, though I think it's not quite so common in Australia as America. The most fervent admirer of her I've ever met grew up in communist Romania, so her philosophy is, I suppose, understandable given her origins but she takes it to such extremes, which is my problem with it.

Like you, Asamg1, I found her characters to be caricatures and her setting so exaggerated as to be verging on parody. What is scary is that it's not supposed to be parody or comedy (if only!), it's supposed to be the basis of a way of life.

I don't think there's anything shameful about enjoying a good story (though I feel ashamed for it myself sometimes too)! You write great reviews, anyway.


message 6: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca I just happened upon your review after writing my own and wanted to say "well done!" you are very correct.


message 7: by Mckenna (new)

Mckenna What biography did you read?


message 8: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W Well, it's been a long time since I wrote this review and I've read several of her bios (I do want to read the new one by Anne Heller Ayn Rand and the World She Made) but I think the one that spurred my reading of the Fountainhead was My Years with Ayn Rand (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...) by her erstwhile acolyte Nathaniel Branden and another by his wife (very different perspectives, I might add) The Passion of Ayn Rand (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/.... I was reading a bunch of stuff about Rand in 2007 and 2008 so it's hard to remember which came first.


message 9: by Roxie (new)

Roxie Gray Have you read Atlas Shrugged yet?

I found it interesting that you mentioned De Toqueville syndrome, because I get the same impression upon trying to discuss Ayn Rand with people who "are familiar with her work". She probably appealed more to me a few years ago as an idealistic teenager, but Atlas Shrugged is still one of the most cherished books in my collection.

I really enjoyed this review


message 10: by Jim (new)

Jim Syler Fantastic review. But be careful in assuming that because Greenspan was an acolyte of Rand, he acted according to Rand's principles. He very much did not. There was nothing lassiez-faire about his time at the Fed.


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim I highly recommend a richly-drawn oral-biography of Rand - told through the voices of 100 folks who knew and met her - titled: "100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand". This is almost entirely about Rand's personality - that is, her dealings with those that were interviewed. Very little of it addresses her ideas with any detail.


message 12: by Harry (new)

Harry Eric, nice review! And you're right, seeing a book by Rand sparks intense agreement or disagreement about her other writings, her personality, her life, and rarely about the fictional book itself. You're also right that Rand was no Republican (though she admits that the essentials of Republicanism: smaller government, individual freedom, etc.) were basically sound - she found Republicans to be weak because of being inconsistent with their own principles (leaving aside issues of religion which she opposed regardless) and she'd probably vomit in disgust with Republicans in politics today. As to Democrats? well, let's just say that she viewed the Church and the State as equally culpable of instigating centuries of darkness upon humanity.

I loved this book. Have read it twice, once as a young man, and once recently. Rand began her philosophy not to become a philosopher, but to become a writer of the novels she wanted to write: to write about the characters she wanted to write about, she felt she needed to understand what drove such characters (ergo, Objectivism). She's always seen herself as an author, not a philosopher.

As to her characters: Rand decided early on that the kind of characters she wanted to portray, should be portrayed by their "essence", which some perceive as caricatures. You can like or dislike her books, of course, but her style, her objectives, and her stories came out as she wanted them to be.

I came away from The Fountainhead, and at the time without knowing a thing about her philosophy, with the following: when I run into a difficult problem in life, I ask myself: "Now, what would Howard do in this circumstance?" After all the work she put into understanding the motives of the characters she wrote about, it would be a compliment to Rand to hear this.

One book not mentioned above is Rand's The Art of Fiction which is an excellent book for both readers and authors alike.


message 13: by Jim (last edited Aug 14, 2013 10:13AM) (new)

Jim Harry wrote:

(Rand always saw) herself as an author, not a philosopher.

I think it's fairly clear that she was an author AND a philosopher - this was the distinct impression of many who were interviewed for "100 Voices" (see above).

Her novels - having sold tens-of-millions since 1943 (this excludes her pre-Fountainhead short novels) - give her an exposure most philosophers never dreamed of.

(I suppose this is analogous to Michener who wrote best-selling historical novels not "histories")

Academics (a large majority, it seems) hasten to opine that "Rand was not a philosopher". I regret that many in the academy seem not to recognize valid argumentation. True, not only when the arguer disrupts their worldview but also when she does.

Reports from the field seem to be consistent that Rand argued fairly, did not browbeat or resort to personal attacks (the ad hominem fallacy), and tended to start from premises before arriving at conclusions.

This sounds like a true philosopher to me.


message 14: by Harry (new)

Harry Jim wrote: "This sounds like a true philosopher to me."

I agree, she was a philosopher, regardless of what academics tell us. But, I think in her own mind, and what brought her to this philosophy: professionally she saw herself first and foremost as an author. At least, her book on writing indicates so. I find it remarkable, the work done to achieve the writing of her novels, to satisfy her own mind.


message 15: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King What an excellent review Eric_W!


message 16: by Margitte (new)

Margitte What a powerful review of this book. I've started this book, forgot it at a friend's place, and now hope I can get it back as soon as possible. Love your review! And I agree with you.


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