Taylor K.'s Reviews > The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
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Dec 04, 13

bookshelves: fiction, own, recommended, the-power-of-love, women-writers, if-you-liked-the-movie
Recommended for: Those who are ambitious and feel out of place in society due to their lack of regard for much of it
Read in October, 2007

Note, Feb. 2011: The feedback I've gotten on this review is kind of funny. I'd like to make one thing clear, and that is that I'm far from a Rand worshipper. I can't get onboard with her whole way of life, from the personal to the political level. I will say, though, that I think her attitudes, when applied to the creative arts, are important. When you create something, I think it's fine to disregard trends and making other people happy. When you create, the person you should keep foremost in mind is you. As for the other stuff, I still agree with everything I wrote originally, which is that there are aspects of the rest of her teachings that are compelling and that are worth sampling from. But adapting someone else's principles whole hog kind of go against the very basic idea this is built upon, which is examine yourself, and what you want, and I have a hard time believing that so many people want exactly the same things she wanted. Originally, when I wrote this review, Goodreads had a much shorter word limit, and I remember running out of space. I can't remember what else I was going to say, but this will have to suffice. (Also, no, I'm not okay with the rape, kthanx.)

Original review:

This book is remarkable.

Basic plot: Howard Roark (individual) & Peter Keating (copycat). Roark constantly fights with society but manages to survive, Keating gets lifted up by society and then destroyed by it (can you say celebrities?). This is the plot at its most rudimentary - naturally there's more to it.

I understand the comments about Objectivists being assholes and I respond to that in two ways - firstly, does this not prove her point about how people respond to/treat individuals who live for themselves? Secondly, there's an exaggeration in here. Simply look at the relationships in the book - the fact that they exist. In its purest form, the most egotistical, self-centered person wouldn't bother entering into a relationship or get married, because it would imply having to consider another person (or making someone a doormat, which would go against the philosophy, because part of it is that one will exist for themselves without enslaving others - Roark refuses to let Dominique submit to something she wouldn't be happy with). Ayn Rand got married, Objectivists in The Fountainhead get married - it's not that they're portrayed as not caring about anyone (exaggeration!). The best example of the Objectivists' relationships is the quote from a scene where Roark and Wynand (publisher of the most powerful newspaper chain) are on the yacht, and Roark says something along the lines of "I'd die for you, but I won't live for you," which makes a lot of sense.

People get their panties in a bunch over something that should be made distinct - there's people (individuals) and there's society (the collective of people, supposedly driven by a majority of thought). Ayn Rand's theories apply as much to society as they do the individual. This is more a story of two individuals' fights with society than fights with each other. Yes, the focus is on people giving the most significance to their own thoughts and desires, but they DON'T ignore others. They have friends, relationships, lovers. Clearly, they care about other people (Roark's treatment of Wynand after the trial at the end is a particularly good example of this). There's just not a blind caring, blind trust, blind affection, a blind desire to help, and there's the firm thought that one should affirm themselves through their own standards, not those of others. This isn't a bad thing!

Like any philosophy/school of thought, you have to pick and choose from this, and there's no reason why you can't take all of the personal motivation and apply it without feeling like you're screwing over everyone you know. Again, it's a matter of exaggeration, and I don't think you have to embrace this to its most extreme measures to appreciate, understand and want to employ it. Putting yourself first doesn't mean putting everyone you know last. It's not a black or white situation.

There are so many things in this that ran parallel to my thinking, the way that I've lived my life, the way that I see my life and the people in it - there were times when the similarities made me feel fantastic from knowing that they were reflected somewhere, and other times they were so close they scared me, especially in Dominique (mostly at the very beginning).

I feel like I can't continue living my life as I was before. I feel like a fraud for going back to my job. I continually had to set it aside for a few minutes after a chapter because I wanted, needed to think about what I had just read. The last 100 pages were particularly hard to get through because of that. My brain turned to mush - in a good way. It's a lot to take on, but I feel better about myself for having done so.

At just over 700 pages long, it's a bit of a beast, but it's worth every word, and it really only took me 2-3 weeks to get through, which is pretty quick considering I read only on my subway rides.

P.S. The movie isn't very good...
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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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message 1: by puck (new)

puck i was at a meeting recently where the intros included "something that everyone there didn't know about you" or something like that, and this one guy goes "you know ayn rand? well, i'm an objectivist."

unsurprisingly, he was an ass.


Jillian I loved how you described your reaction to this book. This is one of those books I think for everyone-and whether they agree or disagree with objectivism I think they should appreciate that they read something that really made them think THAT hard. I thought it was amazing and I loved your take on it.


message 3: by Taylor K. (last edited Jul 01, 2008 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Taylor K. Absolutely. I don't completely agree with every aspect of Objectivism, but I absolutely respect it for being as thought-provoking as it is, to those who agree with it, those who don't, and those (like me) who maybe fit in somewhere in-between. I've gotten in more debates over Rand's work than anybody else's.


Ilyn Ross Hello Taylor,

How are you? I revere Ayn Rand.

When you have the time, please visit the "To the Glory of Man" group, the "Happy & Brainy" group, and the author giveaways (my novel, Reason Reigns, is listed). Could I add you as my friend?


Warmest regards,

Ilyn


message 5: by Taylor K. (last edited Jul 22, 2008 11:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Taylor K. Sure, Ilyn, you can absolutely add me.


Ilyn Ross Thank you so much, Taylor.


Miguel Gonzalez Taylor,
I am in total agreement with your overall assessment of both the book and of Ms. Rand's work. I agree, it is hard to follow the Objectivist lifestyle and actually get anywhere in our collectivist society. I read the book while I was a 19 year old sailor off the coast of Lebanon when I found this book in the library. As you can guess, when not actually doing any military ops, I had all kinds of time on my hands and I filled it with the story of Howard Roark. I still remember how enthralled I was to read about someone that seemed to share the same thought processes as I. To this day, I actually have made both my boys, and soon my daughter, read through this novel at least once. Perhaps they too can gleam a little from its pages as I did so long ago.


Miguel Gonzalez Taylor,
I am in total agreement with your overall assessment of both the book and of Ms. Rand's work. I agree, it is hard to follow the Objectivist lifestyle and actually get anywhere in our collectivist society. I read the book while I was a 19 year old sailor off the coast of Lebanon when I found this book in the library. As you can guess, when not actually doing any military ops, I had all kinds of time on my hands and I filled it with the story of Howard Roark. I still remember how enthralled I was to read about someone that seemed to share the same thought processes as I. To this day, I actually have made both my boys, and soon my daughter, read through this novel at least once. Perhaps they too can gleam a little from its pages as I did so long ago.


Miguel Gonzalez Oops! And I so rarely repeat myself in real life.


message 10: by Jason Williams (last edited Jun 16, 2009 01:53AM) (new)

Jason Williams I'm not saying that Ayn Rand killed Captain America (Easy Rider), but I do think she gave the orders to have him shot.




message 11: by Lynn (new) - added it

Lynn Thank you for your in-depth review.
I look forward to tackling this one!


message 12: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Feb 25, 2010 02:42PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mike (the Paladin) A detailed discussion of Objectivist thought would take more room than I have here as this is about your review. I will say that while I agree with some parts (our society whether you call it collectivist, progressive, or simply socialist is obviously in trouble). But I do find this book more flawed than her other major work, Atlas Shrugged. (Probably because of the rape scene). I do wonder somewhat at your rating in light of this. What do you see as Rand's point in "beginning" their relationship thus?


Armando Navarro idk, im in high school, im currently reading the book, to me it seems that the whole idea of objectivism is that of a more noble person, they only care about their own as much as they would for others until certain points, those of which respect for your self would be violated, but again idk i like the book and it keeps me from doing "bad things" :)


Ginger Thank you for your review. I am about 1/4 through the book, and finding it fascinating. I am not an "objectivist" but I would choose that over "collectivist." A person can have values and morals, compassion and altruism, yet not become a socialist. I believe that individualism with faith and with heart is what propels society to greatness.

I'm not seeing that yet in this story, and I don't know much about Rand, but I'm enjoying the read nonetheless. Can't wait to pick it up again and finish it.


Vinaysheel Rao To condemn something you don't understand completely, atleast in the most basic sense, is the easiest thing in the world. And I'm not condemning you or your review, just thanking you for enhancing my understanding of people's take on Objectivism and Ayn Rand and why people find it so hard to espouse all of Rand's values or to understand them.

There are frames of references you can adopt while you are evaluating something. I have viewed and evaluated Objectivism, most judiciously, from both inside and outside perspectives and I agree with all it's personal, political and societal elements.

For your information, Objectivism does not advocate disregard for others in the personal or the creative realm. It just condemns 'blind' regard. Respect, love etc. should be grounded in our appreciation of other's values, not in a compulsion to accept their vices and compromise on your own ideals. This holds true even in the personal realm. Why should it not?

P.S. Yes, I'm a Rand admirer but I don't admire anything or anyone blindly. And yes, I find the rape scene uncomfortable, too, but I'm aware of the fact that the story needed it, my reaction to it is based on a personal prejudice and a failure to evaluate it objectively.


Rohith Jyothish I thought I was the only one who thought this way...Your review took the words right out of my mind... :)


message 17: by Rabeya (new) - added it

Rabeya you said exactly what I felt about the book.


message 18: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Prewitt For all those weighing in on this, I recommend reading Nathanial Branden's Judgement Day. He is a psycho analyst and former lover of Rands'. He and Rand had an 18 year intellectual and physical affair with the "consent" of their respective spouses. That was a real life experiment in Objectivism. The best thing for me about reading Rand was that it lead me to Branden, who is a phenom in his own right. More than Rand, his writing has changed my life.


Michael Jones I was going to review this, but you've basically wrote my sentiments for me. :)


Jerryl Ann Thank you. I couldn't agree with you more.


message 21: by Ana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ana Thank you. I agree with every word of your review. It is a remarkable book.


message 22: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Miss Rand was once (probably many times) asked about the "rape scene" in The Foountainhead. She replied that "you can't rape the willing".

So much for the tossed-off quote. Now, I'd like to say that the reviewer seems to understand the novel as Rand herself understood it - not as an extreme, heartless, way of living and thinking, but as a principled model for life, thought, and action. Nice job here.

BTW, you may enjoy 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".


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