Manzoid's Reviews > The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
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Aug 09, 2008

it was ok

This book is a big epiphany-getter in American high school and college students. It presents a theme of pure, fierce dedication to honing yourself into a hard blade of competence and accomplishment, brooking no compromise, ignoring and dismissing the weak, untalented rabble and naysayers as you charge forth to seize your destiny. You are an "Army of One". There is undeniable sophomoric allure to this pitch. It kind of reminds me of all those teenagers into ninja stuff and wu shu and other Oriental mystical crap (supported by a cottage industry of silly how-to magazines and catalogs for throwing stars and whatnot). "I will forge myself upon the white-hot anvil of hard experience into a mighty warrior..." or some such.

I read "The Fountainhead" in college, and so did a bunch of classmates. I found that the people who were *really* taken with it tended to be borderline-pompous cretins who had some moderate talent in something -- art or music, say -- and thought that Ayn Rand had just given them permission to uncork their amazing true spirits, that only an over-adherence to social convention was holding them back from greatness. Uh, no... that's not what's holding you back from greatness...

It reminds me of how so many students "really relate" to Holden Caulfield, when the real Holden would think they were total phonies.

To be fair, Rand's ideas about the supremacy of self-reliance, the false comfort of altruism, the exaltation of a gritty and decidedly male competence, the sublimeness of pure laissez-faire capitalism... they are interesting to consider. Not making excuses, getting off your ass and working to become really good at something that's in line with your true nature, staying true to your personal ideals of what Quality is, not compromising those ideals for expediency, fear, or social pressure -- these are workable ideas in themselves. However, they are put on a ridiculously high and isolated pedestal in Rand's work.

If children did not exist in this world and life was entirely about your career, maybe I could agree a little more. But only a little. Her worldview is just too cold and transactional and rigid and productivity-oriented. She's a libertarian wet dream, I guess, and I feel the same way about them both -- some thought-provoking ideas there, but I don't see it working at all as a broad basis for any kind of world I'd want to live in.

Oh yeah, and to circle back for a bit to the actual novel -- the prose is wooden, and characters are flat, and it is twice as long as necessary. Maybe three times as long. It's basically a giant propaganda tract. But it has a surprisingly strong grip on a certain stratum of the American consciousness, so I think it's still an interesting read in that respect. In order to invest the time in it though, I think you have to be the literary equivalent of the film buff who eagerly takes in B-movies as well in order to savor their peculiar inverse contributions to the art form.
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02/20/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hehehehe. This says it all, really. I feel sorry for anyone over age 16 who can't see how wretched Ayn Rand's writing is (hint: do long speeches belong in novels? even "novels of ideas"?). More importantly, I wonder if enough readers understand the social context of this novel having been written in the period between 1936 - 1943 by a victim of the Bolshevik Revolution.


message 2: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth Enjoyed both posts ... thanks Joyce :)

(BTW I don't have to say, pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain :)


message 3: by Kai (new)

Kai Excellent review.


message 4: by Gary (new)

Gary You've done a brilliant job of summing up my feelings about this book. I can only watch so many B movies & read so many pages of elitist drivel before I have to ask myself how I'll ever get back the time I've squandered. Ayn Rand's brand of bad writing and freshman philosophy is so much like L. Ron Hubbard's that I've sometimes wondered if they were either twins or just the same person. It would explain a lot, wouldn't it?


Tyler V. Perfect review.


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