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The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
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Oct 02, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012, adventure, art, classic, fiction, historical-fiction, philosophy
Read from October 05 to 13, 2012

Well I finished it. I want to write a review. In fact, I have been 'writing a review' of this book the entire time I've been reading it--in my head--I like this, I don't like that, etc. It's a deeply flawed book, there is no question, and yet, and yet, there is also no doubt that there are some profound nuggets of truth that she shines lights on which make us wince. Her depictions of the hypocrisy of/in so much of human social behavior was outstanding! Her acknowledgement of the way so many are afraid of other people's success ... as if it somehow negates their own is also very accurate and well-portrayed. There were many sections of the text which I highlighted because I liked them so much and yet long-winded soliloquies used as conversational speeches, I could have done without. They often broke up the flow of the story and usually didn't convince me of her argument.

Even so ... I still want to write a review and this isn't it.

But here it is:

As I am 212 pages into Ayn (pronounced Eye-n) Rand’s Magnus Opus, Atlas Shrugged, I expect this review might be somewhat colored by a growing understanding of her philosophy which – at least so far – is made more clear in AS than TF.

What I am coming to realize is that hers was a philosophy of pure business, i.e., business for business’ sake with very high ethical standards of its own. That her views do not represent any ‘side’ but point out truths which are uncomfortable for all sides is, in fact, what led to her own unpopularity and yet the enduring value of her work.

To her, GOOD = pure capitalism, ethical businessmen who want to produce quality goods/services, provide gainful employment for those who wish to work and show a profit because the work/business itself is what is right and good. Businesses do not exist for altruistic reasons; they exist for their own existence. And yet they do benefit society to the extent which they meet the three objectives stated above. This ‘GOOD’ presupposes its mutual understanding and support by all concerned parties on many levels and does not (so far as I can see) take into account such things as crony capitalism, human egos or vices/virtues and/or the fact that one person is never all one thing or another, not all good or all bad.

EVIL, by contrast—according to Rand—is anything/anyone who would hamper or collectivize individual initiative in the realization of the stated GOOD above, whether through weakness, ignorance, outright opposition or claims of ‘what’s owing’ the rest of society, in particular those less fortunate.

In her desire to clarify her philosophy in a work of fiction, Ms. Rand sacrifices the flow of story. Well, we have seen this in other books and it can be forgiven. Readers are always free to skim long soliloquies when editor/publishers are overruled by loquacious and enthusiastic authors.

However, the real question of The Fountainhead is, are man and society as Rand portrays them? Is her story realistic and does it have merit on that basis? First, what about society? Well of course, she simplified things for the sake of a novel. The reality is so much more complex I wonder it could ever be portrayed in fiction that was entertaining. And yet for a book written in 1943 which supposedly reflects American social and commercial values from an even earlier era, I found the book as relevant, honest and accurate a description as anything I’ve read today. Her characters, however, seem polar representations: either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’, with fools falling into the latter category.

However, as this was meant to be didactic book, a ‘rub the puppy’s nose’ in his mistake lesson, she knows what she did and why she did it. The character’s opportunities to choose one way or another kept coming throughout the story and each time you knew it and hoped he/she would choose the higher path. That was the intention of her book. Our question is can we forgive her?

A central tenant of the book was how many of us are afraid of other people's successes ... as if another person’s accomplishments in some way demean our own. Do we celebrate or begrudge them? I am thinking of Jesus here and when He told the Parable of the Talents. We are not given equal talents but we are all encouraged by our Maker to use and not bury them. I will save the rest of what I want to say about her atheism for my review of Atlas Shrugged.

Ms. Rand was Howard Roark. She lived his life. No, she didn’t build pieces of avant-garde architecture; she wrote books people hated, vilified and misunderstood. And yet she knew what she believed and she stood by it regardless of what others thought of her. She had a rare and total integrity to her principles.

I admire her very much. A classic work—certainly flawed and a bit campy for my tastes, but hugely entertaining. I will return to it again! Now on to finish AS.

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Quotes booklady Liked

Ayn Rand
“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.”
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Ayn Rand
“Don't fool yourself, my dear. You're much worse than a bitch. You're a saint. Which shows why saints are dangerous and undesirable.”
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Ayn Rand
“Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea.”
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Ayn Rand
“One loses everything when one loses one's sense of humor.”
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Reading Progress

10/07/2012 page 233
09/18/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-23 of 23) (23 new)

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message 1: by Homeschoolmama (new)

Homeschoolmama Booklady, what do you think of Ayn Rand? I once tried to read a book of hers, a very long time ago, and I never finished it. I think I was in college at the time and I was unimpressed.... but I wonder what it'd be like now. I know I don't subscribe to her beliefs, but curious to know what her writing was like.

booklady I am finding the book absolutely riveting! All I want to do is read it ... and work and life keep getting in the way! LOL! Two nights I stayed up late because I couldn't stop reading. Hope to finish it tomorrow.

message 3: by Homeschoolmama (new)

Homeschoolmama Well then I may just have to take a look at this one!! Thanks for the comment!

message 4: by Angela (new)

Angela I have been wanting to read this book for a very long time. You have inspired me.

booklady Angela,

I couldn't stop thinking about it while I was reading it ... want to hunt up some of the quotes from the book I liked and add them.

Julie and Homeschoolmama,

Thanks for the vote. Hope you don't change your mind when I finally write my actual review. ;)

message 6: by Bear (new)

Bear Watching the movies has been enlightening; nothing new here, because I understand where she is coming from (I have learned a lot about socialism/communism/capitalism/ismsms over the years, and know which one works, even as flawed as it is... ) Excellent review!

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Booklady, I myself am not familiar with Rand's work, but the writers on the traditionalist blogs I follow have been discussing her lately, and I think you might find it interesting, even if you don't agree with their conclusions. This page will lead you to various links on the topic:

booklady Thanks Casey. Pretty stiff criticisms. They really don't like her do they? As for me, I'm still in the learning mode so far as Rand is concerned having only read the one book and watched a couple of DVDs. It will take me some time before I can say I fully understand/appreciate what she was trying to do/say--beyond the fact that she was convinced of what she believed in. Not sure I could even define her philosophy of 'objectivism' if I had to. I just know that there are truths in what she wrote ... truths which have allowed her works both to endure and to irritate. That's what I'm trying to discern. Probably I will have to take a break from her and give it all some perspective. She's a very intense writer. She makes me think and I wish I could have met her--I don't say that about many authors. Thanks for the links!

message 9: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Ayn Rand understands the problem of attempting to socialize capitalism. She was a 12-year-old Russian when the Bolshevik revolution happened and communism was shoved down the country's throat. At the age of 21, she came to America with a complete understanding of what socialism looks like and how it can destroy a free society.

It should be no surprise that her writing is simplified, exaggerated and filled with anti-socialist rhetoric. Her purpose was to warn us of what is happening right now in America.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, they clearly despise her! In fact, I think I saw another post about her this morning. The relevancy obviously has to do with the elections and Paul Ryan. Well, like I said, I haven't read any of her works, but as one trying to be as authentically Catholic as possible on Earth, I'm opposed to both capitalism and socialism: distributism is leading the way! (And still I have much to learn about that, too.) I do own the Virtue of Selfishness, though, and will also make my own judgments. You are welcome for the links. I hope they didn't leave a bitter taste in your mouth about The Orthosphere or the Thinking Housewife. I would recommend (and I am now) both of those blogs apart from the Ayn Rand topic. The contributors are brilliant and have really drawn me into traditionalism.

booklady Thanks Jerry and Casey.

Jerry, yes, I did gather Ms. Rand's lean to one side was as a result of what she had seen first hand in 1917 Russia with the Soviet take-over and then seemed to see repeating itself in 1930's America--and beyond. Was it a result of our desperation during the Great Depression or has it been naivete/ignorance then and since that we are willing to see and allow government to solve all our social problems for us? When did we become such children? My own dear dad explained the dangers of FDR (and other gov't socialist) policies to me from an early age as he was/is a now retired CPA. Gov't running anything besides gov't is lethal to business, the economy and doesn't even do the best job helping the disadvantaged. That much I do understand. What beyond that Ms. Rand is advocating I can't say.

Casey, I have heard of distributism as well ... in connection with G. K. Chesterton, an author I greatly admire, but beyond that I can't say I know much about it. Hopefully I will have some time in the not so distant future to check it out more. Thanks for the recommendations!

Blessings to both of you!

message 12: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Casey - I'm really not trying to stir up trouble, just wondering what you mean. I'm not sure how Catholicism is opposed to capitalism aside from an increased potential for greed, because capitalism seems Biblically acceptable and even praised in the activities of the "virtuous woman" (Proverbs 31:10-31). The apostle Paul was a capitalist insofar as he worked with Priscilla and Aquilla making tents; purchasing wool and turning a profit. I have never found any complaints against the practices of New Testament Christians who were wealthy landowners or merchants. Jesus was perturbed specifically by the buying and selling and money-changing that went on in the Temple of Jerusalem, but He said nothing generally about those necessary businesses, so I'm confused by your statement.

message 13: by Angela (last edited Oct 25, 2012 12:23PM) (new)

Angela Ah yes Paul making tents, tents to house the Living Lord, all who believe, and wool , the Sheep of His pastuer.
Here we live in the US and as Mark Knopfler sings,"People curse the goverment and shovel hot food down..."
Forgive my spelling.

booklady Angela wrote: "Here we live in the US ..."

Some people -- over the age of 21 -- live as if they are still children expecting a bureaucratic "Mom and Dad" to provide for them. I am not speaking about those who cannot take care of themselves, but those who chose not to do so. There is a big difference. Also, I don't 'curse the government', but I do believe it has its limitations, just as everything does.

message 15: by Angela (new)

Angela I totally agree with you. There is a good sentence out of this book I am reading right now, almost finishing that is that says exactly what you just wrote. Do you want me to write it?

booklady Sure! ☺

message 17: by Angela (new)

Angela OK. It will take a while to find it. I knew I should have underlined it right after I read it, bummer. I will find it for both of us, it might take some time. One more thing some of us have debated which book is better by Rand, Shrugged or Fountain, Fountain won with the most votes.

booklady No hurry, whenever you get around to it, or as the saying goes, a round tuit.

I'm not surprised that Fountain is more popular than AS. I couldn't put Fountain down. Shrugged ... well I am getting bogged down in it and almost having to make myself keep reading.

message 19: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Angela wrote: "Ah yes Paul making tents, tents to house the Living Lord, all who believe, and wool , the Sheep of His pastuer.
Here we live in the US and as Mark Knopfler sings,"People curse the goverment and sh..."

Uh, what?

message 20: by Angela (new)

Angela Well when I read the Scripture I see a spiritual side, with a natural side, we all live in this tent, our body. Paul was a man who preached the Gospel of Christ, when one preaches, the one who is listening can decide if they choose to believe, therefore Paul made new tents, which would be those who are now believers by believing what they heard. Christ is the Great Shepard those who believe are the sheep. (I did not even touch the part about turning a profit.) In this walk I have I look upon everything with a natural and a spiritual understanding. A good example would be a split-hoof, and I might as well mention chewing the cud. In the O.T. A clean animal had a split-hoof and chewed the cud. To get to the point about the cud chewing, it means the animal brings up what it has swallowed, to chew it over again. I believe that is where one gets "chew that one over" . To use a scripture verse out of Jeremiah, "thy words were found and I did eat them and they were the joy and the rejoicing unto my soul." I believe Jeremiah must have brought up those words he ate over and over again. Now for the split hoof, a leg(in this case an animal) has its foot/hoof split. two parts walking the same direction. Nature and spirit walking together, as one chews it over again and again.
Now I am a tent, my soul and spirit dwell with in it, I walk with split hoof as I go over these words, again and again, all the days of my life, following my Master.

Booklady I have not had time to find it , but I do now remeber two things I want to find, you will see how both are connected.

Jerry I hope you can understand what I am trying to get across. :)

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi Jerry, yes, I understand it to be the inevitable result of capitalism (the concentration of capital to a small minority of the population) as not in accord with Catholic social doctrine. Thus, it doesn't seem that the free market in itself is immoral (except ones with no restrictions whatsoever). It's the *extensive* separation of ownership and work that presents as unjust economic system. Small-scale business is good since it leads to less corruption, better quality of production, etc. So let us support men's rights and local businesses! As booklady mentioned, distributism is connected with the great Catholic author G. K. Chesterton. And I quote: "Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists." I recommend reading up on the Distributist Review, where they provide numerous documents on Catholic social teaching:

message 22: by Douglas (new)

Douglas Patten I read this book when I was at the University of Washington well over 10 years ago and it still makes a tremendous impression in my mind every time I recall it. I have very fond memories of sitting my bedroom and being teased by my buddies who knew who Rand was but had never read any of her work. I simply told them that I was reading Fountain because I wanted to figure out for myself what she was trying to say and whether I believed it or not. I would ultimately have to say that I somewhat agreed with her when she portrays in the story about doing something well for its own sake, but with one caveat--I interpret this in my own life through the lens of my faith which ends up meaning that I work to do all things well not simply for sake of the work or the end product but to give glory to the One who made me. I fully believe that the process of personal creation and achievement works so well because we were all made in the image of a Creator. At some point in the future I will read this book again and see if it revives my old admiration, but for now it will simply have to wait.

message 23: by Angela (new)

Angela Good stuff Douglas. There is a book I want to read again after so many years, "The Cloister Walk" by Kathleen Norris, for the very same reason. I still have to read Fountain just for the sake of reading it.I do understand what you are saying.

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