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The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
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Feb 15, 2008

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Read in March, 2008

I recall that most people read Ayn Rand in high school, which is the ideal time to embrace protagonists who refuse to compromise their originality and are assaulted on all sides for their greatness. Having skipped several grades in public school I missed some of these formative books so I'm reading them as an adult. More than 50 years have passed in architecture, capitalism, and the glorification of the mediocre, since Rand wrote The Fountainhead, which is why its philosophies are more suited for the high school mind than the adult reader. Her characters aren't human, they are symbols to illustrate her early philosophy. Howard Roarke, her hero and übermensch, is a man who cannot exist in real life. He is perfect, and his enemies try and destroy him because he is perfect. What we know of 50 years of capitalism and architecture is that style means nothing, whether modern, classic, brutalist, original, or stolen. Buildings are erected by faceless corporations, or by eccentric wealthy. There is enough room and real estate for both the Keatings and the Roarkes, and the Ellsworth Twoheys of the world don't mean a thing. Sad, really, because Twohey is a villain truly worth hating - the blowhard intellectual ass who seeks to destroy originality by elevating the mediocre and placing the good of others above the good of self so he may rule the plebes. Rand's notion that altruism is basically evil communism (embodied in Twohey) is amusing, because her model of success relies on everyone being rich (or having rich benefactors). My goodness - if only everyone were rich we'd all be happy! It's no wonder than Alan Greenspan was all crushed out on the woman. I'll admit at times I wished that Twohey would meet a horrible end - to have his hands cut off, his tongue cut out, so he would be forced to witness Roarke's triumphs and be powerless to do anything but watch without comment. But Rand's novel isn't plotted that way - nothing really happens other than ideas battling one another. There are no consequences to anyone's actions. And it is for that reason that The Fountainhead reads more like a television show; characters that do not change, who occupy the same sets, encircling one another and talking about themselves. That's what makes it a mediocre novel - Rand's place in history is now better suited to television - and I'm talking Oxygen, Lifetime, or Hallmark channel.
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