brian 's Reviews > The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
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Dec 24, 2008

liked it

yesterday i spent the day mainlining bookface and discovered that one of the most reviled books on the site was the fountainhead. i can think of a few reasons:

1) it feels good (perhaps a marker of personal progress?) to reject or condescend to that which we once loved. (see also: catcher in the rye and on the road)

2) those (the overwhelming majority of bookfacers) who fall on the liberal end of the spectrum find the residual conservative drool all over the book a bit yukky?

3) the philosophy is unrealistic; the characters are stand-ins, mouthpieces, wooden fantasy archetypes; the plot is full of contrivances; at its best the prose is serviceable, at worst, it's cringeworthy.

4) its themes of personal accountability scare the shit out of people.

i found this book terrifically useful in high school. with not enough life experience to understand why i was perpetually on the outside, i read the fountainhead and reconfigured it all to believe that i wasn’t part of the group b/c the group was a dead-end of groupthink and i was unique. whatever. a load of shit, but it helped me get by, y’know? and as i grew up i realized that along with the personal accountability part and the urging on to remain an individual despite societal pressure to conform (both of which i still appreciate), was a good degree of selfishness and unreality. but whatever… i approach this too-long book as containing a highly flawed system of belief, but one that works for a specific time in many people’s lives. shit, they should start pushing this as a young adult’s book. that’s really what it is. and though ayn rand might not like it, there’s really nothing wrong with that.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 24, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-50 of 59) (59 new)

brian   i anticipated the onslaught of hateposts!

Jessica I'd never really heard of Ayn Rand until a few years ago (except in The Fountainhead's famous Dirty Dancing cameo, which I never got until I was an adult; I think it was actually the reference in Cruel Intentions that finally made me investigate). Apparently I was one of the only teenage girls on the planet (or at least in this country) who didn't read this book, and I really wish I had a time machine so I could find out whether I would've loved it then. I tried to read it recently and thought it was a real drag, but I have a feeling I would've been all over it then, had I been exposed at the appropriate stage of development.

Alas! Well, maybe someday if I have a daughter.... I feel like I'm missing out on some important rite of passage, and I hope someday I have the chance to experience vicariously the classic enthusiasm-followed-by-revulsion I missed out on myself.

message 3: by Michelle (last edited Dec 24, 2008 08:43AM) (new)

Michelle Donald, do you want to say it, or should I?

I will:

Ayn Rand sucks donkey dicks in hell.

(One of my favorite Donald quotes)

We had to read Anthem in high school.

message 4: by brian (last edited Dec 24, 2008 08:54AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

brian   you sick fuck.
i'm tempted to bump it up one star just to piss you off.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I've never read her, either, Jessica.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

My fiancee Brian* has a tendency to award stars based on provocation rather than heart-felt, soul-searching introspection. (Cross Reference: His drama queen one-star ratings for Fortress of Solitude, The Year of Magical Thinking, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.) What he fails to understand sometimes -- the dear, dear boy -- is that his knee-jerk reactions against political correctness, for instance, or popular, well-regarded books or topping** are every bit as thoughtless and banal as that which he spits, sputters, and froths about. But I adore him anyway. (We're registered at Crate & Barrel. I've got my fingers crossed for that crème brûlée set!)

* Sorry you had to find out this way, DFJ! We're not letting the state of California legislate our love, so bite it, Sacramento!

** He's such an angry bottom.

P.S. I agree wholeheartedly with premise no. 1 in this "review." Way to go, babe!

message 7: by Jessica (last edited Dec 24, 2008 09:07AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jessica OMFG, we should totally read her now and go through a big Ayn Rand phase together, Montambo!!! Since it's possible neither of us really fully managed to develop past adolescence, I bet if we helped each other we could get pretty carried away.

Don't you think that together, an objectivist elementary school librarian and an objectivist social worker could do a helluva lot of damage?!!

message 8: by Chloe (last edited Dec 24, 2008 09:21AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Chloe i found this book terrifically useful in high school. with not enough life experience to understand why i was perpetually on the outside, i read the fountainhead and reconfigured it all to believe that i wasn’t part of the group b/c the group was a dead-end of groupthink and i was unique. whatever. a load of shit, but it helped me get by, y’know?

Yep, you pretty much managed to encapsulate my teen love Ayn Rand in a nutshell. I look back on my younger self with a weary smile at this point, but to the me that I was at 16 both this and Atlas Shrugged spoke volumes to me. Which is why I can't rate it lower than a three, no matter how much my present self rebels against it.

message 9: by brian (last edited Dec 24, 2008 09:26AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

brian   david that was TOTALLY FUCKING INAPPROPRIATE! there are other people involved in this. the WHOLE FUCKING WORLD doesn't revolve around you. we'll finish this discussion in pm.

he's just joking, jessica. dear. love of my life. he really is joking.

message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 24, 2008 09:19AM) (new)

Okay, Jessica--I thought I'd never read her, but a bookclub sounds great!

My social calendar reading schedule is a little booked right now, though. January?

Jessica Of course this is no judgment on your lifestyle, but I think it's gross how you guys make reference to your personal relationship on this public book reporting thread.

Very selfish AND obnoxious.

Don't hold your breath on those crème brûlée dishes.

message 12: by Meen (new)

Meen Um, ladies, I think objectivism has done quite enough damage without your help. Let's just let Ms. Rand fade away with her donkey dicks, John Yoo, and Beelzebub.

(I never read it in high school, either. I've never read this one at all b/c I Atlas Shrugged made me so nauseous (for all the reasons Brian listed) that it became the first book I ever purposefully didn't finish.)

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)


message 14: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy Brian, when I saw three stars, I was anticipating not just a premature end to BookFace friendhood, but hitmen, anthrax powder, and other merry Kaczynskian antics. But as you acknowledge Rand's incompetence as a stylist in (3), and isolate your faint praise as from the perspective of an adolescent, you will -- for the moment -- be spared.

But I disagree with almost everything else you've said.

The fact is, this book is not just something high schoolers pick up when they're feeling marginalized and have a psychological need for apotheosis of selfhood. This, and Rand's other delusional, pseudo-economic garbage, parade themselves as necessary and complete philosophical systems of morality and political economy. Rand herself is not shy about this interpretation.

And lest you think that a little delusion never hurt anyone, look no further than Alan derivatives-will-be-governed-by-rational-self-interest Greenspan, who regularly cites "Fountainhead" (or maybe "Atlas Shrugged," who gives a shit, it's all the same bombastic drivel) as one of his favorite works.

message 15: by brian (last edited Dec 24, 2008 09:56AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

brian   yeah, yeah... i don't think we disagree as much as you believe. i wrote:

"they should start pushing this as a young adult’s book. that’s really what it is."

while it obviously is not something only high-schoolers read and respond to... i'm saying that it should be.

Matthieu I simply find Rand's writing to be terrifically dull. Perhaps I've missed something? I finished Atlas Shrugged, Mindy. I regret it to this day. Over two weeks of my life I'll never get back! Thanks a lot, Ayn...

message 17: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 24, 2008 10:16AM) (new)

Well, I dunno, Jessica. The bookclub is losing its luster. Dull = DEATH!!!!!!!!!!

Jessica But Tambo, there's a really hot rape scene!

(Or so I've been told.)

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)


Jessica Besides, which would you rather be running: the Gresham Elementary Library, or the Federal Reserve?

Wait, don't answer that. Fine, we can read something else. Twilight?

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

I already ordered Fountainhead from the library!

Now I have to walk in a blizzard to get my dad a tool, or something.

message 22: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy Great... objectivist delusion is now a prerequisite to running the federal banking system.

I just wonder... if little Alan had never had access to Ayn Rand in high school... would his inability to recognize that greed is not a self-correcting market force have prevented our economy from going apeshit off a housing bubble destabilized by insidious securities?

In other words, is Ayn Rand responsible for the GM bailout??! If she ever learned of this, she might burn her own book.

Ademption When I read The Fountainhead in high school, I was reading as much Rand as I could stomach in an effort to see why some of my friends liked her so much.

I thought the book wasn't bad, but then I moved onto Atlas Shrugged. About 100 pages in, John Galt is pillow-talking with a devotee about how their lovemaking was the epitome of virtuous selfishness. At that point, I realized...

"the philosophy is unrealistic; the characters are stand-ins, mouthpieces, wooden fantasy archetypes; the plot is full of contrivances; at its best the prose is serviceable, at worst, it's cringeworthy."

or didactic as fuuuuuck.

It could have been a Randian overdose. Analogous, I suspect, to how I feel about for the Japanese version of the Ring, instead of the Naomi Watts version, even though they are probably of similar quality, have the shot-by-shot pivotal scenes, and deliver the goods nearly the same way. Watch one or the other, you'll get the point. They are interchangeable. It is the one that you read first that makes you feel something. The second one is like hearing a joke you already know the punchline to, a pointless exercise in patience.

Therefore, if people are determined to read Rand and ask me for a recommendation, I say The Fountainhead, and loudly diss Atlas Shrugged out of habit. And free market philosophical pillowtalk?! Please, if Rand did anything in the bedroom besides sleep, it was S&M.

message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 24, 2008 10:38AM) (new)

I can't weight until David Ehrenstein weighs ways in on all this...

message 25: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy counting down until David edits 26...

message 26: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 24, 2008 10:39AM) (new)

Oh, you're right, Isaiah! Homonyms are fun. Don't be a homophobe.

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Yeah...I guess it would have been much cooler if Alan Greenspan would've just grown a mohawk and wore some studded collars instead of ejaculating his misplaced, Randian, psuedo-philosophical, objectivist bullshit all over a completely unregulated and over-leveraged market driving it dick first into the ground. these days.

message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

(Hey, Jon... I'd love to see how this plays out, but I've gotta go buy batteries, gin, ibuprofen, and hope.)

message 29: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy I predict David drinks the gin, is cast into drunken OCD remorse, and replaces 26 with a baby elephant.

Everyone else, take a deep breath and imagine Greenspan with a mohawk.

message 30: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah I know a couple of early twentysomethings who are obsessed with Rand (although I think their favorite is Atlas Shrugged. It's kind of fun to mess with them and talk about all the reasons Rand sucks, even though I've never read her.

David and Brian, best wishes to you both.

Ann M It's easy to rhapsodize about personal accountability when you have a trust fund and/or enough family money to get you out of any bad situations you find yourself in. Or even buy you the presidency of the U.S.

What sounds reasonable and logical to the rest of us at 15 is easy to see as conservative dreck later on. It's appealing because it would certainly be nice if all you needed to succeed in this world was hard work. The ones who are fondest of saying that are the ones who have done the least and benefited the most from nepotism. Where your starting line is is the biggest indicator of where you will finish -- who was it who said of W that he was born on third base but thinks he hit a triple?

message 32: by Dave (new)

Dave Russell Don't read The Fountainhead, Montambo. Just lock yourself in a dark closet for two weeks and listen to Wagner. The effect will be the same, if not more pleasant.

Ann M It was Jim Hightower, Dem from Texas.

message 34: by brian (last edited Dec 24, 2008 11:53AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

brian   oh, come on. nearly any person in any station of life can and will benefit from a philosophy of personal accountability. this is not at odds or mutually exclusive to any other idea(s). whether one starts on third base or in the dugout, if one proceeds with the knowledge that s/he is the master of his/her own fate it can only be better than any opposing philosophy.

in no way does this suggest that all one needs to succeed is 'hard work' - but i'll tell you this: the person who believes in hard work will almost always get farther than s/he who doesn't.

interesting that you reference george w. bush when the president-elect had it all stacked against him (certainly started closer to the dugout than third base, yeah?) and through, yes, hard work, managed to become one of the most powerful and influential people on the planet.

Ann M Started closer to the dugout? You cannot be serious. I'm out of here.

message 36: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 24, 2008 12:03PM) (new)

Brian's been hitting the baseball metaphors out of the park lately... It's so... butch!

Matthieu Haha, I was just going to comment on the sheer volume of baseball references in this thread. Being a baseball player, it certainly makes me happy.

Haha, Ann.

message 38: by Richard (last edited Dec 24, 2008 03:32PM) (new)

Richard Fulgham I'm reluctant to add anything here as Brian and Ann have well articulated what I think of Ms. Rand's poorly written, juvenile and silly book.

I just deleted a provocative thread of thought. It's Christmas! Forget what I said. I don't care if someone is wrong or right when they make these huge pronouncements about writers.

Who am I, anyway? Just another flat-faced anthropod. Merry Christmas to everone!

message 39: by C. (new)

C. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that when I first read Atlas Shrugged at about age 15 I admired the quality of her prose.

message 40: by Meen (new)

Meen This should be fun.

message 41: by brian (last edited Dec 24, 2008 03:00PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

brian   oh yeah. this could get real ugly.

Matthieu Haha, I sense a fight a-brewin'

message 43: by C. (new)

C. A review and thread saved from deletion! Such Christmas spirit warms the ol' cockles.

message 44: by David (new)

David Her name is Alice Rosenbaum. Like Leni Riefenstahl (who she resembles in a great many ways save for talent) she created a cult of herself.

Alan Greenspan fucked her.

King Vidor's film version is pretty good, but that's because bad novels often make teriffic movies. And you can't beat Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.

Michael Cimino said he wanted to remaker it as his next project following Heaven's Gate.

And of course we know how that turned out. Hs career is over. But Mickey Rouke's making a comeback so who knows.

message 45: by David (new)

David You're welcome, and Merry Christmas.

Matthieu Merry Christmas, David (and everyone else)!

message 47: by Nick (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nick Black you are just full of good points, brian! and bookface is an excellent term.

message 48: by Ademption (last edited Dec 26, 2008 03:26PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ademption "i found this book terrifically useful in high school. with not enough life experience to understand why i was perpetually on the outside, i read the fountainhead and reconfigured it all to believe that i wasn’t part of the group b/c the group was a dead-end of groupthink and i was unique. whatever. a load of shit, but it helped me get by, y’know?"

This is how felt about Henry Miller in high school. He took me outside myself, opened me up to the idea that the world is big and just short of surreal. Surrealism hasn't got shit on some of the things that pass for daily life. Grab life by the balls and jump into all sorts of bizarre situations.

Attempting to re-read Miller in my late 20s, I just kept thinking "Quiet, you pretentious parasite! Don't you have any sense of personal responsibility?! You should read some Ayn Rand, and calm down." I still love that old man, even though I can't currently read his stuff without rolling my eyes. Maybe in another stage of my life, Miller will be salient again for me, or not. Either way, Miller's work is definitely YA material for the shy, bookish types who need to get better at living in their own skin.

Tropic of Cancer would be a good double YA bill with The Fountainhead. "Here's sex and art. Here's commerce and professionalism. Be tender and crazy; also, get a job and be good at it."

Jessica Isn't Angelina Jolie in a new version of this? Oh no wait, that's Atlas Shrugged. Still.

message 50: by David (new)

David Something tells me that's "gone into turnaround."

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