And Then There's Ayn (Review of New Rand Bio in New York Mag)


From a review of Anne Heller's Ayn Rand and the World She Made in New York:

Rand tends to inspire either religious-grade conversion or wild denunciation, and over the last 40 years a good-size library of violently partisan books has emerged: inside accounts from worshippers, detractors, worshippers turned detractors, detractors turned worshippers. A truly neutral biography seems impossible. Anyone deep enough to be an authority is probably either a true believer or a heretic. But Heller manages to find a nice middle ground; she seems equally happy exposing admirable and ugly secrets. She discovered Rand's work late, in her forties—well beyond the usual indoctrination age—and, although she calls herself "a strong admirer," she was denied access to the official Rand archives for being insufficiently pious….

Heller does a remarkable job with a subject who was almost cripplingly complex—a real woman starring in her own propaganda film about a propagandist whose propaganda eventually takes over the world. Toward the end of her life, Rand listened as a prominent psychologist stood onstage and dismissed her fictional heroes—those idealized steel barons and physicists and composers—as implausible. Soon she'd had enough and stood up in the crowd, outraged.

 "Am I unreal?" she shouted. "Am I a character who can't possibly exist?"

She intended this, one suspects, as a refutation. It strikes me as maybe the most profound question she ever raised.

Read the whole review here.

Go here to read Brian Doherty's Wash Times review of Jennifer Burns' Goddess of The Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, read my Wilson Quarterly review of Heller's and Burns' new books, and watch the trailer for the upcoming eight-part series, "Radicals for Capitalism: Celebrating the Enduring Legacy of Ayn Rand."

Hat tip: Alan Vanneman

NEXT: "It's hard to kill the press, but it is not hard to chill it"

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  1. Heller does a remarkable job with a subject who was almost cripplingly complex

    There are few things I hate more than the overworked present participle + -ly + adjective combo.

    1. I don’t like licorice ice cream. What’s your point?

  2. Who are the detractors turned worshippers?

    1. That seemed odd to me as well.

    2. More than a few people who criticized because they are a member of the herd then actually decided to go and read something she wrote.

      Many of her critics haven’t read a word.

  3. And then there’s Ayn.
    And then there’s Ayn.
    And then there’s Ayn.
    And then there’s Ayn.
    And then there’s Ayn.
    And then there’s Ayn.
    And then there’s. . .

    That non-compromisin’, enterprisin’, anything but tranquilizing,
    Right on Ayn.

  4. There are few things I hate more than the overworked present participle + -ly + adjective combo.

    It’s perfectly cromulent grammar, and it really embiggened that article.

  5. “Am I unreal?” she shouted. “Am I a character who can’t possibly exist?”

    If Ayn Rand didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent her?

    More seriously, Ayn Rand is completely implausible. However, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reality is not constrained by petty notions of plausibility.

  6. Who is Sam Anderson?

    1. I’ll answer my own question: he’s just another hack with an ax to grind. He gives himself away in the very first line of his sneering assault of a review. That Gillespie chose to spotlight this particular bit of sneering slime is telling.

  7. That @ characterizes this excerpt as “sneering slime” is telling.

    1. “Excerpt”? Try reading the whole review, then get back to me.

  8. In referencing “this particular bit” I assumed you meant the excerpt that Gillespie reprinted. Sorry if I misunderstood.

    1. …that you referenced, not me. grammar synapses malfunctioning this morning.

        1. I gagged through the whole thing. Just another entry in the sordid tradition of smuggling in a personal hit piece disguised as a book review. My reference to Gillespie merely points out the obvious: that he never misses a chance to slime Ayn Rand. His credibility and integrity slips another notch every time he does it.

          1. so a guy showcasing an eight part series on rand is just waiting to slime her?

            methinks you are too easily victimized, sirrah.

            1. besides, a hitjob would be more like “dogmatic speed-freak founds cult of personality steeped in an irrational posture of rationality, arming legions of college sophomores with the social grace and rhetorical prowess of albert fish.”

              1. Well played, dhex. I may borrow that next time I’m baiting Objectivists.

          2. How exactly is it a hit piece to quote from a book review without commenting on the views expressed?

            Isn’t that more along the lines of bringing something up for the purposes of discussion?

            What if Radley Balko quoted the views of some particularly obnoxious prosecutor without adding commentary? Could we then assume that Balko is a “lock ’em up, the police are never wrong” guy?

  9. And for those who aren’t using adblockers, there are the ads for “We the Living” DVDs. For anyone who cares, it was a much better movie (actually, two movies) than The Fountainhead.

    Alida Valli > Patricia Neal.

  10. dhex, please show up and do that again the next time the “reason destroyed Ron Paul” morons show up.

    1. will do, sir. will do.

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