I'm not a full-fledged disciple of Ayn Rand's philosophical system, likely due to the fact that I do not yet fully comprehend her theory of objectivism, which encompasses positions on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.I've read 3 of her novels, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Anthem, and I've watched her speak on archived videotaped footage from decades in the past - in some instances, recorded before I was even born. To say that I found (and still do find) her fascinating, would be an understatement. Any human being with the courage and audacity to create a self-adhered, matured, well-qualified philosophical system, one that would go on to influence others and amass followers, even 25 years after her death, deserves observation and analysis.In reading The Fountainhead a second time, I realized that it's not so much the novel that I like - it's unnecessarily voluminous, wrought with numerous characters who are frequently verbose (mostly didactic monologues), and I think it could benefit from another round of editing... all blasphemous comments to Rand's followers and the numerous intellectuals who revel in objectivist orgasmic moments, I'm sure. What I do love about the novel are the core ideas underneath, and most especially, the concept of the hero, Howard Roark.Never have I felt more connected to a fictional character than to the aspiring architect with a unique, uncompromising creative vision, which contrasts sharply with the staid and uninspired conventions of the architectural establishment. An egoist... not egotist. There is a difference. To Rand, Roark is man "as man should be," who lives for himself and his own creativity, indifferent to the opinions of others - certainly what could be called a romantic view of man.I am inspired by Roark, and seek to fully understand him, and in effect, understand Rand and her philosophical system.Jason Pettus
Would you like to hear the only joke I've ever written? Q: "How many Objectivists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" A: (Pause, then disdainfully) "Uh...one!" And thus it is that so many of us have such a complicated relationship with the work of Ayn Rand; unabashed admirers at the age of 19, unabashedly horrified by 25, after hanging out with some actual Objectivists and witnessing what a--holes they actually are, and also realizing that Rand and her cronies were one of the guiltiest parties when it came to the 1950s "Red Scare" here in America. Here in Rand's first massive manifesto-slash-novel, we meet the theoretically ultimate Objectivist -- architect Howard Roarke, who is so just completely sure of what he should be doing with his constructions, he won't even participate in his industry at all unless his client gives him complete and utter control over the final project; which is why Howard Roarke barely ever completes any projects over the course of his life, which according to Rand is because of the vast unwashed masses of the insipid keeping the obvious genius down. Righteous, Ayn, righteous! Ultimately it's easy to see in novels like this one why Rand is so perfect for late teenagers, but why she elicits eye rolls by one's mid-twenties; because Objectivism is all about BEING RIGHT, and DROPPING OUT IF OTHERS CAN'T UNDERSTAND THAT, and LET 'EM ALL GO TO HELL AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED, without ever taking into account the unending amount of compromise and cooperation and sometimes sheer altruism that actually makes the world work. Recommended, but with a caveat; that you read it before you're old enough to know better.David
This was the novel of ideas that shot Ayn Rand to literary prominence. Unlike the later ATLAS SHRUGGED which explores Rand's philosophy of individualism in the politico-economic realm, this book explores it in the aesthetic realm. This alone leads to some interesting and amusing anomalies, that Rand highlights herself. As when one left-wing group wants to support Roark as a symbol of the put-upon proletarian, while some successful businessman despise him. Of course in this book, Rand is not putting the case for capitalism, but rather for the ethics of freedom that underlies both the economics of the free market and the aesthetics of an independent mind.Unfortunately, what goes around comes around. When one hears Britain's Prince Charles taking advantage of his status of birth to share his personal views on architecture with a wider public who would otherwise ignore his antiquarian tastes, one realizes that the spirit of Elsworth Toohey is still alive.Max
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.Max Ostrovsky
I did not like The Fountainhead as much as Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged was more of a page turner. There were very specific character goals that drove that story. The Fountainhead had a gradual buildup to a very climactic courtroom scene. The Fountainhead took the reader on a very linear journey, but never going beyond the basic story of a man who wants to succeed. Of course there are more nuances than that, but that is the basic essence. Atlas Shrugged takes a more epic approach and raises more issues and more awareness of the world around you. As Ayn Rand has said, The Fountainhead was the story of man, while Atlas Shrugged was a story of society. And, of course, society is going to have more things going on in it. Both stories revolve around a central character, the perfect man. In The Fountainhead, this man is Howard Roark, Architect. While being "perfect" in the Ayn Rand sense, he seems more human than the counterpart in Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, Destroyer, who is more of a god in that story. Even the speeches made at the end by both men are as different. Roark's speech is approachable, readable, understandable and relates directly to the reader. The reader is instantly drawn in. John Galt's Speech, however, is a massive didactic and at times condescending speech that as a reader is a major undertaking in a book as involved as Atlas Shrugged. But the audiences were different for the men. Roark spoke to men who he chose to listen to him. Men who were logical thinkers; cold and objective. Galt spoke to the radio masses; basically sheep. He had to find 42 different ways of saying the same thing, just so the people could understand him. Beyond the speeches these men are different in their presentation in the book. Roark begins and ends the story. Galt is a mystery for the majority of Atlas Shrugged. He is mythic and godlike. Referenced, but never known and understood with the constant elusive and almost meaningless quote "Who is John Galt?" That book really focuses on Dagny Taggert, a rare very strong female character. Atlas Shrugged is really her story, her failing quest to save a world that doesn't understand its own danger from a destroyer. Both she and Galt are a matched pair, similar in philosophies, drive and dedication, but different in their approach. Dagny was relentless in trying to hold the world together, even though the world tried to stop and undermine her at every turn. Galt did not actively seek out destruction. He merely illustrated that without the exploitation of people like Dagny, it will not and can not survive. He simply withdrew himself from being exploited. One thing that Ayn Rand really impresses me with is that while she gets a kick out of creating and describing and telling the story of the perfect man, she incorporates some of the strongest women I have ever read in literature. As Dagny is in Atlas Shrugged, Dominique was in The Fountainhead. While not as strong or dominate as Dagny, Dominique finds her own niche in the story as the perfect female and satirizes what society usually paints as the "perfect female." Besides being physically attractive she is smart beyond normal comprehension. When trapping herself in a meaningless marriage and playing the part of the "perfect wife," she performed her womanly duties; everything when the husband wanted. Did he love this "perfect wife?" He was miserable because who would want to date a robot who did everything he wanted. She exhibited no personality or thought of her own and was perfectly compliant with everything everyone wanted from her....specifically to show how miserable they can be by simply using her. Fountainhead is a brilliant novel. Ayn Rand has found a way to share her philosophies in a way that is entertaining and enlightening and only a rare trace of didacticism. The Fountainhead shows a very true if not menacing picture of how evil altruism can be.Richard
(Update at end; latest is 2013-11-12)OK, I’ve got to explain this four-star rating, because I don’t want anyone to think I’d actually recommend this book...It has been many years since I’ve read either of Ayn Rand’s two doorstop books, and I can’t really recall the details of either. I’m pretty sure the one with John Galt had the absurdly long speech near the end, and all the cool kids smoked special cigarettes, and was mostly about railroads. This was the one with the architect, right?Anyway, I think folks should need permission to read this. Frankly, I think teenage experimentation with pot is trivial in terms of risk to a kid’s soul compared to experimentation with Ayn Rand. Her books can much more easily destroy a life.Let me explain. Rand’s philosophy, as near as I can tell, is that great people shouldn’t be encumbered by the not-so-great. Taxes, regulations, all that stuff: just the shackles the large number of mediocre folks force onto their betters — pure parasitism. Her morality comes down to letting the best do whatever they want, and letting the rest starve. These books are her ideas about how that should work out, and as such are suffused with incredibly juvenile wish-fulfillment. The powerful are tormented by the weak, but through force of will rise above it all.I might not be remembering all this quite right — after all, it has been a long time. The above description is what my initial impression has distilled down to; your mileage may vary.So where’s the danger, and why the relatively high rating? Well, many teenagers look out at their world and feel victimized by the completely lame and restrictive world that adults impose upon them. It is clear to them that they are as smart and able as these authorities, yet those adults are so... clueless. Obviously, adult life somehow has turned them into a lesser breed of humanity, with all the vitality sucked out. Add Ayn Rand to this and you suddenly have the ingredients for a self-perpetuating sense of victimhood and entitlement.Most people have overcome their teenage angst and fantasies by, say, twenty-eight or so. At that point, Rand will have lost her magic and her books should be freely available. But between twelve and twenty-seven, a committee of wise elders should decide whether that kid is mature enough not to get sucked into it.Sounds unlikely? Yeah, well so does Rand’s puerile philosophy, but somehow we have self-righteous imbeciles getting elected left and right. Well, sorry, not so much “left” — mostly “right”. (The left has it's own cast of bad influences, of course.)But then, why the good rating? Because Rand provided a window into the strange logic of the pathologically extreme libertarian. We might have seen Hitler’s deeds, and learned of Nietzsche’s diktats, but we never saw the fantasies that drove them. Most folks that would enthusiastically agree with Rand are either too dumb to put pen to paper, or too smart to let the world see what sociopaths they really are.So: four stars for the opportunity to watch the slow-motion horror show of Rand’s political philosophy in action, warning us of where we’re heading. • • • • • • • Update, late summer 2012— Romney's selection of Ryan as his running mate has got folks chatting about Ryan's on-and-off obsession with Ayn Rand. Not having made a study of Rand's life, I was pleased to learn that while her extremely anti-collectivist views are still antithetical to civilization (which is definitionally a collectivist enterprise) she was actually quite the social liberal. Not sure that makes her any more pleasant — ideologues of any stripe are quite annoying, even those that suddenly appear more complex and harder to pigeon-hole — but nice to know. A few more details? Check out the NY Times op-ed piece, Atlas Spurned . • • • • • • • Update, summer 2013— I was catching up on my favorite intelligentisa magazine, the excellent Wilson Quarterly, and ran across a brief note in the Spring 2013 issue entitled “Fountainhead of Need”. As a young woman and recent immigrant to the United States, Rand was very poor while toying with a life in Hollywood — she worked as an extra in Cecil B. De Mille’s King of Kings — and at one point was destitute enough that she relied on charity to keep a roof over her head. Years later, she wrote a letter of thanks to the women's boarding house that helped her at a time of dire need.As the article puts it:“The Studio Club,” Rand wrote, “is the only organization I know of personally that carries on, quietly and modestly, this great work which is needed so badly — help for young talent. It not only provides human, decent living accommodations which a poor beginner could not afford elsewhere, but it provides that other great necessity of life: Understanding.”A paean to altruism? Not exactly. In the letter, Rand also declared that it was time to stop favoring “crippled children, old people, blind people and all kinds of disabled unfortunates” over “the able, the fit, the talented.” She continued, “Who is more worthy of help — the sub-normal or the above normal? Who is more valuable to humanity?” Aiding “the disabled” was fine, she said, but nurturing “potential talent” represented “a much higher type of charity.”Yup, that's the kind of woman she was. • • • • • • • Update, autumn 2013— Wow, there are still folks out there that are explicitly adherents of Objectivism. If you would like to cringe, take a gander at "Give Back? Yes, It's Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%" at Forbes. Yeah, Forbes is the "church periodical for those that worship at the temple of weatlh" (as a FB acquaintance put it), but it still seems somewhat staggering that there are people that believe that It turns out that the 99% get far more benefit from the 1% than vice-versa. See if you can spot the basic logic error in the first paragraph!The proposal that the wealthy be exempt from income taxes is only capped by the appalling suggestion that “the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.” Honestly, if this were in the Onion it would still be over the top.Taylor K.
Note, Feb. 2011: The feedback I've gotten on this review is kind of funny. I'd like to make one thing clear, and that is that I'm far from a Rand worshipper. I can't get onboard with her whole way of life, from the personal to the political level. I will say, though, that I think her attitudes, when applied to the creative arts, are important. When you create something, I think it's fine to disregard trends and making other people happy. When you create, the person you should keep foremost in mind is you. As for the other stuff, I still agree with everything I wrote originally, which is that there are aspects of the rest of her teachings that are compelling and that are worth sampling from. But adapting someone else's principles whole hog kind of go against the very basic idea this is built upon, which is examine yourself, and what you want, and I have a hard time believing that so many people want exactly the same things she wanted. Originally, when I wrote this review, Goodreads had a much shorter word limit, and I remember running out of space. I can't remember what else I was going to say, but this will have to suffice. (Also, no, I'm not okay with the rape, kthanx.)Original review:This book is remarkable.Basic plot: Howard Roark (individual) & Peter Keating (copycat). Roark constantly fights with society but manages to survive, Keating gets lifted up by society and then destroyed by it (can you say celebrities?). This is the plot at its most rudimentary - naturally there's more to it.I understand the comments about Objectivists being assholes and I respond to that in two ways - firstly, does this not prove her point about how people respond to/treat individuals who live for themselves? Secondly, there's an exaggeration in here. Simply look at the relationships in the book - the fact that they exist. In its purest form, the most egotistical, self-centered person wouldn't bother entering into a relationship or get married, because it would imply having to consider another person (or making someone a doormat, which would go against the philosophy, because part of it is that one will exist for themselves without enslaving others - Roark refuses to let Dominique submit to something she wouldn't be happy with). Ayn Rand got married, Objectivists in The Fountainhead get married - it's not that they're portrayed as not caring about anyone (exaggeration!). The best example of the Objectivists' relationships is the quote from a scene where Roark and Wynand (publisher of the most powerful newspaper chain) are on the yacht, and Roark says something along the lines of "I'd die for you, but I won't live for you," which makes a lot of sense.People get their panties in a bunch over something that should be made distinct - there's people (individuals) and there's society (the collective of people, supposedly driven by a majority of thought). Ayn Rand's theories apply as much to society as they do the individual. This is more a story of two individuals' fights with society than fights with each other. Yes, the focus is on people giving the most significance to their own thoughts and desires, but they DON'T ignore others. They have friends, relationships, lovers. Clearly, they care about other people (Roark's treatment of Wynand after the trial at the end is a particularly good example of this). There's just not a blind caring, blind trust, blind affection, a blind desire to help, and there's the firm thought that one should affirm themselves through their own standards, not those of others. This isn't a bad thing!Like any philosophy/school of thought, you have to pick and choose from this, and there's no reason why you can't take all of the personal motivation and apply it without feeling like you're screwing over everyone you know. Again, it's a matter of exaggeration, and I don't think you have to embrace this to its most extreme measures to appreciate, understand and want to employ it. Putting yourself first doesn't mean putting everyone you know last. It's not a black or white situation.There are so many things in this that ran parallel to my thinking, the way that I've lived my life, the way that I see my life and the people in it - there were times when the similarities made me feel fantastic from knowing that they were reflected somewhere, and other times they were so close they scared me, especially in Dominique (mostly at the very beginning).I feel like I can't continue living my life as I was before. I feel like a fraud for going back to my job. I continually had to set it aside for a few minutes after a chapter because I wanted, needed to think about what I had just read. The last 100 pages were particularly hard to get through because of that. My brain turned to mush - in a good way. It's a lot to take on, but I feel better about myself for having done so.At just over 700 pages long, it's a bit of a beast, but it's worth every word, and it really only took me 2-3 weeks to get through, which is pretty quick considering I read only on my subway rides.P.S. The movie isn't very good...Mike (the Paladin)
***** SECOND REVIEW ********As promised I took a second look at this book, I will leave the original review below this one.I still find the rape scene in this book repulsive, even though AR wrote once that "if it was rape it was rape by engraved invitation." I point out that Dominique herself CALLED it rape. She goes on about her own self loathing and wanted to shout out that she had been raped. Dominique is painted as a character so world weary and despising of society that she could only (finally) be aroused by a man who could "take her". Both Dominique and Roark are described as having condescension and violence as "positive" traits. Okay, so I waded through this huge pretentious, self congratulatory, patronizing tomb. Having read more than this by AR I've got to say that while she hits the nail squarely on the head in some ways she takes the hard lessons life taught her and gets many wrong answers (not all wrong, but many wrong, at least in my opinion). To her compassion is the same as weakness. The word "compassion" has nothing but negative connotations. She cannot (and I truly believe it's "cannot" as well as "will not") see the difference in willingly giving help as opposed to being compelled by law to give up your living to those who "won't" work. The fact that there are many (and I admit possibly even most) who when given help will simply do nothing but keep asking for a hand-out extrapolates out for her that ever giving help is simply enabling loafers. She saw all unselfishness as weakness and all who acted unselfishly as hypocrites.One can only wonder how she would have looked at Mother Teressa...probably as a weak dupe...or the world's greatest con-person who never got caught?Personally I like Atlas Shrugged better as far as an actual novel goes. Dominique is such an odd personality that while I know AR was basing the character on herself, she was just too odd. I mean am I the only one who finds a woman who can't get aroused unless she's physically assaulted as a protagonist a little troubling? Oh well, beating a dead horse I suppose.The book has good points and AR is a good writer of prose, at times, but not consistently, at least that's my take. I will raise the rating to 3 stars, mainly because the 1 star rating was a visceral reaction to a scene where the male protagonist rapes the female protagonist. ************** Original review below this line ******************* How do I rate this book??? I believe that while Ms.Rand has some huge holes in her reasoning she also had some insights. I think this is a book everyone should take a look at (especially now). I would hope we can differentiate between the valuable and the dross. Read this book (and her other works) with an open and also a critical mind. She has some important insights into human nature and the way humans think and the way the world actually works. She simply carries some of it to a place where it doesn't apply. For example, those who produce will come to a point where they will stop alloying themselves to be stripped of the rewards of their work and thought, it's human nature. On the other hand her view of those who need help and the spiritual side of life are somewhat wanting. she seems to be heavily influenced by Nietzsche.I prefer Atlas shrugged to this novel. You can see Ms. Rand in the heroines of both books. In Atlas Shrugged she (Dagny Taggart) "trades up" in her romantic relationships each time she meets a "stronger" man who better exemplifies Ayn Rand's ideal (representing her philosophy "objectivism"). In this book, the heroine (Dominique Francon) is or "appears to be" raped by the "strong hero" Howard Roark. I say "appears to be" because even though to many readers and reviewers of the book at it's publication and since it is an obvious rape (and that includes me) Ms. Rand wrote that "if it was rape, it was rape by engraved invitation." I found this so distasteful that I completely lost my taste for this book and put it down.Manzoid
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.mark monday
I once broke up with someone because she was an ardent follower of Ayn Rand. it just started bothering me more and more, and I started seeing the taint of Objectivism in so many of her comments. mind you, this was in college when i was much more obnoxiously political. after we broke up, she turned around and started dating my roommate... sweet revenge, and a fitting response from an Objectivist.Brendan
As literature, I found the book dry, predictable, and overwrought. As philosophy, I found it circular, wholly unfounded, and completely contradicting reality.This book is like a net set for unsuspecting minds. It breaches their defenses with a twisted logic, attempting to preclude any conclusions but the ones it sets forth.Of course, it follows a natural flow from the author's assumptions: power, will, and self-determinism are the foundations of all life. Nothing matters, except that you do what you want. Only if you violate your own integrity are you doing wrong; and yet, this violation is quite easy: it involves believing anything contradictory to those first three assumptions.If you believe this tripe, then you've probably already found a more intelligent and articulate champion for these values. In that case, I'd encourage you to read those authors instead, but ultimately come to the (correct) conclusion that the three aforementioned assumptions are a load of bullshit. If you don't believe this stuff, don't waste your time on this book.Chris
I hated Anthem so much that I vowed never to read another book by Ann Rand, but I still talk about how much I hate all of her other books, too. That's how much I disliked Anthem. I also think I have the right to hate The Fountainhead without having read it because:a) Ayn Rand is a horrible writer. Everything I've seen by her is badly written and I don't like badly written books.b) Ayn Rand thought she was a philosopher and injects her silly "objectionist" point of view into all her books. She wasn't a philosopher, however, no matter what her silly followers think. Cult leader, perhaps.c) Ayn Rand's "objectionism" is simply selfishness dolled up a bit, so I will hate the "lesson" in her books.d) I hate books with clear lessons. Ayn Rand has clear lessons.e) Ayn Rand has such a knee-jerk, reactionary dislike of anything striking of collectivism that she makes Orwell look like a communist. Knee-jerk reactionaries seldom write good books.Dan
Ever read a book that changed your life as a kid, I mean totally reconfigured your perceptions of life and how it should be lived? Yeah, me too. This was one of those books for me. It blew me away as a kid. My hero was Roark and his rugged individualism and integrity. Upon rereading this 50th anniversary hardback edition as an adult, I was appalled at this amoral tale. Roark is a sociopathic monster whose integrity is blind and callous. The Objectivism that Rand uses to undergird this story seems to find ethics of communities, or how we should act towards each other, repugnant. Every character is a simple caricature of one facet of a human, there is no moral ambiguity or ambivalence in anybody. Everybody here is an absolute, and because of that, an absolute failure. She attempts to soften these granite facades with a love story, but Rand turns out to be inept at that too. Sure Roark has impeccable aesthetic taste, but if it isn't in service to bettering your life or your fellow man's (preferably both), then it's just an exercise in solipsistic torture. And the whole manifesto masquerading as a serious novel gave me eyeball sprain from all of the rolling it did. This book is probably dangerous for naive minds and too naive for adult minds.brian
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) for some reason or other, as humans, it feels good (perhaps a marker of personal progress?) to reject or condescend to that which we once loved. (a corollary of our love of schadenfreude, of watching the fall of the rich/powerful/famous?) (see also: catcher in the rye and on the road)2) as an overwhelming majority of bookfacers fall on the liberal end of the spectrum, perhaps they 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.Keely
Based on everything I've heard about Rand, from her supporters, her detractors, or in interviews with the author herself, I feel there is no reason to believe that this book or any of her others contain anything that is worth reading, not even as 'cautionary example'. Since my goal here is to read as many good books as possible and to do my best to avoid bad ones, I'm going to be giving Rand a wide berth.