Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

January Books 4) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I mistakenly started on this well-known novel under the false impression that it was a classic sf text; it isn't - it is a novel of didactic philosophy, but entirely about architects in New York in the 1920s and 1930s, with no sfnal elements at all.

Rand's Objectivist philosophy, as epitomised by her heroic architect Howard Roark, is frankly repulsive. Her viewpoint characters utter tedious tirades against the very concept of altruism; the two-dimensional bad guys use evil concepts like equality and collective action to repress the creativity of her heroes, which is their sole motivation. There is also a Mary Sue heroine whose determination to marry the wrong man several times over is rather creepy (as are her rather odd sexual preferences). On the whole I found this an unpleasant book, and one which I would not recommend to other readers. (Thanks for the warnings, hells_librarian and cassave; my respect for your literary tastes, already substantial for both of you, has increased. seawasp, it may be a while before I pick up either Anthem or Atlas Shrugged.) It is striking that none of Rand's characters have or want to have children.

There are two mildly redeeming factors. The first (and lesser) is that, when she is concentrating on story-telling rather than polemic, Rand does have some good moments of characterisation that linger in the mind. The second, and more important, is that New York in the 1920s and 1930s seems to have been a particularly interesting and exciting time and place to be around. The Fountainhead is set in much the same time and place as, say, West Side Story, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Dorothy Parker, the Futurians, the early years of the New Yorker, at a slight remove The Great Gatsby. It's a fascinating period which I should read more about, and apart from her peculiar political notions, Rand depicts it compellingly.
Tags: bookblog 2009, writer: ayn rand

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