Posted by Michael Zahara on Dec 11, 2009
When I was in high school, I had to read Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and wasn’t happy about it. Not because of Rand’s political views, but because I generally hate fiction though I am a voracious reader going through 2-3 non-fiction books a week.
Admittedly, I had problems getting through it. I thought maybe this was Science Fiction; Jules Vern, Arthur C Clark, Ray Bradbury-ish stuff? It was so over-the-top and so poorly written, I became far more interested in what all the hubbub was about the author.
I don’t recall reading anything so poorly written before or after that;. I would learn later that Ms Rand was once a Hollywood script writer, and apparently, a really bad one.
I read everything there was about her and her works, then I blew it and her off, and settled into being a young man.
Then, America’s Most Glorious Woman—err, I mean Feminist—Phil Donahue had Ayn Rand as a guest on his then Chicago-based talk show and I happened to be tuning in.
At this time in America, Donahue was even worse than Alan Alda in his estrogen level and the show had a strong female bent to it. Outside of the studios where the show was taped were the smoldering remnants of burnt brassieres—most of them Phil’s own—and he was trying to make an earnest effort to inform his largely female audience with a broad range of guests and topics.
Jerry Springer notwithstanding, Donahue deserves credit for creating a whole new genre of television and for educating mostly middle-class suburban women on a whole array of subjects—he’s a far lefty, but his programs ran the gamut and strived to be fair to all points of view.
I’ve often contemplated how Ayn Rand is the godmother of our current in-your-face media and how contradictory it is that though her work is part of some curricula, Women’s Studies at America’s universities, generally isn’t one of them.
I’ve also never understood the embrace of her by some elements of the right; she’s no conservative or libertarian either.
She was simply an anti-communist detractor and a not-so-closeted anarchist and fascist, angry that the Bolsheviks took away her father’s drug store, and both intellectually strong but shallow enough not to have any faith that her ideas—love ‘em or hate ‘em—had value enough to stand on their own.
That’s why she wrote them as the fiction I have always hated; she was neurotic and insecure. I think she was a provocateur because she enjoyed the attention she received. She bathed in that attention and loathed all detractors; her absolute certitude a drapery covering her insecurities, in my view.
Her theory of ‘Objectivism’ and such are just apologia for selfishness and self-absorption guised in always shouted polemic. It’s permission to be an assh*le without remorse, reflection, or what Rand championed most, reason.
The woman was certifiable, occasionally brilliant, and like all occasionally brilliant people, had her major failings too; one was that she was so obnoxious (the Ann Coulter of her day!) that she would instantly dismiss anyone who was not in full agreement with her and coddle those who worshiped her.
She was also one of the 20th century’s greatest egotists of either gender; another reason she should be more studied, especially by women.
Phil Donahue had some trouble with her to the discomfort of his confused 1980’s audience! Rand claimed an adherence to ‘reason’, yet she was the most unreasonable person of 20th century America; it was all black and white to her; she was so anal in her efforts and beliefs that I don’t think she had a bowel movement in all of her 77 years.
She was the first bona fide female America Pop-Fascist when you really think about it. Though she claimed to abhor communism and fascism, she had far more in common with Josef Stalin and Benito Mussolini than she did with Jefferson and Madison…or even Adam Smith.
Her bizarre conducts may have been forgivable as eccentricities had she presented her theories as academic scholarship, rather than 3rd rate Hollywood scriptwriting via ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’, but I was soon to learn that I was not alone in both being dismissive of her novels and at the same time, fascinated with this very odd woman.
To me, she really was a feminist; a woman whose expositories set the Western world on its ear, despite her stealing concepts from Friedrich Nietzsche and overshadowing peers who were far superior to her like Isabel Paterson.
I don’t think Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug and Jane Fonda would have been as possible, as soon, without Ayn Rand—her heroine in ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is a railroad exec—how many women were doing that during the writing of the ‘Feminine Mystique’…or even today?
How can she not be studied in Women’s Studies coursework?
Andrea Dworkin; Oy, what a joy!
Well, they’d prefer their students read about Sylvia Plath’s suicide and study the moronic Andrea Dworkin than a woman who had such an enormous effect on the American body politic.
Every few years Ayn Rand comes back in vogue and she’s burning white hot again today. Two great books about her have been published recently and deserve your time, for in order to understand what she thought was a new political ideology/philosophy—it wasn’t; it was narcissism begging for attention and approval—you have to know more about the woman herself:
Goddess of The Market: Ayn Rand And The American Right
Ayn Rand And The World She Made
Those of you, who cite Ayn Rand as a heroine, should especially learn more about her as most of you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Modern ‘Randians’ and quite a few folks calling themselves Libertarians, are like Christmas Catholics and pick-and-chose Christians; Ayn Rand is who they want her to be; buzzwords and drop lines rule the day, and that’s a product of our times where people chose not to be informed about who and what they claim to be supportive of.
These two books should help you guys out, a lot!
You true conservatives are right to be dismissive as her theories and concepts don’t really fit into traditional Republicanism or conservatism; nothing is that black and white and none of her works ever mentioned children; kids don’t fit into such Randian fascist rigidity; they are the very creatures who make us all less selfish and more selfless—the antithesis of Rand’s theses—our species would die out if we adhered to strict, doctrinaire Randian philosophies.
If you need a modern conservative refresher course, read anything by the late William F Buckley who’s writings are truly brilliant—though he always looked and sounded snockered to me and was one of those insufferable Northeast patricians—and who also truly hated Ayn Rand.
And to my liberal friends, relax; read these two books too so that you may be better informed and have a broader perspective. It pays to know where your political opponents are coming from, and it pays even higher dividends when you know more about their subject matter than they do.
And to everyone, leave it to ‘The Simpsons’ to knock it out of the park with their superior writing and offer of Rand perhaps the best critique of her works. The attached is very funny and could have only come from someone who knew of both Ayn Rand, and her work.
Read these two new books on Ayn Rand and you’ll get the joke too and know much more about this woman who managed to inspire or upset so many people.
Yes, a quintessential America Feminist!