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Ayn Rand and Nostalgia for a Younger, Dumber Self

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but for a brief period in my late teens, I LOVED Any Rand’s The Fountain Head.

The story of a shy but remarkable artist who is oppressed and ignored by the world’s mediocrity helped me climb out of a pit of low self esteem, but it left me with a sense of entitlement and an inflated ego that took a few years to unlearn. (BTW, to anyone who had to deal with me during that period, I’m sorry for whatever I said or did while under the influence of that book.) In reality, I wasn’t a victim of the world, I was just shy and fearful, but imagining myself as a secret hero was a helpful middle step before I could full accept responsibility for my being such an unremarkable wallflower.

Since then, I haven’t had the guts to look back at the novel (TOO EMBARRASSING) but I suspect it’s dreadful. Even at the height of my obsession, I found the last third of the book—the trial scene in which the protagonist ventriloquizes Rand’s most impractical and unrealistic “philosophical” positions—to be essentially unreadable. I dabbled elsewhere in her oeuvre  (Anthem was just a poor imitation of all the better, more sophisticated mid-century, anti-totalitarian dystopian novels), but nothing seized me like The Fountainhead. Anyone who’s come across her work knows that Rand is a petty, mean-spirited, miserable hypocrite, but this web comic, which was the inspiration for this post, does a good job of unpacking her background to the point where one might feel sympathy and even, perhaps, pity for Rand, a emotion which she would considered both an unredeemable moral failing and the ultimate insult.

The comic is long but well executed and politically relevant thanks to the Tea Party. If you have a few minutes and the inclination, I highly recommend checking it out.

Ayn Rand

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