In answer to your question, No, I have not gone completely crazy. I am not reading Ayn Rand. I’m reading her recently published (2009) biography, called Ayn Rand and the World She Made. That link refers to the NY Times review of the biography, which I personally haven’t read yet, and won’t until I finish the book. I’m presently on page 332 of 413 pages…so, soon.
This morning Fakesister and I, during our weekly conversation following our conquest of the NY Times Saturday crossword puzzle, wondered how we had escaped reading anything Ayn Rand ever wrote. Our conclusion was that we weren’t inclined on our own, and no one ever made us do it. This may prove that there is a merciful God after all ( a concept Rand would have rejected).
So why am I reading this? I first heard of it in an interview with the author on NPR, and it sounded intriguing. Since I know people who claim to be admirers and adherents of Rand, I thought it might be a good way to Know Thy Enemy…not that I really knew she was my enemy, I just suspected. So I felt a duty to investigate the “other side”, kind of like how once in a while you have to watch Glenn Beck.
And…I find Rand mesmerizing, and abhorrent. I could probably stop right there, but in Randian fashion, let me go on.
If there was ever a person with less self-awareness, I can’t think of one. There is the most incredible disconnect between her opinion of herself and the reality of her life. Her primary theme was that rationality is supreme, and I can’t argue with that. But rationality, real rationality, allows for the fact that you might be, on occasion, wrong, or be disproved.
The author of the book notes that eventually Ayn tired of “shoehorning” her ideas into the characters of her books, but it’s abundantly clear that shoehorning was Ayn’s specialty. When she had a lengthy, sadomasochistic affair with a man young enough to be her son, she made it fit. It was the highest expression of her ideals. Right. You know, Go for it Ayn. Have some fun. But please don’t insult our intelligence by trying to make it a lofty concept.
Ayn’s experiences growing up shaped her in ways that she completely ignored except when it was useful. She speaks of “the mind” and of “rationality” as if it’s completely divorced from history and biology. It’s like a floating thing. Protoplasm.
When you read of her childhood, what’s known of it, you get a picture. She was a relatively unattractive child physically, with zero social skills. There are two ways to adapt to that. You try to decide what it is that you’re doing wrong. Or you conclude, as Ayn did, that they are simply envious of your superior intellect and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Later in life, Ayn is described as being warm, charming, and generous on occasion. I view this as the sociopathic response, in the way that sociopaths, who don’t feel it personally, are able to mimic the emotions of other people. Huge things were happening around her in her early life, such as the Bolshevik Revolution, but she dismisses the impact of that and other events, because truthfully, it didn’t really matter to her. The only thing that mattered to her was what was happening to her in her head. Other people mattered to her only as far as they could praise her or give her pleasure, but she was astonishingly clever at disguising that.
Ayn Rand was the ultimate narcicist and sociopath. The only things that keep her out of the dustbin of history are: Alan Greenspan, and the fact that she did have some actually worthwhile things to say. She was opposed to mob rule. I can’t disagree with that.