Thursday, December 18, 2008

the fountainhead: Part I

(written early last year, on my second trip in Hawaii)

On my first trip, I headed to sea with far too few books. I didn't think this when I left; the weight of the books was a ridiculous addition to an already cumbersome collection of junk. But you never realize how quickly you can read books when you take away other forms of distraction. Suddenly held tight on a boat where only one other person really speaks english well enough to hold a conversation and you suddenly plow through books like a maniac. Not all because you necessarily love them, but simply by the fact of them being there. Anyway, this trip I swore I wouldn't spend three days straight playing Snood on my cell phone and grabbed books like crazy.

"Like crazy" may be a more appropriate description than I would like to admit. I had all these plans of going book hunting and buying tons of great books and reading them and being all excited, but somehow with all the days spent in the office and then running around doing all my other tasks in that short valuable time that we spend on land, I didn't go out book shopping. Thankfully, as I unloaded the books I had read, I picked through the assorted books left behind at the house and the gear shed and came away with a motley crew of things which I had thought perhaps in the past of reading, but knew there was no way on earth I would ever read most of them in any other situation. So here I find myself in the middle of the ocean with Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard, The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, Jewell by Brett Lott, The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, and the fountainhead by ayn rand (I also have Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood and A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes, but since these made the previous trip with me and have both been read and picked apart many times, they seem to require separate mention). For some unknown reason, I decided to pick up the fountainhead. It had to happen sometime.

Why do I persist in refusing to capitalize the title of the book or its authors name? Because I have begun reading the book. THIS is the heralded beacon of reason and objectivity that annoying goth kids in high school and pretentious college antagonists have gushed so enthusiastically about? Granted, I'm not finished with the book, but I wouldn't have trudged past the first chapter if I wasn't stuck on a boat and wasn't rationing my few precious downloaded episodes of America's Next Top Model like they were manna from heaven. But I am on a boat, so I'm going to finish the damn thing.

It isn't exactly a painful read. It might be reasonably enjoyable if it didn't have all that reverent hoojab about how great and life changing it is. It is written as poorly as Ishmael (speaking of reverently adored, eye-opening, badly written books), but at least Ishmael did have some eye opening insight to offer which wasn't found laid out as directly or as challengingly in other books, even if it was clunkily chinked into a silly story. the fountainhead doesn't have all that much which is eye opening and unavailable elsewhere. It is basically just elaborate rape fantasy spruced up as Frank Lloyd Wright fan fiction. If she manages to cram in the description of a shirt clinging to the shoulder blades of another man, I'll throw up. The book starts with a naked dude looking at nature and thinking about how he would control it and overpower it, how it was waiting for him to take control and improve upon it. Force himself upon it, if you will, but as it has been waiting for someone to do, for someone to bring it to that climax that only this ultimate man could deliver. Throw in some other characters, some time, a perfect beautiful stone-cold bitch, a nice trajectory to the bring them together... whatever.

The book is fine as what it is. The story is reasonably engaging, the characters sometimes border on likeable and you even find yourself wanting to see Mr. Roark's buildings get built. But unless there is something really waiting for the last half of the book to bring it all together and make this profound commentary that people have told me this book makes, this is just one more book that I really couldn't recommend anyone devoting the time to unless they find themselves stuck in the middle of the Pacific with only a few books at hand.

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