Thursday, December 18, 2008

the fountainhead: Part III

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

Ok, so I may have softened a little on the fountainhead. Yes, I still think it is mostly pompous rape/cuckoldry fantasy done up in flimsy drag as radical philosophy. But it can be a reasonably readable book when it isn't busy monologuing and explaining everything.

If you haven't noticed, I've been kind of hard on this book from the start. My irritation comes from three sources. One is obvious: the book itself is irritating. The hero worship starts on the first page and only get cringingly more fawning as it goes. The philosophy of the whole thing is so black and white and so condescending and pedantic that even when a good point is made, you want to disagree with it because you know that had that point been made in that same way in real life, it would have been made by someone you hate.

The second is a few well-meaning friends commenting when they heard that I was going to read it that I should be careful and not be taken in by Ms. Rand's wily storytelling. I know that they are afraid of me becoming as annoying as they were when they were fifteen and read it and thought it was mind-blowing that someone could suggest that being selfish was something to aspire to and felt it really spoke to their frustrations with all the mindless imbeciles that every teenager feels surrounded by (and not always without reason). I'm not exactly a teenager and don't exactly shy away from fairly difficult reading, so I'll admit to being mildly offended by this well-meant warning. Ok, initially miffed and increasingly full stop offended as I've proceeded through the book.

The third reason is that over the years too many people have made comments like, "Have you read the fountainhead? I think you'd like it. Your take on things reminds me of it." Which is not unlike when I worked at a summer camp one year and was told repeatedly that I was just like Dan Edge who had worked there the year before. "You are just like Dan Edge, except he was a total asshole." Thanks. So my take on things reminds people of the philosophy expounded in what may be the most annoying book I have ever read? Great.

So, yes, I walked into this with unfair baggage, already prepped to dislike the book. But the baggage was only unfair because I hadn't read it yet, not because the book wasn't annoying enough to deserve the derision outright.

Actually, I should be clear. If this were a random tome picked out of obscurity from some shelf, I would have nicer things to say about it. It is reasonably well written. The characters are well developed, even if annoyingly developed as one-note sychophants, and the plot keeps sort of twisting til the end. As just a book that had managed to get published, I would judge it kindly and might have finished it, though probably not and if I had would have found it reasonably thought provoking even if a little naked about its intentions. But it isn't just some random book. It is a book which tons of people hold up as this life changing experience and a brilliant mind expanding read. At the end of the day, it is a bold attempt at sexualized hero worship, a story about a woman getting to be bored by the mediocrity of the world and lashing out with her beauty and competence and status to keep it all at bay until she meets this powerful machine of a man-god to ravage her. Yawn.

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