Monday, November 23, 2009

4 and 3

The Fountainhead: Ayn Rand -First off, I hated Atlas Shrugged. I hated it. I read it because reading it was something I felt like I had to do.

I liked The Fountainhead, maybe not a lot, but enough. From a reader's standpoint, the story had tension and a good plot, even if the characters are basically philosophical points on a intellectual graph pitted against each other in story form. This also means the characters aren't particularly rounded. They tend toward caricature.

Reading this book and also thinking of Atlas Shrugged, I am a little confused by the conservatives who embrace Rand. Rand was against so many of the things they would tend to support. She didn't think much of religion, marriage or what might be termed traditional family values. Tradition was for suckers, but she very much liked free speech, particularly as talking truth to power. She'd have disdained Fox News and been amused and revolted by the tea baggers and birthers, mostly because so many of them are clearly being manipulated.

Rand did seem to have a warped affection for the working class, particularly tradesmen and laborers, which I think she saw as cogs in a working machine. She didn't particularly see them as people, but as necessary parts of the machinery to help raise up the ideas of the truly exceptional. In her books, the wise and righteous know when to shit-can their own aspirations to serve the greater man's idea.

She was very much an elitist, a lover of capitalism, but with a funny view of wealth. She hated taxes, but respected a love of work and creation more than actual money. Money was fine, of course, but in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, the honest acquisition of money is more of a mark of achievement, a way to validate her point of view. Her heroes are all wealthy people, but scarcely spend it on much except on utility.

So, it's about the money, but it's not about the money for Rand.

I find Rand to be endearingly naive, and she makes some valid points. Is it fair for a working class slob who puts in an honest day's works have to pay more for a less nice place to live than someone on the dole? Should creators of industry be made into villains just because they profit? Isn't a certain amount of selfishness necessary, even admirable? Really, before you can help anybody else, including accidentally improving society, don't you have to take care of numero uno first?

It's all in how you put the question, I guess. Rand turns things to fantastic extremes. The Fountainhead is Lord of the Rings for miscreants and the narcissistic. It is a fable for the selfish, set in the middle earth of unlikely America. The poor are the lazy goblin minions of the soulless, selfless (yes, I mean selfless) liberal intellectuals who mesmerize but produce nothing. The great fight is against their mediocre crusade to make things slightly better for all because in the end it will fuck things up for everyone.

Still, if you take the book as an unusual novel about ideas, not characters, and look at it as a conversation, it's not a bad way to torch a couple of weeks of free time. So, I kind of liked it.

Candy Freak: Steve Almond - Loved this book. Almond is a sugar fiend. He loves his candy and somehow he convinced an editor to let him write about his passion. So, he rambles around the country, visiting fellow candy nuts and regional candy manufacturers, whose products most of us are barely aware of, including the Idaho Spud and the Goo Goo Cluster.

Almond approaches it like a half-assed adventure, full of often odd and funny observations. It's a travel book and a food book and a book about his own connection to confections.

As I am on a diet and have been now for a fucking long time, perhaps reading about candy wasn't the brightest thing to add to my reading list. Still, it was fun and I got a list of things to try... in moderation.

1 comment:

Buzzardbilly said...

You've made me consider Rand in an entirely new way. I always found the folks who were into Rand were way into her in a very intellectual snob sort of way, so it did nothing to make me want to read her words. I hate snobbery in all its ugly forms.

You have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Obi Wan.