Remembering what Ayn Rand was like
Posted 07 March 2006 - 04:13 PM
I had a chance to listen to the -unedited- tapes of fiction writing and non-fiction writing (much longer than the tapes which were eventually sold) when I lived in NYC. I listened to them in their entirety, start to finish over the course of many months. (Allan Blumenthal if I recall had loaned them to several people and I was allowed to join in listening to them once a week).
What struck me was that editing destroyed lots of little asides and witticisms and insights and tangents on many other issues. When Ayn Rand 'rambled' a bit, she was always illuminating and interesting. It was a great loss to cut -any- of it. She didn't just talk about the weather. You learned how a great mind worked, which to me is at least as valuable as the insights on FW or NFW. (Especially since a number of the insights she has on FW and NFW are not unique to her and can be found in other books on this subject.)
Besides, if you are going to sell the edited form in a book, then the taped form you sell should be -different-, i.e., completely unedited with the explanation attached that if you want writing in a nutshell, get the book, if you want Rand on many things and interactive, get the tapes.
Listening to those tapes, with not a single word changed, was one of the great experiences of my life to that point.
[Also, I find it hard to remember her getting angry at anyone...she was always relaxed and calm and gentle and supportive in those sessions, sort of the ideal teacher, if I recall correctly... another reason to hear the tapes in original form.]
Posted 07 March 2006 - 05:47 PM
Phil, Barbara, in her book, if I recall correctly, tells a story about an incident where Rand got angry during the FW class. The incident had to do with Rand giving the class a story to read and asking the class to comment. The class was highly critical of the story, not knowing it was actually one her own early stories. I think it was the light-hearted O'Henryish story about a somewhat staged kidnapping. Rand felt the criticism was misplaced and became angry.
Also, I find it hard to remember her getting angry at anyone...she was always relaxed and calm and gentle and supportive in those sessions, sort of the ideal teacher, if I recall correctly... another reason to hear the tapes in original form.
As I recall, when I heard the somewhat-edited tapes, there was reference to this incident, but it was in the form of a calm discussion during the NEXT meeting of what mistakes had been made by the classmembers in the previous meeting. Do you recall this? Just wondering.
Thanks for your comments about the unedited tapes, by the way. I am jealous of you!
Posted 07 March 2006 - 06:05 PM
I don't know if I've ever had a friend or girlfriend who never said "Phil Coates you are a f**** idiot."
(Please don't make the obvious comeback.)
Posted 07 March 2006 - 11:24 PM
That would be a yes, Phil. I have raised my voice with pickpockets, children, dogs, and even cats. I wasn't trying to be critical of Rand. I was just asking out of nosy curiosity. I do think with Rand the anger flashed on and then vanished off a lot of the time. I admire this ability. I can only do that when I'm acting. If I actually get really angry, I tend to stay that way for a while until I "simmer down."
Have you ever raised your voice, etc. with your children?
Posted 07 March 2006 - 11:36 PM
I agree with Phil - and this is part of what I meant about the emptiness of the FW book - even in the somewhat edited tapes I listened to, Rand made many fascinating and valuable comments about the fiction they discussed. She had *first hand* emotional/intellectual experiences with a work and analyzed her responses without preconceived ideas and moral judgments - which allowed her to have the kind of unique and brilliant insights she did. You could hear this in her discussions on the tapes. There was no "this is a good work because it is philosophically correct" kind of stuff. She even analyzed a novel of pulp fiction!
Also, her manner was very kind and patient - excellent teaching manner, despite all kinds of questions one could get impatient with. It gave quite a different picture of her than the kind of volatile anger and quick moral judgments I saw sometimes at Ford Hall Forum, or even in person.
Posted 08 March 2006 - 01:13 AM
In general, judging from Larry's report and those of others who were there, the same was true of the epistemology seminars. Those of course were also significantly longer than the material included in the book. The full transcripts exist, so I'm told by Lee Pierson, who read some sections of them. Maybe eventually those will appear in an extended book form.
Also, her manner [in the FW seminar] was very kind and patient - excellent teaching manner, despite all kinds of questions one could get impatient with. It gave quite a different picture of her than the kind of volatile anger and quick moral judgments I saw sometimes at Ford Hall Forum, or even in person.
PS: John, I think part of the difference between people whose anger comes and goes quickly and those who are slow to ignite but then slow to cool down is a temperamental difference. I'm pretty much in the former category, whereas Larry is pretty much in the latter.
Posted 08 March 2006 - 03:46 PM
Posted 08 March 2006 - 04:27 PM
Hearing this tale and similar ones -- including ones said by a friend of John Hospers to have occurred with John in the days when he'd been seeing her regularly -- confirmed my feeling that it wouldn't have gone well if I'd been in circumstances of extended conversation with AR, since I'd have been inclined to stick by my guns and not smooth it over.
I think my reaction would have been the same as yours.
Posted 08 March 2006 - 05:39 PM
Here's a brief comment I've been thinking of making for the last couple days, but I wasn't sure where to make it. Maybe this thread will do, since the section heading is "aesthetics." It's an incident I've been thinking of in regard to your remark about the old woman in one of the Dutch masters paintings, and your liking that so much better than all the heroic-poses stuff O'ism-influenced people produce. I have the same reaction -- and I think that she would have had also. A snippet of evidence was her being irritated when Allan Gotthelf and Harry Binswanger, in a small mimeographed magazine they were editing in their student days (I'm not recalling the magazine's name), wrote a review of "The Sound of Music," extolling it for its "benevolent" sense of life. AR objected in such strenuous terms, they published a retraction! She didn't like what she saw as the "soppy" sentiments of the movie. (I don't recall her exact words; someplace I think we have them, but where?)
Possibly someone else has a reference to this story?
Posted 08 March 2006 - 05:56 PM
Posted 08 March 2006 - 08:50 PM
Ellen, yes, I'm willing to believe temperamental differences are at play in the fast-fuse vs. slow-fuse aspect of anger. The magazine at MIT was ERGO.
Posted 08 March 2006 - 10:06 PM
But is that the one Allan Gotthelf and Harry Binswanger wrote in? I thought they had a separte one of their own editing. ERGO, at least for a time, was edited by Erich Vehyl, who I believe was going to school at Harvard (that's what his affiliation was given as in the list of auditors for the epistemology seminar). I vaguely recall there being some kind of philosophic battle between Erich and others at ERGO; don't remember what it was about, and if it was an issue of who was going to control the magazine.
The magazine at MIT was ERGO.
A detail about the epistemology seminars: Although participants were styled as "Prof [letter]," only a few of them could correctly have been described as "profs" at the time (Nelson, Peikoff, Walsh); most were graduate students.
Posted 08 March 2006 - 10:23 PM
I remember this episode from when I read PAR in Brazil right after it came out. One of the very first things I read in The Early Ayn Rand when it came out was "Good Copy." I wanted to see if it was a great story or not. My own evaluation of the story was similar to Barbara's back then. It probably still it. I might reread it now.
There was a writer of more contemporary fiction, private eye stuff actually, who wrote a series with the kind of character Rand created with "Good Copy." The sense of life of the characters always struck me as very, very similar. And he did it with extreme talent (much more polish than Rand had back when she wrote her story) - Lawrence Sanders with his Archibald McNally series. Also, Sanders created Joshua Bigg in The Tenth Commandment. This little guy is probably one of the most charming and just plain nice private eyes ever created.
I have always wondered if Sanders was influenced by Rand in any way. I wonder if he knew her. I don't imagine that he had read that story, but New York can be a very small town in the publishing world.
Anyway, I have not heard the CD now sold of the fiction writing course, but I would place good money on the "Good Copy" episode being airbrushed out.
Posted 09 March 2006 - 01:21 AM
Michael, I think there's a reason she didn't publish Good Copy while she was alive. But probably as early work it held a special place in her memories.
Posted 09 March 2006 - 02:59 PM
Posted 09 March 2006 - 04:32 PM
I give up, Phil -- and I tried for longer than 15 seconds. Do you know?
Two pennies for guessing what the four letters [in IREC] stand for in less than 15 seconds....
Posted 09 March 2006 - 07:08 PM
Posted 11 March 2006 - 12:29 AM
Hi! Good to 'see' you again after all these years.
Regarding Rand's behavior in public and in these private lessons, I do think she tended to be more on the defensive - or offensive, as one might see it - in public where she thought she might be more easily under attack.
Hey, were you listening the time Rand got mad at me and told me I should leave Frank alone? I had been waiting to talk to her during a break at one of those lectures in the '70's (Peikoff or Blumenthal, I don't remember), so I was making conversation with Frank about his painting. He was clearly infirm at that time, aphasic and had difficulty expressing himself. She kept throwing me dagger glances until she finally said in a stern voice to leave him alone, that I shouldn't bother him about Objectivism (which I hadn't), he was just her husband or something like that (John remembers the dialogue better than I!).
So I went away, realizing that she didn't understand what I had been saying to him, and that she was being protective, given his infirmity.
Did I ever tell you that she sought me out at the next break in the lecture and said, in her heavy Russian accent, "Please, dahling, forgive me. I didn't know what you were talking about!"?
Here, I was just some kid she didn't know- but she had done me wrong (obviously Frank had straightened her out), so *she* found *me* to apologize! No standing on ceremony there, or making anything of her position of fame and achievement. I was impressed.
Posted 11 March 2006 - 12:39 PM
I had a similar experience with her at one of those lectures, but in this case I had actually been rude or obnoxious with her. She took me aside and quietly, gently pointed out where she disagreed with an esthetic position I took...but without mentioning my rudeness or embarassing me. It occurred to me how few people I knew would do this, Objectivist or not.
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