What's Your Story?


Recommended Posts

We all have a story to tell about ourselves. Some consider themselves the hero of that story, even if they don't admit this expressly.

My favorite Rand character is and always has been Howard Roark. Have you noticed he never tells anybody his story?

There aren't any paragraphs in The Fountainhead that begin with Roark saying "My dad was a construction worker and my orange hair always kept the girls away." When he is having a beer with his pals Roark doesn't mention the tough times of starting his own firm, or that mean old bastard Henry Cameron.

Howard Roark lives in the now, with an eye on the future. He doesn't live to fit within his story. He is not a slave to his story. And, he really doesn't seem to care about anybody else's story.

Why do you suppose that is?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Its been a long time since I read FH. And then I read this.

"Isnt this superflous?" Roark asked. "Its past. Theres no point of discussing my choice of subjects now."

)

The author is channeling her penchant for forward moving action to help describe the character rather than appealing to a biographic account that explains the motives for his choices. There doesnt seem to be much regret in her characters. They make choices in the moment and move on with no concern for the past. It underscores a lack of doubt, assuredness, a principled unbothered stoic and those things we equate in general with AR's characters.

Im writing a story. It has no mention of the past other than to say something explicit about forefathers. Theres an excitement to being a reader to being given the slightest bits of information/baggage, as if operating in the dark, with nothing but a flashlight shedding light on those things that are important, to the story and to the author.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Looking to the past and holding it in the present, I’d like to wish Deanna a Happy Birthday!

Francisco and Eddie in their youth: “He had a caste system of his own: to him, the Taggart children were not Jim and Dagny, but Dagny and Eddie. . . . Eddie asked him once, ‘Francisco, you’re some kind of very high nobility, aren’t you?’ He answered, ‘Not yet’” (AS 90).

The outlook David and Pekka share with Rand’s characters has something very right. However, one’s past is part of one’s extended identity, and knowing it and having it in mind is important for knowing what dreams are best for one to now pursue. Roark is shown thinking about people he has known and what puzzles about people they present for him. He pursues a solution to those puzzles over his years. In respect of his fundamental relationship to the world and to other people, he is already set in stone at the opening of the novel, when he is a young man. Similarly, when he meets Dominique, he is already fully wise about sex and love and about what she needs to see for herself to become well.

For Dagny the past matters quite a bit. Think of her relation in mind to her grandfather. Then there is that cape of hers lying across the track in the tunnel; finally the rails in her lifelong vision have joined, and that man at their end lies beside her. Consider too the band of protagonists in the story in the airplane near the end of Atlas. It is a plateau for the past recognized and held in the present. And as Dominique ascends to Roark on the lift at the end of their story, is there not much of the past in the power of that scene for them and for us?

Best wishes with the story, Geoff.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Fountainhead begins and ends with adults. Except for the Francisco/Dagny back story, so does Atlas Shrugged.

I like the idea of Rand and Randian characters being present and future oriented.

As for Howard Roark being knowledgeable about love and sex, that was only true in the world of the novel. What he did when he "raped" Dominique only works because she herself was unreal. It was not a taming of the shrew. It was an allegorical breaking of the hymen, not just the physicality. Only such a superman could get this superwoman up and running down the right track, sexually and otherwise. But do that to a real person and you've got horrible psychological trauma that must be assumed if not guaranteed.

As for the sex, where was the "love" as experienced and expressed? Completely sublimated. They, as real people, could have made love all night long. Instead it was what?--seven minutes? The first Roark/Dominque sexual congress was a Rand sexual fantasy I suspect common to many adolescent girls carried into and sometimes through adulthood. One can have rape fantasies, giving and/or receiving, and be completely incapable of actual rape.

We might say Roark blew up Dominique like he blew up Cortlandt Homes. She and the housing project got rebuilt, properly. Gail Wynand didn't survive. Howard even blew himself up, in a way. He blew up superman and became much more like Frank O'Connor really was. Thus we learn he never was "superman"--it was (it is) projected onto him as a consequence of his integrity.

--Brant

Link to post
Share on other sites

.

Brant, you say you like the idea of the characters being present and future oriented. But all of that that is shown in the fictional package? In real life, is it really a good idea for one to be so good at emotionally “fleeing from memory” as a Roark or a Tarzan? Isn’t that really like that female lead in Rand’s screenplay for Love Letters, an affliction to be overcome to be a whole person operating really well?

Not to encourage thread drift, but . . .

Between Roark’s initial bedding of Dominique and his profession of love for her much later (“as I love my life”), there is no development or learning shown on his take on what is love, including romantic love. That later scene comes in his release of her to marry someone else, and his wisdom about love and Dominique’s neurosis (fiction, to be sure) is not something we are shown as something that has undergone development or learning since their first lay together. One aspect of their romantic story rings true (though without the old-time style of “resistance” and “taking”) to the pattern of my own second life-partner story. At the bell was damn good sex. We then proceeded from “where have you been?” to “what are you doing the rest of your life?” A much faster and smoother development, thank goodness, than the fine fictional one in Fountainhead.

Link to post
Share on other sites

became much more like Frank O'Connor really was.

:\

I was with you all the way until the surprise ending.

"Much more" means moving toward--not arriving, however--at congruence. Frank would/could never be Howard. I do think that Branden pushes down too hard on him. He was more than he describes. At least from what I saw in person. Poor Frank, seems to be the common narrative. I never bought that, not as a generalization, not even from Barbara. That link, BTW, is second-hand Nathaniel and Barbara estimation. As such it's quite the same, though. The Brandens had 18 years direct experience with the O'Connors. Mine was a drop in the bucket.

--Brant

everything gets filtered so all the narratives differ somewhat

Link to post
Share on other sites

Frank wasn't what Rand tried to pretend that he was. He didn't have many of the virtues that Objectivism demands, but he did have the virtue of being real, and of not actively propagating the fantasy hero version of himself. Unlike Rand and her circle, there appears to have been no bluff to Frank. It seems that he didn't want to join in on the posing.

J

Link to post
Share on other sites

.

Brant, you say you like the idea of the characters being present and future oriented. But all of that that is shown in the fictional package? In real life, is it really a good idea for one to be so good at emotionally “fleeing from memory” as a Roark or a Tarzan? Isn’t that really like that female lead in Rand’s screenplay for Love Letters, an affliction to be overcome to be a whole person operating really well?

Not to encourage thread drift, but . . .

Between Roark’s initial bedding of Dominique and his profession of love for her much later (“as I love my life”), there is no development or learning shown on his take on what is love including romantic love. That later scene comes in his release of her to marry someone else, and his wisdom about love and Dominique’s neurosis (fiction, to be sure) is not something we are shown as something that has undergone development or learning since their first lay together. One aspect of their romantic story rings true (though without the old-time style of “resistance” and “taking”) to the pattern of my own second life-partner story. At the bell was damn good sex. We then proceeded from “where have you been?” to “what are you doing the rest of your life?” A much faster and smoother development, thank goodness, than the fine fictional one in Fountainhead.

Roark literally had no memory to flee from. Also, what wisdom he had was Rand's. A novel is fiction. Heightened reality is fiction-not-fiction. The power of that is it's seduction of the reader into its alternate reality. It can be dangerous. It's a fair speculation, from Branden (N.), that Rand went into the world of her magnum opus and never came out--that the people around her were treated somewhat like characters in a story she spun in her head. I personally think the greater the artist the greater personal distance one should keep from her or him. To get swept up into someone else's context is to acquire that person's inertial frame. That's easy. Now try getting off. The same principle applies to many if not all persnal relationships. Easy to start, hard to end. Rand was pretty good at ending them, like she did with the Brandens when the lies stopped. That seems to have been something of a masculine get-it-done characteristic she had.

--Brant

Link to post
Share on other sites

Howard Roark lives in the now, with an eye on the future. He doesn't live to fit within his story. He is not a slave to his story. And, he really doesn't seem to care about anybody else's story.

Why do you suppose that is?

Rand was very focused on the issue of volition, and I think that she did everything she could to push it in her art. It's effective, and it definitely makes her work distinctive, but I think that sometimes it's so volition-happy that it backfires: the characters sometimes come across as not being real humans who are engaged in making volitional choices, but as unreal playthings of a higher being (their creator, Rand) who are deterministically destined to serve a purpose outside of themselves (their creator's plot and message).

Rand believed that determinism in literature resulted in doom and despair. She overlooked the fact that characters who are fated to be brilliant heroes and stars of their professions can just as powerfully represent determinism.

J

Link to post
Share on other sites

Frank wasn't what Rand tried to pretend that he was. He didn't have many of the virtues that Objectivism demands, but he did have the virtue of being real, and of not actively propagating the fantasy hero version of himself. Unlike Rand and her circle, there appears to have been no bluff to Frank. It seems that he didn't want to join in on the posing.

Frank was a model for Ayn for her heroes. Outside worked fine. Inside she filled in as needed.

--Brant

Link to post
Share on other sites

Frank wasn't what Rand tried to pretend that he was. He didn't have many of the virtues that Objectivism demands, but he did have the virtue of being real, and of not actively propagating the fantasy hero version of himself. Unlike Rand and her circle, there appears to have been no bluff to Frank. It seems that he didn't want to join in on the posing.

I wish you wouldn't quote the bastard. Always wrong, check that, always evil.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In some novels the plot dictates the character, in others the reverse, they are character driven. It's that novelist's right (after all, who's in charge here?) to be emphatic of her prefered character virtues over others. Clearly, Rand was aware of background, memories, emotions, etc.. as they are in fiction, and out of it . Here is Roark, firmly in the present going towards his brilliant, while not smooth or unchallenged, future - but left implicit for a reader, is that he didn't come by his virtues by accident of birth or Revelation.

His past would flesh out his persona more, I agree with Geoff, but the author obviously elected to emphasise "a volitional consciousness" - going forward - unmentioning of past nurturing, development, or likely earlier self-doubt. If one doesn't 'read in' the implicit, Roark can become a "fantasy hero version" as J remarks.

Authenticity is central to Romantic Realism, and like all novels I think one has to infer Howard's authenticity in "the human condition", otherwise mistakenly interpret him as either a Perfect Man or as one-dimensional. Both of them traps, in neither can one 'relate to' in order to find and make one's own volitional, independent character. Besides the authorial privilege and doubtless pleasure of bringing her imaged, best people to life, the last was Rand's avowed intent, whatever her critics say.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Brant writes:

I like the idea of Rand and Randian characters being present and future oriented.

That is certainly an admirable quality. Government educated intellectuals tend to live in the dead past because they are unproductive failures in the present who have no future.

Greg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe Rand didn't focus on "the story" of her main characters--or build them into the character's conception of themselves--because the stories we tell about ourselve (even to ourselves) are inherently and virtually meaningless. They are selective recreations of backward-looking events, strung together in an often self-serving narrative.

Is there any real value to such stories, other than the value we subjectively decide they're worth?

We all know people who are "angry" people, through and through. My experience is such people are predisposed to anger in large part because of the "story" they have concocted in their heads about what has happened to them in the past. "My parents were alcoholics, I was mistreated, and I am the unfair victim of life's circumstances", etc.

The story "spring loads" the anger, in other words.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe Rand didn't focus on "the story" of her main characters--or build them into the character's conception of themselves--because the stories we tell about ourselve (even to ourselves) are inherently and virtually meaningless. They are selective recreations of backward-looking events, strung together in an often self-serving narrative.

Is there any real value to such stories, other than the value we subjectively decide they're worth?

We all know people who are "angry" people, through and through. My experience is such people are predisposed to anger in large part because of the "story" they have concocted in their heads about what has happened to them in the past. "My parents were alcoholics, I was mistreated, and I am the unfair victim of life's circumstances", etc.

The story "spring loads" the anger, in other words.

It is often that many people construct a self-justifying narrative, defying the reality that it was a long string of choices/non-choices that was to blame not circumstances alone. A lot of popular art upholds and reinforces their view.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Best wishes with the story, Geoff.

Thanks Stephen!

The opening of FH and Kiras Viking provoked something creative though these many years later. I realized just how difficult writing can be. Firstly, imo, It takes an iron butt.

<snip>

HE LOOKED TOWARDS the vast horizon. A thinly veiled expression of contempt lined his face. The wind whipped atop the granite bluff as he knotted the cloak draped at his neck, and with a casual motion secured his footing and launched, leaning into the void. Sea birds careened over rising columns of air high above the perch as he landed on a rock shoulder. Raising a hand to shield his eyes he scanned the sun strewn vista searching for a glimpse. Heavy waves capped in white foam broke against the shore of his homeland, the Isle of Skye. A mast, barely visible in the distance, vanished with a blink. An anguish seared his chest and armed with his vision, he stepped towards those values and his love for her.

Sheer crags underfoot formed a precipice on which the balance of their lives hung. A plan was forged. Sinewy hands gripped the broadswords leather hilt and as he lifted it above his head the bright sunlight radiated off the blade giving it the appearance of a distress beacon. Its scything motion loosed a scream in the wake of the carved arc as he swore his silent oath.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe Rand didn't focus on "the story" of her main characters--or build them into the character's conception of themselves--because the stories we tell about ourselve (even to ourselves) are inherently and virtually meaningless. They are selective recreations of backward-looking events, strung together in an often self-serving narrative.

Is there any real value to such stories, other than the value we subjectively decide they're worth?

We all know people who are "angry" people, through and through. My experience is such people are predisposed to anger in large part because of the "story" they have concocted in their heads about what has happened to them in the past. "My parents were alcoholics, I was mistreated, and I am the unfair victim of life's circumstances", etc.

The story "spring loads" the anger, in other words.

Isn't the same also true of people who erase their own story and buy into the Howard Roark mindset?

They end up having a fantasy vision of themselves, and then they become angry that life isn't giving them what they believe they deserve.

J

Link to post
Share on other sites

Frank wasn't what Rand tried to pretend that he was. He didn't have many of the virtues that Objectivism demands, but he did have the virtue of being real, and of not actively propagating the fantasy hero version of himself. Unlike Rand and her circle, there appears to have been no bluff to Frank. It seems that he didn't want to join in on the posing.

I wish you wouldn't quote the bastard. Always wrong, check that, always evil.

Hahaha. What are you all worked up about now, Pup?

Emoting and throwing your little tantrums doesn't get you anywhere. See, we can't read your mind. When you're having your feelings about something, you have to actually tell us what the problem is. What is it that you're disagreeing with, and why?

J

Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe Rand didn't focus on "the story" of her main characters--or build them into the character's conception of themselves--because the stories we tell about ourselve (even to ourselves) are inherently and virtually meaningless. They are selective recreations of backward-looking events, strung together in an often self-serving narrative.

The story "spring loads" the anger, in other words.

Itd be difficult for me to imagine a consistent storyline for a character who evolved from a slight regarded as traumatizing to a resolute, fully realized independent, thinker/producer. Her other characters provide the contrast needed to heighten the portrayal of Roarke. Her opening description of Roarke doesnt mince words, on the contrary he appears as comfortable as granite finding refuge in nature and not in his fellow man. She moves quickly from there to the expulsion which is described as his first freedom. Theres nothing particularly human about him. )

But if I understand what youre saying, if there was a context for judging him vulnerable to being hurt, I think we could come away from that identifying and admiring him all the more.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Frank wasn't what Rand tried to pretend that he was. He didn't have many of the virtues that Objectivism demands, but he did have the virtue of being real, and of not actively propagating the fantasy hero version of himself. Unlike Rand and her circle, there appears to have been no bluff to Frank. It seems that he didn't want to join in on the posing.

I wish you wouldn't quote the bastard. Always wrong, check that, always evil.

Frank? And where's the quote?

--Brant

Link to post
Share on other sites

Isn't the same also true of people who erase their own story and buy into the Howard Roark mindset?

They end up having a fantasy vision of themselves, and then they become angry that life isn't giving them what they believe they deserve.

J

To me, an excess of movies balanced by not enough fiction reading, partly explains it.

The effect, I get the sense, is that the figurative in writing is perceived as literal - the literal as figurative.

Hundreds of fine American novelists have produced a trove of fiction in the last 80 years unmatched anywhere else, but reading enjoyment is declining .

Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe Rand didn't focus on "the story" of her main characters--or build them into the character's conception of themselves--because the stories we tell about ourselve (even to ourselves) are inherently and virtually meaningless. They are selective recreations of backward-looking events, strung together in an often self-serving narrative.

The story "spring loads" the anger, in other words.

Itd be difficult for me to imagine a consistent storyline for a character who evolved from a slight regarded as traumatizing to a resolute, fully realized independent, thinker/producer. Her other characters provide the contrast needed to heighten the portrayal of Roarke. Her opening description of Roarke doesnt mince words, on the contrary he appears as comfortable as granite finding refuge in nature and not in his fellow man. She moves quickly from there to the expulsion which is described as his first freedom. Theres nothing particularly human about him. )

But if I understand what youre saying, if there was a context for judging him vulnerable to being hurt, I think we could come away from that identifying and admiring him all the more.

Yes. But I'm really not trying to focus this on Rand's writing technique as much as what we can learn about life from Rand's choices about what she reveals or has her characters reveal.

Put in a very blunt way: pretty much everybody you and I know has a "story" about themselves that dominates/influences/affects their lives.

Is to too strong to say that such stories are more or less bullshit?

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is my story.

I tried to go to heaven, where all the good people are supposed to go. I met St. Peter at the gate and he refused to let me in. He told me to go to Hell.

I followed advice and went to Hell. Satan the Devil kicked me out of Hell. He said: we have enough trouble here already; we don't need you!

So I came back to planet Earth and that's why I'm here.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now