Barbara Branden Reviews...

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Barbara Branden, who is the former Executive Vice-President of Nathaniel Branden Institute and the author of The Passion of Ayn Rand, is also a talented essayist and reviewer.

In this folder, we are presenting, with Barbara's permission, a number of reviews of books and movies that were published in The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist, Academic Associates’ Book News, and Libertarian Review, between 1962 and 1975. In separate folders, we also have posted, with Barbara's permission, her 1959 essay "The Moral Antagonism of Capitalism and Socialism" and a 1962 essay "Capitalism and Religion."

As you can see, Barbara did some really classy essays and reviews back in the good old days! :)

Here are the essay and review titles, with links to those posted to date...reb


Barbara Branden Reviews…

Compiled and edited by Roger E. Bissell

Table of Contents

"The Moral Antagonism of Capitalism and Socialism" (1959, Nathaniel Branden Institute) [text added in separate folder on 9/05/06]

"Capitalism and Religion" (March 1962, The Objectivist Newsletter) [text added in separate folder on 9/05/06]

Planned Chaos by Ludwig von Mises (January 1962, Objectivist Newsletter) [text added below on 9/05/06]

The Roosevelt Myth by John T. Flynn (December 1962, Objectivist Newsletter) [text added below on 9/12/06]

Our Man Flint (movie) in “Cultural Barometer” (February 1966, The Objectivist) [text added below on 10/01/06]

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote in “Cultural Barometer” (February 1966, The Objectivist) [text added below on 10/01/06]

The Oscar, Dear John, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Born Free (movies) in “Cultural Barometer” (September 1966, The Objectivist) [text added below on 10/15/06]

Capable of Honor by Allen Drury in “Cultural Barometer” (October 1966, The Objectivist) [text added below on 10/15/06]

War and Peace (stage adaptation) in “Cultural Barometer” (April 1967, The Objectivist)

Tony Rome, Reflections in a Golden Eye, A Man for All Seasons, and In the Heat of the Night in “Cultural Barometer” (January 1968, The Objectivist)

The True Believer by Eric Hoffer (Summer 1969, Academic Associates Book News #1) [text added below on 6/12/06]

The Art of Making Sense by Lionel Ruby (Fall 1969, AABN #2) [text added below on 6/21/06]

The Greek Experience by C. M. Bowra (Holiday 1969, AABN #3) [text added below on 8/3/06]

Thinking as a Science by Henry Hazlitt (Holiday 1969, AABN #3) [text added below on 8/14/06]

Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy by Sidney Hook (June 1970, AABN #4)

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler (reviewed with John Nesbitt Myers, June 1970, AABN #4)

The Lotus and the Robot by Arthur Koestler (reviewed with Robert Berole, June 1970, AABN #4)

The Face of the Third Reich by Joachim C. Fest (October 1970, AABN #5)

The Body Has a Head by Gustav Eckstein (October 1970, AABN #5)

Understanding Human Sexual Inadequacy (October 1970, AABN #5)

Fallacy, the Counterfeit of an Argument by W. W. Fearnside & W. B. Holther (Spring 1971, AABN #6)

The Baby Trap by Ellen Peck (Spring 1971, AABN #6)

The News Twisters by Edith Efron (Fall 1971, AABN #7)

The Enormous Leap of Alphonse Frog by Michael Hallward (April 1972, AABN #8 )

The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek (April 1972, AABN #8 )

Nine Lies About America by Arnold Beichman (1972, AABN Mid-Season Bulletin)

How CBS Tried to Kill a Book by Edith Efron (Fall 1972, AABN #9)

Ninotchka, North by Northwest, and Adam’s Rib (The MGM Library of Film Scripts) (Fall 1972, AABN #9)

The Politics of Liberty (2-record LP album) by John Hospers (February 1973, AABN #10) [text added below on 10/15/06]

The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth (February 1973, AABN #10)

Chinatown & Deathwish in “Cinema in Review” (October 1974, Libertarian Review) [text added below on 9/12/06]

Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram (October 1975, Libertarian Review) [text added below on 8/29/06]

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  • 4 months later...

I recently asked Barbara for permission to post, one at a time, her 20 or so book reviews from Academic Associates' Book News, and she graciously consented, with the understanding that she would have the option of approving in advance and adding comments to the review. So, be on the lookout for these reviews.

I'm going to debut this series with Barbara's excellent review of Eric Hoffer's The True Believer. It's hard to imagine a more relevant book to revisit! After a week or so, I will post her review of Lionel Ruby's The Art of Making Sense. Stay tuned -- and feel free to comment!

Best to all,

Roger Bissell

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The True Believer by Eric Hoffer

reviewed by Barbara Branden

A nightmare figure haunts the forward motion of every new mass movement, infiltrating its leadership and swelling its ranks—whether the movement be philosophical or religious, social or political—whether it upholds reason or mysticism, freedom or force, the individual or the collective.

This nightmare figure is “the true believer.” He is “the man of fanatical faith,” writes Eric Hoffer in his fascinating, ominously perceptive and immensely valuable book. “He is everywhere on the march, and both by converting and antagonizing, he is shaping the world in his own image.”

The true believer may be the intellectual of the mass movement, the man of words—brilliant, vain, craving status, burning with hatred against a world that has refused him the adulation he craves. He may be the movement’s fanatical organizer—ruthless, self-righteous, petty, arrogant, eager to vent his frustrations, his envy, his bitterness, desperate to lose his despised and blemished self in something larger than self. He may be the lieutenant of the movement, fearless and proud, yet poisoned by self-contempt and a sense of personal failure, submitting wholly and gladly to the will of the leader, glorying in submission, surrendering to the leader not as a means to an end but as a fulfillment. He may be the leader of the movement—the man of daring vision, of harshly iron will, of joy in defiance, of fanatical, blind conviction, possessed of a passionately unyielding hatred and a sense of holy cause, pathologically mistrustful, able to dominate and almost bewitch a small group of able men. He may be a member of the rank and file—longing for the release of faith, for the dream of a glorious future that will replace his bitter, unfulfilling present, eager to be redeemed from the burdens, fears, hopelessness and overwhelming guilts of a meaningless and barren individual existence by absorption into a closely knit whole, rowdy and violent in his actions but obedient and submissive in his spirit, renouncing intellectual independence and its attendant doubts, uncertainties, errors and responsibilities—renouncing spiritual struggle and the sense of wonder—for the easy certitude of dogma, the deep assurance of total surrender.

Who is the true believer? What brings him into being? What psychological and historical forces create him? What inner agonies draw him to the mass movement? How is his presence manifested? These are the questions which, through provocative psychological analysis and brilliant historical example—and despite minor flaws of interpretation which the reader will have little difficulty in identifying—Eric Hoffer attempts to answer.

These are the questions that no student of Objectivism can afford to leave unanswered. Any vital new philosophical system, whatever its tenets, will attract true believers. The psychological needs which normally draw a man to faith, force and bloody destruction may instead lead him to stumble into a philosophy of reason and to seek his perverse fulfillment there. It is precisely as one upholds a rational system of philosophy and fights for a movement based on conviction, not faith, on ideas, not personalities, that one must study, understand and guard against this enemy within one’s own ranks—and, perhaps, within one’s own soul.

[This review originally appeared in the Summer 1969 issue (#1) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Monday June 12, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]

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I like reviews. I alway enjoy hearing what others think about the books I've read and I also value hearing there opinions on books I have not. This is really important to me since there are very few in my inner circle who read what I read.

Thanks REB for starting this, I can't think of anything more interesting than to hear Barbara's reviews on these books. Fascinating!

I am also very happy that you started with "The True Believer." It is one of those books that I refer to as profound, for me anyway. It is a true favorite of mine. Gracias!


I can't believe you have never read "The True Believer!"


That really suprises me. I never would have guessed it.

Anyway, I think you are going to really enjoy it. Now is a very good time for you to be reading it.

Bon Appetite!


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I read The True Believer many years ago, when a friend of mine named Robert Bidinotto recommended it.

It will definitely shed light on certain mentalities that have been a frequent source of discussion here.

Robert Campbell

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Thank you so much, Roger. It was a really great idea to add this wonderful new feature to OL. I look forward to seeing these reviews from both Barbara and Nathaniel. This was a wonderful surprise after being away for a few days.

You have done an excellent job with the Branden corner and the Sciabarra corner as well. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the Objectivist Living community. You rock. :D/


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This is for Roger Bissell. I remember reading a review by Barbara Branden of the Charles Bronson movie Death Wish for Books for Libertarians. I remember Barbara only doing this review for that publication.

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Michael, Kat, Gary -- you're all very welcome. But the real thanks goes to Nathaniel and Barbara for their permission to post these Golden Oldie reviews. For me, it is just a labor of love. (Typing is one of my favorite forms of relaxation.)

True, you won't find many anti-Objectivists and "soul-less" "conceptual acid tanks" willing to do something like this. But it beats the hell out of pounding away on the scapegoat of the month -- or being pounded on for defending them!

Thanks for the tip on "Death Wish," Chris. I have old copies of Books for Libertarians, too, so I will be on the lookout for reviews by Barbara and Nathaniel.

I may also see if I can get permission from Jeff Riggenbach and George Smith to post their excellent reviews here on O-L, too. But that is a project for another day.


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Silly question: In the brief "About the Author" biography of Barbara Branden for Who is Ayn Rand? it says she is (or was, at this point) planning a career as a novelist. I'm 99.999% sure nothing ever came of this, but when I saw that I was curious about how close she actually came to publishing.

Okay, perhaps its more nosy than silly...but if she ever did write a novel I'd buy it. 8-[

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Fellas, over in the Articles folder, Barbara wrote a nice paean to Michael Kelly, in which she said:

Many years ago, I wrote a novel called “Price No Object.” It’s theme was loyalty to values, a trait exemplified by the heroine of the novel who continued to fight for her values no matter what price she had to pay, no matter what the odds against her. For her, price was no object. The novel could have been dedicated to Michael Kelly.

This novel is, of course, unpublished. Why it wasn't, and whether or not it should have been -- or yet could/should be -- I will leave for her to say. But although I have not read the manuscript, like many others here, I'm sure, I would love to. :-)


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I sure would buy a novel if she wrote one- and NB too.

He actually has one, but he decided to not publish it. I was horribly let down.

Why did NB decide not to publish his novel :( - last I heard at the 2005 summer seminar his agent was looking for a publisher? Bissell, tell him to self-publish using a POD (print-on-demand) digital printer and some of us'll buy it, or he could have it as an e-book on his website?

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This novel is, of course, unpublished. Why it wasn't, and whether or not it should have been -- or yet could/should be -- I will leave for her to say. But although I have not read the manuscript, like many others here, I'm sure, I would love to. :-)

Barbara, same message to you, how about publishing your book as an e-book on your website as I, and it looks like others too, would like to read this novel?

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Fran, I appreciate your eagerness to have Nathaniel and Barbara publish their novels. Next time I have a chance to talk to them in person, I will ask them about this possibility. Perhaps we can probe a bit on it at the Summer Seminar. They'll both be speaking, and there will be Q-A periods for each talk. :-)


P.S. -- It's OK to call me Roger (or REB). Hearing myself called Bissell by someone in our little neighborhood seems a bit formal or distant. But if you feel the need to insulate yourself against my powerful, sometimes toxic emanations, I don't blame you. :-)

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Sounds like a cunning plan. //;-))

Sorry Roger - calling you Bissell was meant in impish jest and not formality - and I'll call you Roger or REB from now on, as I know how irritating it is to be called by a name that you don't like.

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I don't think it's top secret or anything...

He told me when it was finished, and then a bit later, I asked him what the next move was going to be.

This isn't exact but he said something to the effect that he had decided that he didn't want to put it out to the world, but that he needed to write it.

I guess it was a good, cathartic, and learning experience for him, maybe that was enough. I really wanted to read that thing! I keep hoping that someday he'll reconsider. He put a lot of time into that book, a good couple of years from what I can figure.

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The Art of Making Sense by Lionel Ruby

reviewed by Barbara Branden

The art of making sense, Lionel Ruby contends, “involves an understanding of semantics and scientific methods of thinking, in addition to the analysis of reasoning, or logic. The ‘good thinker,’ in other words, must make a threefold analysis of a discussion. He will interest himself in the meanings of the words, he will look for the ‘argument’ in what he reads or hears, and he will ask himself whether what he hears is true or false.”

To assist the layman and the undergraduate student of philosophy toward this understanding, to teach him the means and the tool of making sense, is the purpose of this lively and valuable work.

In an easy and witty style and with the authentic conviction of a man who believes deeply in the value of persuasive, valid argument, Ruby deals with such issues as the following: The nature and importance of definitions—fallacies and myths involving the relationships of words to things—the causes and solutions of common failures of communication—the different functions, purposes and uses of language—forms of substituting appeals to emotion for appeals to reason—common logical fallacies—the syllogism—the laws of logic—the nature of scientific method. (He includes an entertaining discussion of the gloomy prospects confronting the person who indulges in public gambling, entitled: The Logic of Gambling.)

Although the book is inadequate in its presentation of the nature of probability vs. truth, and in its discussion of the means of validating value-judgments, it is nevertheless well worth the attention of the reader who recognizes that “the art of making sense” is the source of whatever value can be found in any other human art.

[This review originally appeared in the Summer 1969 issue (#1) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Wednesday, June 21, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]

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Hi, everybody. (Or hi, whoever is reading this!)

Although it means deviating from slavish replication of every last key stroke in the original published versions of Barbara's and Nathaniel's reviews, I have taken the liberty of correcting spelling and grammatical errors (those rubbed in my face by Microsoft Word's spell checker, anyway!) Also, in the interest of consistency, I have replaced quote marks and boldface with italics, in the few instances italics was not used in the original.

But enough of the dry, technical stuff. I hope you all find these reviews as interesting and savory as I did 35 years ago -- and still do! There are many more reviews to come in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned. Discuss!



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Good news! I have finished inputting all of the Academic Associates Book News reviews by Barbara and Nathaniel. Now, I will backtrack to The Objectivist Newsletter, where each of them has some more book reviews, then to The Objectivist, where Barbara has a half dozen or so additional book and movie reviews.

I also located Barbara's movie review in the October 1974 Books for Libertarians that Chris Grieb referred me to, as well as another book review by Barbara in the October 1975 Books for Libertarians. Once I finish inputting all these remaining items, I will email Nathaniel and Barbara their respective files, so that they can nix any items they'd rather not have posted here.

So, stay tuned!


P.S. -- While tracking these items down, I also found a review by Roy A. Childs of Nathaniel's lecture course, Basic Principles of Objectivism, as well as a review by Jeff Riggenbach of Barbara's lecture course, Principles of Efficient Thinking. I would like to post those, too -- not in this folder, of course, but on the respective lecture folders here on Branden Corner. I don't know who is in charge of Roy Childs' estate, now that Joan Kennedy Taylor has passed away, so suggestions on whom to ask for permission to post this review would be appreciated. As for Jeff Riggenbach's review, I will ask him directly.

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