A quote (from AB) and comments re AR's journals


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Alas, John, if you even thought to do some research or investigation on the subject beyond schoolboy consultations of the blind leading the blind nature, you were more advanced than I was at 17..or 18..or, well, let's just stop there before I embarrass myself.

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As it turned out, the meeting I was scheduled to attend today was postponed, so I wrote a little commentary on why I suspected from my first knowledge of Ayn Rand (in June 1961) that there was a romantic aspect to her and Nathaniel's relationship.

I shared John Enright's "nightmare" perspective on how such a relationship would work out in practice, but a difference between my and John's crystal balls was that I didn't share his assessment of Ayn Rand as possessing the insight to foresee the likely progression herself. My understanding of Ayn Rand has from the start included as an important element the adjective "naive." I began to think of her as "naive" while I was reading Atlas Shrugged for the first time.

The description "naive," in my usage, refers to a discrepancy in the negative direction between chronological age and the extent of knowledge of the ways of human nature that on average a person of a given age might be expected to have acquired. In other words, in saying that someone is "naive," I mean that he or she seems significantly less aware of typical dynamics of human behavior than I'd expect someone of his or her age to be. I was struck by such a gap between chronological age and psychological awareness in the author of Atlas Shrugged.

I knew next to nothing about Ayn Rand before I started to read Atlas. I hadn't previously heard of her or of any of her works. I had no preconception except one: the story I was about to begin had badly upset a college friend of mine. This friend, one afternoon, had "stomped" -- rather than "walked" -- into my dorm room, holding what I could see was a large book at arm's length, as if attempting to keep this book far from her body, and had said, without her usual politeness, no "please" in her words or nuance: "Would you READ this and tell me what it means?!" When I began to read (about a month later), my only expectation was that something in the tale didn't sit well with my friend.

I was impressed from soon into the narrative by the author's intense sincerity. I felt the words "And I mean it" long before I came to those self-descriptive words in the postscript. And I was impressed as of the first paragraph by the author's artistic maturity. Even if I hadn't seen the photo on the back cover, I'd have assumed that the novelist I was reading had been practicing her craft for a long time, that her years were well beyond my own. (I was eighteen and a half. Upon some discussion which occurred here of various photos of Ayn, I've come to think that the photo on the original back cover of Atlas was taken closer to the time when The Fountainhead was published than to that when Atlas appeared; still, she looks in her forties, a good number of years older than I was.) But I couldn't imagine myself "mean[ing] it" in regard to some of her psychological depictions. I felt that my own understanding of psychology was advanced beyond hers. Hence the adjective "naive" became from the beginning one of those with which I described Ayn Rand.

Then, almost two years later, in spring 1963, I learned that there was a lecture organization -- NBI -- devoted to teaching "her philosophy" (this was also the first I learned the name she'd given the philosophy), and that there was a magazine which she coedited. I subscribed to the magazine (which was still called The Objectivist Newsletter) and acquired all the back copies to the date of my subscribing. Again, I was struck by what I considered to be a lack of knowledge of psychological dynamics, this time on both her and Nathaniel Branden's parts. He of course wrote more which directly addressed psychology than she did, but she was endorsing everything he said. Thus, the "naive" impression was reinforced. (I also developed a degree of mistrust of Nathaniel because I felt, whether rightly or wrongly, that as a psychologist he ought to know better.)

In terms of my entertaining suspicions as early as my first reading of Atlas that her and Nathaniel's relationship included a romantic component... I was assisted by some personal background. As it happened, I knew of two circumstances from amongst my own circle of acquaintanceship in which an older woman was romantically attracted to a younger man. (Also, I'd seen that movie about Chopin in which Merle Oberon plays George Sand, and I was aware that sometimes an older artist, whether male or female -- though more typically male, will form a romantic attachment to a younger "protege" or admirer.)

One of the cases I knew of from personal experience involved my own mother. There was a man we knew in the horse world, someone who owned and ran a livery stable, a man eight years younger than she, to whom she was attracted. No affair ensued, but the relationship became messy. The other example also involved persons I knew in the horse world. In that case the male was a "kept man," and his "mistress" ("masteress"?) was twenty years his senior.

Given this personal background of comparison examples, I already wondered "What's going on here?" when I read the "About the Author" postscript to Atlas Shrugged. Describing someone as one's "intellectual heir" seemed to me really weird, and the glowing terms in which she spoke of him sounded generally excessive (a greater degree of flattery than would quite be accurate of anyone). The "intellectual heir" designation, and the description, combined with the dedication of the book -- to her husband AND to Nathaniel Branden... I'll tell you exactly what I thought, but please keep in mind that I was a horse addict in those days and spent just about as many hours as I could around horses. I thus often heard language like this: "He's probably some young stud she has a thing about," was the estimate which occurred to me.

My suspicion was heightened upon reading the magazine when I subscribed to that. Again, there were tones in the sound of the praise (in this case mutual praise) which I found suggestive of romantic beguilement. Then, when I saw the two of them together in fall of '63, I was watching (from a vantage point just to the right of the podium facing the podium) for those little details of body language which might reveal physical intimateness (little ways in which people who have had sexual relations with each other show an awareness of each other's bodies, e.g., the ways they sort of "meld" in whispered exchange or in a hand touch). It seemed to me that there were such details. I didn't feel entirely sure. I wouldn't have -- as the saying goes -- "bet my life" on the accuracy of my belief. But I felt pretty sure that there'd been a sexual relationship between them at some stage. (I would learn later that by then their affair was no longer active and that meanwhile he'd become attracted to Patrecia, though he hadn't yet started the affair with her. In [i/]Judgment Day, Nathaniel writes that there was a temporary improvement in his and Ayn's ease of relating during the lecture tour they were on when I saw them.)

Ellen

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I'm getting to the part of the Valliant book wherein he discusses the issue of Frank's feelings about the affair between Nathaniel and Ayn, and the question of whether or not Frank sought some solace in alcohol. I've hesitated up till now to speak on this incendiary subject for two reasons:

(1) because I tend to be of the Szaszian approach on the idea of "mental illness," and on the reality or non- of "addiction." Thus I'm aware that I have differences of viewpoint from Michael's;

(2) because I don't know the truth of it about Frank's drinking habits.

However, I suppose that I should say for the record that I think I'd know more of the truth of it than I do, had the thought ever crossed my mind of probing those close to Ayn and Frank, especially Allan Blumenthal (or probably more quickly informative, Joan Blumenthal), as to whether or not Frank did drink to excess. I never thought of probing because I believed that he did. I'd believed as much from the first time I met him, which was during the aftermath conversations following Allan Blumenthal's NYC piano recital in early '70. Frank was there, and I talked with him for awhile. I was struck by a quality of mental "vacantness," and I thought at the time that he seemed like someone who drank too much. Only many years later -- actually, in an elist exchange with Marsha Enright, I think on the original Atlantis list -- did I ask myself if I'd misattributed the cause of the "vacant" quality I sensed, if instead of drinking being the source, the onset of senility was operative (or if both causes might have been involved).

Ellen

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Ellen,

There are times I want to come right out and kiss you. You have this talent of bringing up a very touchy subject and getting to the heart of the matter without becoming embroiled in the controversy.

Frank's reported drinking.

So OK, let's hit the issues. The very first is that there is a HUGE chip on certain people's shoulders daring anyone to talk about this impartially. They want immediate condemnation from you.

They equate the charge of heavy drinking or alcoholism with moral depravity whereas most of the world just doesn't care. The general idea I get in the USA today is that people think this is a problem that needs treatment. Nothing more or less is reflected about the capacity and/or talent of the person. Most even recognize that really good people have problems with substance abuse at times.

A lot of Objectivist/libertarians come out with highly righteous indignation about this. They constantly make statements like, "I'll drink what I want, when I want, and it's nobody's damn business!" (That's the light version.) Some make these statements every single time the subject of alcoholism is raised around them. Too much protesting for my taste...

The way you just did it, there is now the possibility of discussing this issue on an Objectivist forum without a lot of noise. This is a treat. Thank you so much for getting on this subject in this manner.

Before I talk about Frank, let's get Szasz out of the way. Ellen, I think you and I agree a lot more than appears on the surface. You don't strike me as a person who falls into "one-size-fits-all" equations and I certainly will not disagree with something that works at times.

Where I disagree strongly with Szasz, from what little I have read, is that he holds his "leave the playing field" approach to be a cure-all for all addiction, and claims that it cures the craving.

After having been caught unawares with a craving attack (one that brought tears to my eyes and made my hands shake) over a year after I had not only stopped drugs, but no longer thought about them (triggered by a haircut, of all things), I have personal experience that contradicts his formulation. Not enough is known about subconscious triggers and many other components for flat-out statements to be true.

However, I believe his approach is good for many kinds of addiction - and certainly it is a healthy approach to gaining control once again over your rational faculty.

On alcoholism, one point that always bothers me when people discuss Frank is that they talk about senility as if it were an exclusive alternative. It isn't. Heavy drinking can cause depletion of some types of vitamin B, which can result in senility over time if vitamin supplements are not used. Also, not all the toxic effects of acetaldehyde (a poison that is produced in metabolizing ethanol) are fully known and this also could contribute to senility.

If you want to see an eye-opener, try to find one of those videos that show a normal brain from a cadaver being sliced open as opposed to a brain of a heavy drinker. The physical damage is very impressive. I see the possibility of senility written all over that.

But like you, I cannot say for sure anything about a man I did not know. I also cannot claim that one who did know him is not reporting something like this accurately.

For the record, I believe that it is entirely plausible that he drank heavily for several reasons:

1. It is not all that hard to hide heavy drinking. Most people are not tuned into it. As a person with 5 years of extremely heavy drinking in my past, I have way too much familiarity with how easy it is to fool people about this. Lot's of people with whom I had frequent contact were completely taken by surprise when I joined AA and told them about my abusive drinking. (Most knew I drank a little, but had no idea of the size of the problem). Since Frank spent a great deal of time alone, I see opportunities galore for covering tracks.

2. On a source level, I have not discussed this with Barbara. I am perfectly happy to allow for my speculations for now, which are below.

Barbara knew Frank intimately for 18 years. She loved him. No matter how cleverly you hide heavy drinking, small signals do appear to people who care about you over time. They connect dots in hindsight (as many did with me) after they discover that there was a problem. I find it entirely plausible that she did some dot-connecting.

Also, I believe that some sources exist that have not been mentioned, since they could have requested to have their names withheld. Barbara has not said anything that has led me to this speculation other than being who she is and observing her behavior with other issues. (If she agrees to withhold a name, wild horses cannot drag it out of her.) If I were a source who could be highly inconvenienced by persecution from Rand fanatics, I would want my name withheld. I do not buy the idea that the maid was the only source. I admit to a small possibility that I might be wrong, though.

3. There is a cultural thing. Frank's generation was taught that men do not cry. They drown their sorrow in booze. A periodic binge is a man thing to do. It is somehow the metaphysically correct thing to do. It has an aura of taking your licks in a rugged individualistic manner. It is much more honorable than making a public scene about heartache.

4. When I was in college, Rand wrote about the serenity prayer in an issue of The Ayn Rand Letter, specifically citing AA ("The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made," II:12, March 12, 1973). I recall wondering back then why she was messing around with AA and what else she thought about these matters.

I could go on, but all this points to plausibility.

Outside a handful of a small number of Rand fanatics, I don't think anybody else really cares about this issue. I am very glad for the opportunity to reclaim the freedom to discuss it as one would discuss any other matter.

Michael

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I never could wrap my mind completely around their relationship in the first place. It seemed so unbalanced. But on the other hand, she seemed to talk about him in terms of being her anchor. And it's very hard to be in the shadow of a giant, usually.

Whether or not that is so, it looks like to me that she got to a point where having an anchor wasn't all that necessary- she was so in motion, and working without a wire. I'm convinced they always loved each other, but there's all different kinds of love.

From what I get from reading, he seemed very much like one of those quiet, dreamer types of people. A very spacious interior domain, inside of which he spent a lot of time.

I can tell you one thing, if he hadn't already, I definitely would've thought about getting the party started not long after NB started making his scheduled appointments. It would be that, or taking out his eyes.

But that's just me.

rde

Vodka: not just for breakfast anymore.

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~~ Have any of those who believe that they have a personal and experiential 'reason' to consider the possibility that Frank O'Connor was a chronic drinker...ever actually smelt liquor on his breath, or seen him trip with a drink in his hand? --- (Indeed, I'm unclear as to whether or not he 'usually' had one in hand.)

~~ If not, we're talking mere tabloid-gossip here, speculating on interpreted-nuances of behaviour that can have a myriad of possible etiologies, non? --- But, if so...explication would eliminate many doubters of the idea that he became a drunk.

LLAP

J:D

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Since this is the place where impressions taken from PARC are being registered, and since the following observations will probably not make it in my upcoming review of PARC, I want to register them here.

It has to do with the 1979 Phil Donahue show. I finally saw it last night and it left a strong impression on me. My own view of Rand physically up to then has been based on photographs and the one time I saw her in public at the Ford Hall Forum in the early 1970's.

I will admit to being a bit shocked, since Rand did not age well at all. She showed all the signs of poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise. Her visual production was not TV-oriented, either, and showed her in an unflattering light. Also, once Donahue started walking around the audience for Q&A in Madison Square Garden, she seemed to slouch in her chair on stage. This might have been camera angles and the awkward position she had to turn to see him, but the whole visual impression of Rand I got was that of a grumpy old woman in a sloppy mood. (It pains me to write that, but this is how I saw it.) I am sure this was the impression seen by those who were not familiar with the philosophy.

Now on to the excerpt on this in The Passion of Ayn Rand (pp. 391-392). I will quote the full paragraph (it was only one paragraph), but in PARC, the excerpt starts with "It was a disaster" (PARC discussion pp. 80-82).

Ayn had continued to force herself to appear at the Ford Hall Forum, but fewer speaking invitations were coming in after her years of constant refusals. Nor would she have accepted them had they arrived. In May of 1979, however, she agreed to appear on "The Phil Donahue Show." It was a disaster. A young woman in the audience asked Ayn a question which made it clear that she thought her former admiration for Ayn's work had been an aberration of youth - and Ayn, offended and insulted, pounced angrily, shouting at the girl; a substantial part of the show was devoted to their exchange.

PARC basically presents the content of the exchange correctly (congratulating the ARI Bookstore on still keeping the tape available), then gives the evaluation below. In recounting the episode, though, it is claimed that Rand did not shout when she interrupted the young woman. What I saw would make that debatable. Rand certainly raised her voice above that of the young woman's and was highly abrupt, with full intention of interrupting. That can be called a shout in my book. It was not a hysterical shout, though, but definitely butting in with a loud voice.

Before the excerpt, PARC gives the following description:

The "girl" in the audience was clearly an adult. The "girl" started to ask a question about ITT's allegedly monopolistic control over "everything," but interrupted herself to say,...

Then the exchange is given. Notice that the word girl is given in quotation marks denoting sarcasm. In the excerpt, the word girl continues to be used in quotation marks. Notice also that Barbara's first reference had been to a "young woman." My guess from seeing the tape is that she was in her late twenties, so "young woman" with "girl" right after are apt designations, where girl would not mean an adolescent. There was nothing in Barbara's description that merits such getting all bent out of shape. It is accurate.

After the exchange is presented, PARC continues:

In total, the exchange could not have accounted for 10% of the show's time.

The fact that Donahue was blind to the gratuitous ad hominem within a question about ITT is not surprising. It is less understandable how Rand's comment about "the quality" of the questioner's brain should be taken as an insult but not the "more educated" crack. It is a strange "one-way" street on which Donahue directed traffic.

In any event, Rand did not "shout" at "a girl," but only refused to answer the condescending question of a grown woman. The appearance was not such a "disaster" as to prevent Rand from being invited back the following year. That appearance cannot boast even this type of minor "moment."

Even more to her credit - and despite the obvious temptations - Rand is not said to have ever exploded at Phil Donahue or any other interviewer.

Maybe Barbara's quote was not her finest hour as an author, but it certainly is not inaccurate as given in PARC. Let's look at the complaints.

The show actually was a disaster from what I saw. Rand seemed highly uncomfortable (but not with Donahue). She seemed a bit nervous, like people are wont to be when they are a bit rusty with being before an audience, and it was evident (to me at least) she was making an effort to control it. In addition to her poor visual presentation, Donahue was constantly in her face during the interview part and waving his arms all the time. The audience also was hostile. Whenever Donahue would make some point against Rand, the applause was solid. Whenever Rand would make a point, the applause was weak. The thing ended practically with Rand explaining why a woman should not be President (claiming that a woman as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces was "unspeakable.")

Now, within the context of Barbara's biography, all this might have been interesting to note, but there were several interviews she covered. All these details would have cluttered up the flow.

Next point. There is an arbitrary 10% total show time put on the exchange. It is obvious that the author of PARC is not in show business, since he has no idea how to measure these things. Let's see what happened.

Barbara stated that the exchange occupied "a substantial part of the show." There actually is one thing apparently misleading here, but a second's thought will show that it is not as misleading as it seems. Time-wise, many interviews come with Q&A sessions after the interview. So it is obvious that Barbara was not referring to the interview part when she made that comment. She was referring to the moment the young woman presented her question and was interrupted by Rand, and from that point on.

How is TV time measured in terms of impact? I would say it is whether a topic is still present after a commercial break. If the topic is emotionally charged as this one was (with Donahue trying hard to stay on the good side of his predominantly young audience), the subject will be in the air even when other things are discussed. Slight insinuations to it with audience reaction constantly occur, which is what happened.

But let's look at the main events.

What PARC does not report is that after the first commercial break, Donahue tried to start the new period with a new question altogether. Rand stated firmly that she wanted to go back to that young woman's question, but wanted someone else to present it. Donahue tried to parry it a bit, then finally, running out options and running the risk of the show descending into only bickering, he personally asked Rand the ITT question. The answer not only included the answer, but more comments about the questioner.

Then, after another commercial break (and PARC omitted this info too), Donahue asked Rand how she could judge Islamic people for being so intolerant when she herself would not listen to what the young woman had to say. (Solid applause.) Rand's answer focused on terrorism.

Thus this exchange actually did occupy a substantial part of the show (three periods with two commercial breaks). So I don't put too much store in the criteria used in PARC for arriving at the 10% time figure.

Parts of a TV program are judged in terms of impact and this exchange was one of the highlights.

As to the remark in PARC stating that this episode did not prevent Rand from being invited back the following year, insinuating that Barbara was indirectly saying something like that, all a reader has to do is look at PAR, pp. 395-396, and read how lovingly Barbara wrote of that second Donahue interview.

This also goes for the crack that there was no such "moment" (angry exchange) in the second Donahue interview, insinuating that Barbara was searching only for such things to put in PAR.

Anyway, enough. The style of PARC is shot through with these kinds of insinuations and strategic omissions.

I merely wanted to register my own impression on this because, frankly, this is one of the points where PARC had put a doubt in my mind. On examining what really went on, I see that even I was not immune to the excess of rhetoric. The conclusions damning PAR in the analysis in PARC simply do not stand up to reality, essential facts are left out and the wording is highly misleading.

Michael

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I appreciate the fact that polite questions have been raised about Frank O'Connor's drinking, and so I am happy to answer the questions.

I, myself, did not see him seriously affected by his drinking (only, sometimes, what I would have called being tipsy) -- or, if I did, I was not aware of it, since it's not something I was attuned to noticing in people -- but I left in 1968, and I've been told that his really debilitating drinking began after that time. I was told about his drinking by four people (two of whom were close to Ayn and Frank). One, as I believe you know, was the maid who worked for Ayn and Frank for many years and who discovered all the empty liquor bottles in Frank's studio after his death. Another was Elayne Kalberman, a member of the Collective, who said that she smelled liquor on Frank and observed him unsteady on his feet a number of times when she came to the apartment in the mornings on business matters.. Still another was Barbara Weiss (now deceased), who spent a good deal of time in the apartment as Ayn's secretary in Ayn and Frank's later years; she, too, told me that she often smelled liquor on Frank's breath; and she recounted various episodes of his behavior -- which I do not care to recount -- which clearly showed that he was badly affected by his drinking. The final one was a sculptor named Don Ventura, a recovered alcoholic himself, who often talked with Frank in a bar they both went to, and who told me that it was clear to him that Frank was a fellow-alcohoic.

I have Elayne Kalberman's and Barbara Weiss' statements on tape, since I interviewed them both as preparation for my biography. I have letters giving their statements from both Don Ventura and the maid.

No one had asked me to keep his or her name secret. I decided on my own that since they all cared deeply for Frank, they probably would prefer not to be named in my biography as describing his drinking..

By the way, in my biography of Rand, I did not diagnose Frank as an alcohoic, although I did state that he was drinking heavily. And I did, of course, quote Don Ventura's statement.

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I will admit to being a bit shocked, since Rand did not age well at all. She showed all the signs of poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise. Her visual production was not TV-oriented, either, and showed her in an unflattering light. Also, once Donahue started walking around the audience for Q&A in Madison Square Garden, she seemed to slouch in her chair on stage. This might have been camera angles and the awkward position she had to turn to see him, but the whole visual impression of Rand I got was that of a grumpy old woman in a sloppy mood. (It pains me to write that, but this is how I saw it.)

The first time I saw Rand "live" (i.e. on film or video) was when I watched the dvd "A sense of life". There were a few short fragments of interviews with Rand, and it struck me that she made quite a different impression on me than what I'd imagined from photos and descriptions of her. I'd expected someone who could burn two holes in your body with one single glance, but what I saw (at least in one of those fragments) was a woman who looked rather insecure and seemed even eager to please, like a diligent schoolgirl. This was completely against everything I'd heard about her that I wonder if this was a rare exception or if the other reports had been exaggerated.

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Ellen: "Does anyone know what the changes were [that Kay Smith made to Penthouse Legend, the original title of The Night of January 16]? I attended the production, but I didn't notice whatever they were. Did the Smiths shorten a scene or scenes for reasons of length? Did they change a line or lines which seemed to them dated? Or some other minor editing? I have trouble believing that either Kay or Philip (I knew both of them) would have made any changes which they thought for a minute Rand might be upset by. But the "systematic...betrayal" makes it sound as if the changes were extensive and ones which altered the character of the play. As to the description "callous indifference," I doubt that either of the Smiths would have displayed that to anyone -- "indifference" to some people, sure; but "callous indifference," no, as I thought both of them kindhearted of disposition."

I contacted Phil Smith (yes, he's very much alive) about it, because although Kay had told me about it, I couldn't remember the details, although I did recall that the change was very minor. Here is Phil's reply:

"All I remember is that a line of Regans that always got an inappropriate laugh was cut for one evening performance and when Kay told Ayn about it the next day you would have thought that the Enola Gay had dropped the bomb."

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Dragonfly: "The first time I saw Rand "live" (i.e. on film or video) was when I watched the dvd "A sense of life". There were a few short fragments of interviews with Rand, and it struck me that she made quite a different impression on me than what I'd imagined from photos and descriptions of her. I'd expected someone who could burn two holes in your body with one single glance, but what I saw (at least in one of those fragments) was a woman who looked rather insecure and seemed even eager to please, like a diligent schoolgirl. This was completely against everything I'd heard about her that I wonder if this was a rare exception or if the other reports had been exaggerated."

There were times during the writing of THE PASSION OF AYN RAND when I felt that whatever I said about Rand's personality and temperament, I needed at once also to say the opposite, so changeable was she in this regard. So I will answer your query by noting that at times she was the "diligent schoolgirl" and at times she could "burn two holes in your body with one single glance." She could be loving and kind, she could be full of rage and cruel; she could be cold as ice, or radiantly warm; she could be bitter and resentful, or immensely charming and benevolent; she could be mercifless in her moral judgments, or lovingly forgiving; she could project utter loathing, or uninhibited delight.

And I wrote: "But I never saw those eyes without the light of a vast, consuming intelligence, the light of a ruthless intellect that was at once cold and passionate; this was the core of her life, the motor of her soul."

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Here is a brief summary of the story about the reason for the break between Ayn Rand and Kay Nolte Smith.

Starting with PARC (p. 75), there is a criticism of PAR stating that this story was "curiously absent," thus insinuating some kind of dastardly cover-up.

As for the Smiths, their story is curiously absent from Ms. Branden's account.

The source mentioned in PARC for this story is Jeff Walker's book, The Ayn Rand Cult, but this book is also characterized as the following (p. 393 n. 61):

... so grossly misrepresents Rand and Objectivism ... that his work, as  criticism, merits no further comment. Also, Walker's repeated use of empty, personal attack exhibits a degree of hostility toward Rand, her philosophy, and nearly all of her associates, sufficient to suggest significant problems with regard to his objectivity.

A further speculation is added (presumably so Walker's book can be used as a source selectively at whim):

It is assumed, however, that he has not grossly misquoted persons alive at the publication of his book.

No other sources for this story are given in PARC. But some unnamed sources are mentioned elsewhere in an online discussion. From the rejoinder to Chris Sciabarra's review of PARC on Notablog:

In the few instances where I rely on Walker, such as Hospers’ report on Rand’s difficult youth and the “break” with Kay Nolte Smith, I do have other, corroborative sources, providing independent, if anonymous, verification.

...

I should have, perhaps, included the fact that the changes made to Rand’s play were removed before its opening (although ~ how ~ Rand discovered these changes in the production remains the essence of the charge), but my own anonymous sources here are credible contemporaries to the event—and their reports to me long pre-date Walker’s book.

Thus anonymous sources for PARC (but not mentioned in the book) corroborate Walker's book (the named source), which is characterized as having "significant problems" with objectivity - and these distinguished people apparently claim that the offending "changes" (note the plural) were removed before the opening of the play. The anonymous ones must be the source for the time frame as this alleged fact is not given in Walker's book. The only other alternative would be that the author of PARC made it up.

I do not have Walker's book yet, so here is a part of Jonathan's post above in this thread (which quotes Walker's book):

In his discussion of the Rand-Smith break, Valliant (2005, 400 n. 57) cites page 35 of Walker's book. In part, here is what Walker says:  

"Kay Nolte Smith was excommunicated in the mid-1970s for making unauthorized changes to ~a few lines of dialogue~ for a public performance of Rand's play PENTHOUSE LEGEND (NIGHT OF JANUARY 16TH). [in an interview with Walker,] Smith concedes she shouldn't have done so but insists it was not a big deal. ~For that one mistake~ she was drummed out, 15 years of prior devoted association notwithstanding" (~ indicates ~emphasis added~)

To repeat, no information is given on when the "changes" (note the plural) are made in Walker's book. So the claim that these changes were removed before the opening must have come from the anonymous sources. Moving along on the gossip vine (and taking the cue from Jonathan), here is how the event is depicted in PARC (pp. 75-76):

Such a famous reputation might be counted on to provide caution to those who would take liberties with this author's text. Not so with Kay Nolte Smith and her husband, who, in an act exhibiting unbelievably reckless judgment, changed the dialogue in their production of Penthouse Legend without authorization from Rand. (57) In such an instance of systematic and personal betrayal, a break was at least understandably in order, simply on the basis of their callous indifference to Rand's personal history, if not to her artistic integrity.

As Jonathan notes:

We have gone from "that one mistake" of changing "a few lines of dialogue" in Walker's rendering to "an instance of systematic and personal betrayal" in Valliant's rendering.

To be fair, the author of PARC states that he tried to contact Kay Nolte Smith for an interview but was refused. It is almost comical that this attempt was in 1983 (PARC, p. 400 n 57). It is a real temptation to ask whether he was planning on writing PARC back then, before PAR was even written. As Sciabarra wryly observed in his review:

Well Kay Smith passed away in 1993; Philip Smith survives.

Now Barbara has done the obvious. She asked the guy who was involved in the dastardly deed. This bears quoting again. Here are Philip Smith's words from Barbara's post above:

All I remember is that a line of Regans that always got an inappropriate laugh was cut for one evening performance and when Kay told Ayn about it the next day you would have thought that the Enola Gay had dropped the bomb.

See how the gossip chain works? And see the reliance of PARC on pure gossip for its rhetoric?

We move from "one line" (Smith) to "few lines of dialogue" (Walker) to "systematic and personal betrayal" (PARC).

Also, the single line was cut (not even changed) because it got "an inappropriate laugh" (implying at least one prior performance), and was cut for "one evening performance." Yet the anonymous sources used for PARC affirm "the fact" that the "changes" (plural) to the play "were removed before its opening ."

All that was needed to avoid this error was the most basic research of all: ask the person who was involved in the event. Or have a trusted person ask him.

He might have even discovered how Rand found out about the change (Kay told her).

The research for PARC for this particular event is shoddy and not at all credible.

Michael

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There were times during the writing of THE PASSION OF AYN RAND when I felt that whatever I said about Rand's personality and temperament, I needed at once also to say the opposite, so changeable was she in this regard.  So I will answer your query by noting that at times she was the "diligent schoolgirl" and at times she could "burn two holes in your body with one single glance."  She could be loving and kind, she could be full of rage and cruel; she could be cold as ice, or radiantly warm; she could be bitter and resentful, or immensely charming and benevolent; she could be mercifless in her moral judgments, or lovingly forgiving; she could project utter loathing, or uninhibited delight.

In a post on the first page of this thread, "AR's Aura," 2/17/06, I described an instance of her rapid changes:

I was often fascinated by the sudden contrast. My favorite  

example needs some background to describe. The moderator at the  

Forum was Judge Lurie, an interesting person in his own right.  

He was diminutive in size, slim, agile; rather elfishly twinkling --  

and sharply quick-witted. Judge Lurie would always repeat so  

the whole audience could hear it whatever question had been  

asked. Well...one time this guy started asked her something  

to the effect (I don't remember the exact words), Why had she  

allowed so bad a screenplay of her book *The Fountainhead*  

to be shot? (I have no idea if this guy knew that she herself  

had had a big hand in the screenplay, or if the question was  

asked in ignorance of its being insulting to her.) She started  

to rip into him. But Judge Lurie held up a hand and said in  

his inimitable speech cadences: "*Miss* Rand, *Miss* Rand  

[the reprise at a lower decibel level], wait until I repeat  

the question." She sort of ducked as if a little embarrssed and  

smiled at him with a shy girlish look. "Oh, I'm sorry, Judge,"  

she said. So he repeated the question. And THEN she let the  

guy have it. After which she proceeded to give the next  

question a penetratingly thoughtful answer as if none of the  

above had just occurred.

Valliant, in Chapter II, Part One, of PARC -- titled "Rand and Non-Rand, at the Same Time and in the Same Respect" -- accuses the Brandens of presenting Rand as impossibly contradictory. But in fact she did have a range of characteristics some of which might seem contradictory when juxtaposed. Rand was a very complex woman. You will find no simple answer in an attempt to understand AR. ;-)

Ellen

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Philip Smith, via Barbara:

"All I remember is that a line of Regans that always got an inappropriate laugh was cut for one evening performance and when Kay told Ayn about it the next day you would have thought that the Enola Gay had dropped the bomb."

Interesting to get the story straight from Phil. I was figuring that it was probably something just of that sort -- especially when I read that the change had been made at the request of one of the actors. I thought that the actor might have been the person who played Guts Regan. He was a professional actor, hired for the production -- and quite good; I thought he was the best of the group in his performance. The line was probably something which used words which had acquired a meaning which weren't intended when Rand wrote the play (an example of that sort of thing, various words referring to homosexuals which once upon a time didn't have that reference). And after delivering this line on a few nights, and getting snickers because of the unintended meaning, the actor wanted to drop the line. Some "systematic and personal betrayal" on the Smiths' part.

Ellen

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Barbara:

~~ Appreciate the detailed response. Such clarifications help sort out the wheat from the chaff in controversied (can one say heated?) subject.

~~ Thanx again.

Mike:

~~ I remember seeing that PD show. I'll not debate the correct referencing in PARC about it, but I remember the scene as if it was yesterday. Yes, it was a 'young woman' and, I must admit that her back-handed praise of Rand's book as her prelude to her question was clearly insulting. I mean, when you on stage hear something akin to "...but, after I grew up, then I..." --- Hell, I'd've cut her off myself if I was on the stage; and one can debate all day one's subjective characterization of the manner done by Rand whether 'shout', 'yell', 'butt-in', whatever. But I'd make sure that *my* interruption DEFINITELY interrupted a continuance of the attitude I was hearing. There're some personality types that probably would've just glossed over it, indeed, ignored it. I say, to each their own on how to handle it. Clearly Rand stressed that it wasn't the question itself she wanted to avoid.

J:D

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John,

I certainly will not argue the point that the prelude to the young woman's question was insulting. The immediate interruption was certainly justified, albeit poor public demeanor. But Rand's insistence on making snipes at the young woman for the rest of the show (even after commercial breaks) was neither wise nor professional. Was she there to discuss Objectivism or discuss that person? The fact that it became a highlight coloring the rest of the show was as much due to Rand's fault as it was to the hostile audience and Donahue.

One thing I was arguing against, though, was the preposterous claim that preceded the discussion of this in PARC (p. 80):

Ms. Branden's tendency for exaggeration is made clear from her description of other Rand appearances. A good example is Rand's first appearance on The Phil Donahue show.

Frankly, the discussion in PAR where this occurs is a discussion of Rand's general pessimism about the culture and is immediately followed by a very loving description of the 1979 Tom Snyder interview.

As I hope my description showed, Barbara did not exaggerate the event at all. Instead, the paragraph was pulled out of context, undue emphasis was placed on certain aspects ("girl," etc.) to insinuate a meaning that was not there, and the event was misrepresented, with crucial facts being left out of the criticism.

Michael

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Te-he. I earlier commented seconding Barbara about Ayn Rand's changeability and seemingly contradictory characteristics. An apropos zany thought crossed my mind:

She was a dialectical person.

ES

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Ellen,

Dialectical? LOLOLOLOL...

I am going to comment on the following more at length later, but on one of the TV interviews I saw (I don't remember which right now, but I will watch them all again and give the interview in my more elaborate comment), my mouth simply dropped open.

The interviewer asked Rand about her school days and, after asking whether he really was interested in this, she proceeded to blow her own horn, stating that she had been Number One in her classes. Up to here, I have no problem, since being Number One is something to be proud of. Her intelligence is beyond doubt.

But then she stated that she had been terribly bored with school. She had a large book that she would open and to pass the time, she would use it to hide the fact that she was writing behind the book. What did she write?

At ten years old, novels. This of course was an advance over her activity at eight years old, which was merely writing screenplays.

I can't type this without laughing. I watched, thinking, "I didn't just hear that; she didn't just say that." But I did and she did. She even repeated it.

OK, she was making up stories back then. But novels? And screenplays in Russia during the years of the birth of the motion picture industry in the USA? Let's be clear. Rand was born in 1905. So we are talking about an eight-year-old girl writing screenplays in Russia in 1913.

One thing I have noticed, even in my Randroid days, was Rand's love affair with publicity (sometimes even bordering on hype). With all those years in Hollywood, how could it be otherwise? (I will write more on this over time.)

Rand's meaning cannot be construed as a mistake in the interview. She laid out what she said VERY CLEARLY and repeated it. She also got that look on her face (that I know so well from knowing other famous people who embellish their own legends in public) of daring the interviewer to contradict her.

So, to me, if she was capable of saying that, she was certainly capable of saying that "other thing" about getting her name off of a typewriter. Barbara stated that she heard this story from Rand's own lips. I believed Barbara when she wrote that, but after watching Rand's performance, no shred of any kind of doubt could ever arise. It has been proven that the typewriter did not exist when Rand adopted the name. That does not mean that Rand never claimed that the name came from the typewriter.

My specualtion for now? Sure. And the way I see it, Rand helped to create her own legend with exaggerations and things that she simply made up. Proof is on the video of one exaggeration. Practically all famous people do that (even the non-famous).

I still love her and admire her for her works. She was one hell of a lady and one of mankind's great thinkers. I even think she was entitled to a little "extra" publicity. After all, she learned her trade in the entertainment industry, not the academic world.

Michael

Edit - Because of Roger's post below, I decided to tone this one down a bit. It was too rhetoric-heavy and could have been interpreted as me holding contempt for Rand, which I do not.

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Michael, I think it would be good to be a little more careful about the conclusions you draw from Rand's comments about her early story-writing activities -- or about the controversy over her adopted name and the typewriter company.

1. You think Rand could not have been writing screenplays at the age of 8 during the infancy of the movie industry? Of course the term "screenplay" would not likely have existed back then, so her using the term to describe what she was writing at the age of 8 would be a bit anachronistic. But what about the fact, apart from the label? Rand came from an affluent family, and isn't is plausible that they would have had some access to early movies circa 1912-14? If so, then couldn't her love for stories and for writing them have naturally expressed itself in writing movie-stories? (Which she later referred to as "screenplays"?) I think a bit more historical research (to establish or rule out this possibility) is in order before concluding that Rand was engaging in hype or B.S. (actually, fabricating, if I catch your drift).

2. In regard to Rand's claiming (impossibly, it appears) to have chosen her American surname from the typewriter she owned, what evidence do we have that she ever claimed this? Barbara did many hours of audio-taped interviews with Rand back in the early 60s in preparation for her biographical essay on Rand. Barbara -- do those tapes still exist? Or a typed transcript of them? Is there any taped or written record of Rand having claimed to have named herself after her typewriter? Or is it all a matter of "oral record," where you and/or others heard her, or interpreted her to, say that that was the source of her adopted name? I'm not doubting that Rand made some comment connecting her name to the name of the typewriter, but it would be good to have the exact words she spoke, if they exist in taped or transcribed form. If she never made such a comment for the tape recorder, I would be surprised. That is one of the most significant biographical notes to nail down for the record -- the source of one's professional or pen name.

Just to clarify -- I'm not accusing anyone of dishonesty here, least of all Rand or Barbara. I'm just very curious about the specific facts that support the plausibility of claims that Rand was hyping or B.S.ing (or fabricating). I've had good friends shot down in flames and seriously discredited and reviled because they couldn't produce concrete facts to support their supposedly airtight memories. Perhaps they remembered with absolute precision, but damn: a written or taped record is so much more helpful than a recollection!

REB

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Roger,

I agree with just about everything you said, except for the fact that an 8-year-old would be writing screenplays in Russia in 1913. That completely defies credibility - mine at least. Even the ARI-sanctioned Ayn Rand by Jeff Britting states it like the following:

In 1913, at the age of eight, Rand attended St. Petersburg's first motion picture exhibitions and, fascinated by the action-oriented silent films, she began writing scenarios. (p. 7)

Barbara mentioned in PAR (with Rand inspired by French magazines):

The idea of writing stories began to intrigue Alice; if others could do it, she could do it. The invention of stories soon became more absorbing than anything aro9und her. She would sit in school, barricaded behind a book, scribbling furiously at her latest adventure, wanting only to be left alone, to write, to devise dangerous exploits for her characters. (p. 11)

Barbara mentioned that Rand decided to become a writer at the age of 9, after her contact with Cyrus (a magazine character in adventure serials).

Back to Britting (writing about Rand in 1915):

Restless in school, she secretly began writing novels in class. These sort, dry, synopsis-like works indicated her longing for adulthood and contained fantastic projections of adult interests. One novel, which she later recalled in detail, was about an English girl seeking to enlist in her country's war against Germany. Though rejected at first because of her gender and her age, she persuades the authorities to allow her into the army. She eventually rescues her country from invasion by establishing a machine-gun position on an English beach and single-handedly defeating the landing German army.

Rand's early novels were written effortlessly, without any awareness of the conventions of plot structure, characterization, or style.

Barbara did not mention that Rand was writing "novels" at that time, but that she was devising stories. For the level of detail that Britting gives, either there are documents or he heard that from Rand.

This jump from stories to "screenplays" and "novels" is pure hype to me. I will revise my former post to make it less offensive, simply because I do not want to bicker about this (and I'm not talking about you).

However, I wonder how many "novels" (and not magazine serial installments) Rand read by the age of 10, as it is reasonable to assume that she would have to have read one novel at least to be able to write one.

I see no reason to carry Rand worship to that extreme. Look at the tape and see if what she said was not meant to impress. She repeated it just to make sure. For that remark, we do have taped confirmation.

For the typewriter thing, that is my speculation (so far) and it would be wonderful to have some kind of taped confirmation. For now, we have Barbara's word. I stand by Barbara for my own conclusion.

Michael

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For the typewriter thing, that is my speculation (so far) and it would be wonderful to have some kind of taped confirmation. For now, we have Barbara's word. I stand by Barbara for my own conclusion.

But as far as I know Barbara only wrote that Fern Brown told her that particular story, so what's the problem? Fern may have made it up or not, but why should anyone blame Barbara for that? Or are there really people who think that Barbara didn't hear that story from Fern at all but made it up herself? That would be absurd and completely unwarranted.

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Dragonfly,

When Barbara used to post on SoloHQ, she wrote a series of articles called "Holding Court." In one of them, she wrote the following:

There is one issue I’ll clear up now, since it has been touched on in SOLO posts: the issue of how Rand chose her pen name. I wrote in Passion that her cousin, Fern, with whose family Rand - then Alice Rosenbaum - stayed when she first arrived in America, told me: “She had an old typewriter that she had come with. One day, she was sitting at the typewriter and she called me over. She said, ‘I’m going to be called Ayn’. . . And she wrote it in her slanty foreign handwriting: A Y N. ‘But I need a last name,’ she said. ‘I want it to begin with an R, because that’s my real initial.’ She was writing down different possible names, and then she looked at the typewriter – it was a Remington Rand - and she said, ‘Ayn Remington . . . No, that’s wrong. . . I know! - Ayn Rand!’ That’s how she got her name.”

What I did not mention, because I did not think that Fern’s story would be questioned, was that I heard the identical story from Ayn.

That was in Holding Court - June 14, 2005.

Michael

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Barbara, you wrote:

There is one issue I’ll clear up now, since it has been touched on in SOLO posts: the issue of how Rand chose her pen name. I wrote in Passion that her cousin, Fern, with whose family Rand - then Alice Rosenbaum - stayed when she first arrived in America, told me: “She had an old typewriter that she had come with. One day, she was sitting at the typewriter and she called me over. She said, ‘I’m going to be called Ayn’. . . And she wrote it in her slanty foreign handwriting: A Y N. ‘But I need a last name,’ she said. ‘I want it to begin with an R, because that’s my real initial.’ She was writing down different possible names, and then she looked at the typewriter – it was a Remington Rand - and she said, ‘Ayn Remington . . . No, that’s wrong. . . I know! - Ayn Rand!’ That’s how she got her name.”

What I did not mention, because I did not think that Fern’s story would be questioned, was that I heard the identical story from Ayn.

OK, let's start from the fact that both Fern and Ayn told Barbara the very same story -- the typewriter "that she had come with," the one that inspired the name "Rand," was a Remington-Rand.

Let's try to integrate this with the fact that various researchers have claimed to know that the Remington-Rand typewriter did not exist when Rand came to America with some typewriter.

There are only two possible conclusions I can see:

1. Rand was lying or confused. And since Barbara got the same story directly from Rand and from Rand's cousin who claimed to have been there when the name-adoption happened, both Rand and Fern would have had to be confused (misremembering) or lying. What are the odds of this?

2. The researchers are mistaken. What are the odds of this? Has anyone double-checked or triple-checked the original appearance of the Remington-Rand typewriter? Was it started once, then discontinued, then reintroduced?

Also, I would be particularly interested to know what kinds of typewriters did exist in Soviet Russia at the time when Rand left to come to America. After all, the claim is being made that "Rand" was the name of the typewriter "that she had come with." What typewriter could she have come with?

The reason I press this issue is that Chris Sciabarra has uncovered or established the plausibility a number of facts Rand claimed about her time in Russia that were in dispute because other, less careful researchers didn't find evidence of them. He has written about this in JARS. I am wondering if this whole typewriter brouhaha isn't another example of inadequate research being turned into claims of Rand's manufacturing "facts" about herself that just weren't so.

So, how could we go about finding out what kinds of typewriters existed in the Soviet Union at, and prior to, the time Rand emigrated?

REB

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Just from a brief google search, I ran across a site that sells vintage advertising. There was an ad for a Remington manual typewriter from 1904 and an ad for a Remington Rand typewriter from 1948 with the headline of 75 years of service to the business world. I looked for a little history on the brand and found that Remington Rand started in 1927. Here's the skinny....

The Remington Rand Corporation was formed in 1927 by the merger of the Remington Typewriter Company and the Rand Kardex Company. The Remington Typewriter Company's immediate predecessor was E. Remington and Sons of Ilion, New York which was responsible in manufacturing the first commercially successful typewriter in 1873.

The Remington Rand Model 17 was first introduced introduced in 1939 and the production continued until 1950. This updated full sized machine was popular during the WWII and was heavily advertised by the company. This fine typewriter can be yours for $450. There are also many Remington Rands up on ebay.

RemingtonRandNo17.jpg

Remington Rand Model 17 (1939-1950)

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