"Ancient" post on Rand's Characters


Recommended Posts

Here's an item I can post now which might be of interest to

some of the participants here. The explanatory prefatory

material was included when I posted this on 8/22/04

to the Salon Total Freedom list.

The person mentioned who mailed the post "back to me

in toto with a comment of applause tacked onto the

bottom" was Nathaniel. He wrote that he agreed with

everything I'd said.

One person on the list (Russ Madden) completely

misinterpreted the post, taking it as *literary*

criticism -- i.e., as being critical of the skill

with which the novel was written. As I said to

Russ at the time: God forbid I should ever criticize

Rand's ability as a writer!

Ellen

--- FWD ---

About the issue of whether or not the characters Rand presents

indeed *are* "ideals"...

Here's a little grist for the mill. It's something I sent,

I believe on Friday June 18 (might have been June 17) 1999

to the RandFem list, which at that time was discussing

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand.

(The reason I'm not sure of the original date is because

I can't find the original post. What I have is a copy of

the post which was mailed back to me in toto with a

comment of applause tacked onto the bottom.)

This is part of the picture of why Objectivist are "the

way they are." There's much, much more to the picture.

But one needs to start somewhere.

I received a fair amount of agreement with what I was

saying from the RandFem participants -- with the exception

of the comments about Rearden. A lot of people didn't

agree with me in finding something unbelievable in the

way he's characterized.

ES

--- FWD ---

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 07:36:54 -0700

[Post by]: Ellen Stuttle <lgould@mail.hartford.edu>

Subject: Re: Pathological Aspects of Rand's Heroes

[leaving out an introductory paragraph]

> The triggering event was Karen Michalson's essay combined with

> Peter Saint-Andre's asking why Dagny didn't hear of Galt and

> Ragnar when Francisco was in college. I said in a previous post

> that I found this lack of communication between Dagny and

> Francisco pathological if taken from a literal rather than a

> mythic perspective.

>

> Before continuing with thoughts about pathology, I'd like to

> express gratitude for "Who Is Dagny Taggart?" I thought the essay

> beautifully written as well as interesting, and I'm thrilled to

> see someone place Dagny in the context of the archetypal epic-

> hero. The archetypal study of Rand is an area which could yield

> fascinating and important insights, but insofar as I'm aware, this

> is an area which has hardly been explored to date. Thank you,

> Karen, for examining Rand as a culture-myth creator.

>

> What I want to raise here, though, is a question about viewing

> Rand's characters as if they were actual people:

>

> *If the characters are taken literally, are they healthy humans?*

> (I'm speaking of course of the good guys; obviously the bad guys

> aren't specimens of sterling health.)

>

> Let's start with Eddie Willers, the good guy who's introduced on

> pg. 1, and of whom a bum asks, "Who is John Galt?"

>

> The impression of Eddie which comes across to me from the "little

> touches" of characterization in the scene is that of someone

> regimented and repressed. For example: "It seemed to him as if a

> few rays from [his childhood] reached into his present... like

> pinpoint spotlights that gave an occasional moment's glitter to

> his job, to his lonely apartment, to the quiet, scrupulous

> progression of his existence." (pg. 5; all Atlas pg.#s are from

> the 1957 edition.)

>

> This isn't a vibrant, happy soul who's being described. And

> consider Eddie's response when asked as a ten-year-old what he

> wanted to do when he grew up. "'Whatever is right,'" he answered.

> (pg. 6) Is this the response one would expect -- or be pleased to

> hear -- from a ten-year-old kid? He doesn't want to do anything

> more venturesome?

>

> I suppose it isn't necessarily indicative of a budding duty-

> mentality for a child to answer as Eddie answered, but what are

> we to think of an ambition like this coming from a personage who's

> presented as a minor exemplar? And what *does* Eddie do with

> himself as he grows up? The guy becomes a de facto eunuch with

> his unrequited love for Dagny, as well as becoming a "feudal

> slave" to the railroad. Is a life such as Eddie's really

> representative of "the best in the common man"?

>

> Next, turning to the big heroes, what about Hank Rearden?

>

> For me, the characterization of Hank presents a special problem.

> Although I find none of Rand's characters fully believable as

> flesh-and-blood persons (they indeed are *mythic* beings, not

> human beings), Hank seems outright unreal. Is it plausible that

> a guy who is so obsessed with moral purity, a guy who's so

> unforgivingly ruthless in regard to his own suffering, would have

> the kind of creative fires needed to produce Rearden metal?

>

> I can't accept the premise; it doesn't make sense in terms of what

> I know about human psychology. Thus, I find Hank contradictory in

> a way that actual humans (for all their manifold possible

> contradictorinesses) aren't.

>

> But to the extent that he is believable, I still have troubles

> with Hank when considering him as a depiction of an ideal. Rand

> saw Hank's problem as that of an error of knowledge. My take is

> to diagnose the problem as a bad lapse from being in touch with

> himself. Hank is listening to a moral code which he doesn't even

> believe instead of to his own signals. That's not a practice

> which leads to mental health.

>

> And now, what of Dagny? Dagny, the object of much feminist

> debate, the hero/ine figure of a great mythic novel. Are there

> any blemishes in her psyche if she's analyzed as an actual person?

>

> Again, my answer is yes. For instance, consider some "little

> touches" in a scene Karen quotes at length. This is the scene,

> quoted on pg. 207, where Francisco slaps Dagny for "threaten[ing]

> to lower her standards and become less of an achiever in return

> for social popularity." (KM's description, pg. 207)

>

> I loved Karen's analysis of the scene, and her statement on

> pg. 209: "I believe that Dagny is the only important female hero

> in Western literature who is physically struck for refusing to

> excel at a nontraditional pursuit." The scene's a great example

> of Rand's turning everything upside down and inside out.

>

> But pause to consider certain details of the first paragraph quoted:

>

> "Well, I've always been unpopular in school and it didn't

> bother me, but now I've discovered the reason. It's an

> impossible kind of reason. They dislike me, not because I do

> things badly, but because I do them well. They dislike me

> because I've always had the best grades in the class. I don't

> even have to study. I always get A's. Do you suppose I should

> try to get D's for a change and become the most popular girl in

> school?" [Then Francisco slaps her.]

>

> How is one to take Dagny's analysis of her situation in school?

> Rand, I think, means for it to be taken straight: Dagny is an

> ideal person, and there are people, terrible people, who dislike

> her for "the impossible kind of reason" that she does things well.

> But I submit that another reason is rationally possible, and is

> considerably more plausible.

>

> If I might present some first-hand evidence here: I myself got the

> best grades in school without having to study. I also resembled

> Dagny in not becoming much involved with the activities of my

> classmates since I was more occupied elsewhere (with horseback-

> riding activities). I wasn't what would be called "popular."

> BUT: I wasn't disliked because of getting good grades; I had

> friendly and happy relationships with my classmates.

>

> Thus, I raise the question: Is it so clear that the fault in

> Dagny's relationship with her classmates was *theirs*? How did

> she project herself to them? Did she wear an aura of contemptuous

> disdain? Or maybe of bored indifference? In other words, was she

> erecting a barrier between herself and her classmates, and is that

> what they were responding to?

>

> The above is speculation, but here's another incident for which

> we have textual evidence. This pertains to Dagny's and Hank's

> first night of love-making. Karen draws attention to favorable

> aspects of the way Dagny is presented:

>

> "...it is clear that Dagny is the partner who is consciously and

> rationally in control, not Rearden...." (pg. 211)

>

> "...in another reversal of traditional gender roles, it is Dagny

> who teaches a confused Rearden about sex...." (pg. 212)

>

> "It is Dagny who feels no confusion or shame concerning the

> fulfillment of her desires, which she refers to as her 'proudest

> attainment'." (pg. 212)

>

> I agree with this praise of Dagny, but there's another little

> touch which presents a less ideal picture. This is at the start

> of Dagny's morning-after speech to Hank replying to his speech

> about the shamefulness of their mutual desire:

>

> "I want you, Hank. I'm much more of an animal than you think.

> I wanted you from the first moment I saw you -- and the only

> thing I'm ashamed of is that I did not know it. I did not know

> why, for two years, the brightest moments I found were the ones

> in your office, where I could lift my head to look up at you.

> I did not know the nature of what I felt in your presence, nor

> the reason. I know it now." (pg. 255)

>

> To this I have to say: What the hell took her so long?!! Some

> exemplar if it takes her two years to realize that she's burning

> with desire for a man. Where's her awareness of her own signals?

> Had her body not been loudly broadcasting, through various signs,

> the "nature of" her reaction to Hank? What's her problem that she

> *didn't* know what she felt?

>

> (Remember in this context a scene which has been mentioned before

> on the list, the first scene where Dagny appears, where these

> words are used in describing her: "...as if she were unconscious

> of her own body and that it was a woman's body." There's a subtle

> point in the wording because Rand says "as if...," not that Dagny

> IS "unconscious...." Also, certainly it happens that when one is

> intently concentrating, other awareness, including bodily

> awareness, can become peripheral. Still, we're presented with a

> hint of non-attention to inner signals right off the mark in

> Dagny's characterization.)

>

> I think the above is enough to indicate why I ask:

> *If the characters are taken literally, are they healthy humans?*

>

> My own answer is, in some respects yes; in other respects no.

>

> Would be very interested to hear what people think.

>

> Ellen

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen,

I enjoyed that (I finally got to read it all). This is a very good starting place to see why there are so many divisions in the Objectivist community.

Rand said that art was a "selective recreation of reality," so I don't think that these characters were even intended to be whole human beings.

I think their purpose is to be objects to contemplate when we have important decisions about reason, morality and the rest of philosophy to deal with. Important moments in life, not the everyday. For instance, I cannot imagine using Francisco D'Anconia or Hank Rearden or John Galt as role models when I take a shower or make toast.

(I certainly don't make a speech after making love...)

Have you thought of extracting these ideas from their "post in answer to an article" context and polishing them up a little? Maybe do an overview of all of her main characters from the mythic versus real perspective?

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen, I'm intrigued by your post, and in agreement with much of it; when I have time, which I don't right now, I want to discuss some of your examples. But right now, I want to raise a question about the whole approach of your analysis. You ask: Are Rand's characters really "ideals" when viewed as real, complete people? -- and are they psychologically healthy?

The problem with approaching fiction in this way, if we decided to do so across the board, is that we'd have to rule out most of our favørite firctional characters as ideals or as psychologically healthy. Romeo and Juliet could no longer be seen as romantic figures -- they were lunatics to die as unnecessarily as they did; Sydney Carton could not be even a altruist's hero -- since he probably could have escaped the guillotine at the last moment; we'd have to grant that OliverTwist was less than bright in many of the choices he made; and Gene Kelley foolishly risked pneumonia in "Singin' In the Rain," etc. and so on

My point, for the moment, is that fictional characters are not meant to be taken literally, but literarilly.

In answer, one could say that one is not asked to emulate Romeo and Juliet or Sydney Carton, etc., but one is asked to emulate Rand's characters. But I suggest that it is this demand that is the mistake.

I'll be intererested in your response, Ellen, and that of other people following this thread.

Barbara

Link to post
Share on other sites

Barbara, you write:

"The problem with approaching fiction in this way, if we decided to do so across the board, is that we'd have to rule out most of our favørite firctional characters as ideals or as psychologically healthy. [...]

"In answer, one could say that one is not asked to emulate Romeo and Juliet or Sydney Carton, etc., but one is asked to emulate Rand's characters. But I suggest that it is this demand that is the mistake."

Quite. That was one of the points I was making. The other is that

the claim that her characters are examplars of psychological health

isn't warranted. (If you had the full context of the original discussion,

it would probably be clear what I was arguing against.)

Ellen

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen,

This is a bit on the side, but I used to read stuff by Russel Madden on the Internet when I was in Brazil. He wrote a lot.

He was somehow in cahoots with a very eccentric dude called J. Orlin Grabbe (writing for an online thing called The Laissez Faire Electronic Times). I used to frequent Grabbe's website often (and I learned a great deal there).

Were you ever involved in that circle?

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen,

I fully agree with Barbara and you that fictional people are not full human beings. Even according to Rand's own definition, her heroes are "selective recreations of reality."

However, you touch on an extremely important issue in highlighting the differences with Rand's fiction because so many fans of Rand's ideas try to mold themselves into these characters.

Do you have any thoughts along these lines on Francisco D'Ancionia?

Michael

Edit - It just occurred to me that, metaphorically, the biggest character in Rand's fiction is the public image of herself as a morally perfect superwoman (as opposed to a genius who overcome great odds and conflicts, both external and internal). You made a most charming post on another forum about painting the roses red (making a delightful tie-in to Alice in Wonderland). I wonder if you would care to edit that post and re-post it here (addressed to the general reader).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen,

Obviously your post here messed with me a little. I think it is because I tried to be one of Rand's characters when I was younger. That cigar blew up in my face in grand style.

My only way out (literally survive - as in "not die") was to start looking at things with my own mind. I had to slow down the predigested evaluations and simply look at what existed, then evaluate.

By doing that process consciously for some time, my evaluations have become much more solid. I think my self-esteem has risen dramatically. And, as icing to the cake, I have started seeing very strange things where I did not see them before - but things that were right in front of my nose.

I did that with an essay on turning the other cheek, where I caused a ruckus on the old SoloHQ. A full essay was written against me - and it was claimed that my next essay would be on Ayn Rand being an altruist.

I laughed. What a thought. That's how prejudice starts.

Then yesterday I started thinking about Roark and Keating in The Fountainhead.

Screeeeeeeeech...

(Here I go again.)

Instead of looking at Ayn Rand's characters in how they DO NOT resemble real-life people, like you do, how about looking at aspects of them where they DO resemble real-life people, but not in manners Rand explicitly intended?

One of the things that Roark did that absolutely lines up with real-life people is the way he kept helping Keating all his life, despite despising everything Keating stood for.

Why would he do that? Why do we all do that at times? Empathy?

(Altruism is starting to raise its ugly head on the horizon and I am heroically beating it back the best I can, but this is slowly turning into Whack A Mole...)

Was Roark acting altruistically when he took off from his life to explain things to Keating and do his work? He did it a lot - an awful lot - a whole bunch. I am sure that one could go through the entire book and show, case-by-case when Roark helped Keating, where there was a selfish motive at root. But to keep repeating this, time and time again over a lifetime? Was Roark dumb or what?

Here he is acting just like all of us do - without the habitual aloofness (in medium-to-long term acts, not his short term indifference to Keating's remarks).

How's that for an idea to chew on?

Anybody need a spittoon?

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites

As a highly principled artist, my own self, Roark's behavior makes perfect non-altruistic sense to me. Roarks actions don't help Keating as a person; they may seem to further Keating's agenda, but only tangentially. Keating learns nothing from Roark. I would contend that Roark isn't helping Keating at all, he's helping Keating's art. Keating presents him with problems, asks for help and Roark engages with the problem 'cause that's what Roark is on this earth to do. Keating the man is pretty annoying to Roark, but Keating's artistic problems are worth solving in their own right. Roark tries, as I recall, to brush Keating off more than once, but Keating insists and Roark has too much self respect not to try his hand at a new problem; it's not "taking off from his life" because that is his life.

As a portrait of a driven artist, Roark is thoroughly convincing to me. As an example of a perfectly healthy human psyche? Not so much.

But what if Roark, in his heart of hearts, were a psychologist instead of an architect? What if his medium weren't granite and steel, but the human soul? Then creating more beauty in other humans, healing their minds, would be of the highest value to him. Then, actually helping Keating or Dominique or even Toohey would be an expression of his self-esteem.

Is consern for human health in general of value to humans as individuals? Psychology as it stands may be too primitive to tackle the problem of healing a Toohey, but what if it weren't? If we as individuals could actually, reliably improve the mental health of the world we live in by helping and nurturing the happiness of others, what then?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Kevin,

I completely agree with you if the time frame is a few years.

But I don't know of anybody who does that over decades because of interest in the problems only - a merely technical interest without some kind of professional tie. I have only seen real people keep other spiritual parasites in their lives because they felt sorry for them. Nothing more.

Don't forget the small climax point where Roark finally actually did feel pity for Keating (and felt sick). How about that as a culmination of all those acts of help instead of an isolated emotion?

Still need a spittoon?

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites

I can only think that there must have been an analogy to Roark-Keating in Ayn Rand's own life.

"Keating the man is pretty annoying to Roark, but Keating's artistic problems are worth solving in their own right."

That seems right on the mark to me.

"As a portrait of a driven artist, Roark is thoroughly convincing to me. As an example of a perfectly healthy human psyche? Not so much."

Mmmm. I don't agree with this. Roark is my favorite Rand character.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm very reluctant to talk about The Fountainhead in an even vaguely Objectivist context because of the extremely powerful appeal Roark seems to have had (and to still have) for so many people who came to consider themselves Objectivists. Roark did not have this appeal for me. And I can't honestly say that I understand his appeal for others. There's a greal deal about the psychological dynamics of Roark, and his relationship with Dominique (and I don't mean the "rape, with an engraved invitation" scene) that I found so off-putting, I doubt that if I had read The Fountainhead first of Ayn Rand's novels, instead of reading it two years after I'd first read Atlas Shrugged, I'd have gone on to become curious about Rand's philosophy. Roark seemed to me like a person living in a "cocoon." His being "untouched," which seems to be the characteristic that appeals so much to so many who became Objectivists, to me seemed...like a person missing a dimension. And, as regards his relationship with Dominique, how could he just let her go about finding out for herself -- or whatever he was doing -- instead of trying to help her?

Wynand did appeal to me, in that he seemed like a potent male force of nature. I realized that Rand was going to end up "destroying" Wynand, and I felt sad about this. Indeed, the night when I finished the book, I went for a long drive (a drive I often took, one of several I liked to take, this one down the outer drive from Evanston, out Congress, as it was called then, back up on Edens, then returning to Evanston -- maybe an hour's drive total), working it out in my mind, or trying to, why she'd felt that the logic of her story required the ending she gave it.

I don't really know what to say to those who feel that they found an Ideal which attracts them in Roark. I'd like to understand what it is that appeals to them so much. But I don't understand it.

Ellen

___

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen, I feel pretty much the same way about the Fountainhead. It is a good book, but the main characters were not exactly my kind of people. Their relationship was pretty twisted. Dominque married two guys before getting around to Roark, who was her true love who she publicly denounced but privately bonked. Any contradiction there? He seemed like a robot in many ways. Cold, efficient and impersonal for the most part. She seemed like a bitch and I could not relate to her at all. I'm glad I read Atlas first.

Kat

btw - Are we neighbors? The best drive is north up Sheridan Rd to Kenilworth.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Athough I didn't dislike Roark, Wynand was also my favorite character in The Fountainhead. He's an example of "the colorful rogue who steals the story and the drama from the anemic hero" to use Rand's own words. But I find Roark still quite human compared to John Galt. I'll admit it here: I've always disliked Galt. He's such a nauseatingly good boy and to cap it all he runs off with the girl (while Francisco and Rearden of course keep smiling benevolently and full of understanding). In everything he's perfect, it's a little god walking on earth. Sure, to make him look a little bit human, Rand makes him pace up en down at a certain moment, supposedly hesitating to break his principles and contact Dagny. But it's just paying lip-service, a token exercise, and of course he remains steadfast to his principles. And, oh yes, my favorite character in AS is Hank Rearden. Francisco is also still too perfect for me (if Galt is God, then Francisco closely resembles Jesus).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe it's because I felt so alienated when I was young, but I identified strongly with Roark. I even named my first-born son, "Roark."

His aloofness to me was sort of a moral sanction of what I had been living - an imposed aloofness because I just couldn't seem to fit in.

Also, I was very passionate about things like competence and integrity - and I had very little interest in controlling others.

Where Wynand appealed to me was that he engaged his enemies one-on-one. Roark did the famous, "But I don't think of you," thing. So Wynand appears much more real and attractive as regards how to deal with people in the world.

It was never clear to me why Roark loved him as much as he did, though. That came through in the book to me more as chemistry than anything else.

Frankly, the person I most identified with was Steven Mallory. I had no doubts at all in my mind about why he tried to shoot Toohey.

Back when I first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, I used to try so hard not to think about people who were hostile to me and intent on interfering with my projects, but I couldn't. Frankly, they used to run me crazy. I didn't understand malice and envy and it hurt me deeply. I even started feeling guilty about being hurt, but I couldn't help it. (I paid a heavy price for that guilt later, too.)

What's funny is that now, I think I am a bit aloof like Roark with the bad guys in life. I am so involved with setting up my new life that I literally don't think about them. And the few times I do, I just let the anger run through me and then kiss it goodbye.

I don't find the adherence to principles in Rand's heroes objectionable. On the contrary, I find this aspect extremely inspiring. The value Rand's heroes have to me is precisely their integrity.

Where I do find a lack in terms of using them as role models, though, is in things like tenderness and kindness, recognizing when they are hurt, empathy with others (and I don't mean altruism), and things of that nature. Rand's heroes can be that way, but they seen to be too willing to dismiss that side of themselves, even when it is not necessary. At times it seems like they actually want to dismiss that side of themselves as a virtue.

I tried that in life. It didn't work for me and I got hurt for real. The principles do work, though. So that is what I take for myself these days.

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen,

"I don't really know what to say to those who feel that they found an Ideal which attracts them in Roark. I'd like to understand what it is that appeals to them so much."

I haven't read The Fountainhead since Ayn Rand died. But while she was alive I read it perhaps five or six times. Atlas Shrugged only twice. Anthem three or four times.

It is not that Roark is an "ideal" but he is the most real character to me. You say he is missing a "dimension", I'm sure you mean that he does not relate to people the way you think he ought to. He does not try to "help" Dominick for instance. ALL of people's difficulty's are self made. There is no helping anyone. I am an engineer. I find reality, nature, the world interesting and very comfortable. Roark is sane. All of the real "problems" of living on this earth have been solved long ago. The remaining problems are human made because people are insane. Engineers are considered "geeks" because they "live in their own world", they think about things no one else cares about. What they're thinking about are the solutions to the REAL problems on this earth. Other people don't want to hear what they have to say because they are not interested in real problems. Even objectivist's spend all of their time bickering over nonsense. Interminal long purposeless arguments about determinism, bitter disputes about Ayn Rand's "moral perfection". All totally pointless.

Link to post
Share on other sites
btw - Are we neighbors?  The best drive is north up Sheridan Rd to Kenilworth.

Kat,

Not these days, we aren't neighbors, no. I first read The Fountainhed during the Spring Quarter of my Junior year at Northwestern. (That was spring '63.) My hometown was Peoria. I moved east in September '68 and lived in the New York City vicinity from then till the end of '80 -- one year in West New York, 3+ years in New Rochelle, then, after an abortive start at graduate school at U. Conn, in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, starting fall '72, Larry went to Philadelphia to continue his graduate work (in physics) at Temple, and later to teach in the Philadelphia area. In addition to my apartment in Brooklyn, we got a nice apartment on which we shared rent in the Germantown area of Philadelphia, and I commuted to Philadelphia on weekends (I was meanwhile working as an editor at J. B. Lippincott's offices in Manhattan). At the end of '80 (I'd by then left my full-time editing job and was instead free-lancing), I gave up my New York apartment and moved all my stuff to the Philadelphia apartment. In '84 he was offered a tenure-track position at the University of Hartford. We've been living in Bloomfield, one of the towns adjacent to Hartford, since '85.

(Bloomfield is sometimes called a suburb of Hartford, but technically none of the towns surrounding Hartford are suburbs, since they were all independently settled during the Colonial era -- several of them, including Bloomfield, earlier than Hartford. One of the many things I like about living in this area is the sense of its history. For instance, we'll be having New Year's Eve dinner at one of the oldest continuous Inns in the country, the Pettibone Inn, which was once a stopping place on the Boston Post Road. And which, btw, has a ghost: Abigail, who was supposedly murdered upon being found in bed with another man when her husband, the then-owner of the Inn, returned from a business trip. The "supposedly" in the previous sentence is because it isn't clear from the historical record if the Abigail who's thought to be the ghost actually was murdered -- or was even actually married to the tavern owner said to have killed her. But historically accurate or not, the story is popular. And people who work at Pettibone's still enjoy spooking themselves with incidents they attribute to Abigail -- although no one feels scared of her; she's a friendly ghost.)

Not that any of the above is connected to the subject of this thread. ;-)

Oh, reverting to your comment about the drive north up Sheridan Rd to Kenilworth. Thanks for refreshing my memory about the name "Sheridan Road." A couple months back I received an issue of the Northwestern alumnus magazine on the front cover of which was a picture of the arches at the main lower entrance to the campus. I was telling Larry that the arches look the same, though the clothes look different, and I commented about driving up and down that road -- and about the number of times I crossed it going to and from classes. But I could not remember the name of the road.

There were a lot of drives I enjoyed: The one I described (basically around a rectangle: south, west, north, east). Another was to go out Golf Road and then wend to O'Hare and drive several loops through the airport and then maybe around the whole perimeter. Back then the drive looping through the airport enchanted me because there were wonderful sweeping vistas -- now there's a blasted convention hotel in the middle of the circle blocking the views from every side. Another was the drive up past the magnificent Bahai Temple and into the northern suburbs.

Often I was accompanied on these drives by my roommate and best friend from my college years. A few times, for a lark, we drove all the way to Milwaukee and ate dinner there.

What part of the Chicago area do you live in? And how long have you been living there?

Ellen

___

Link to post
Share on other sites
Athough I didn't dislike Roark, Wynand was also my favorite character in The Fountainhead. [...] But I find Roark still quite human compared to John Galt. I'll admit it here: I've always disliked Galt. He's such a nauseatingly good boy and to cap it all he runs off with the girl [...]. In everything he's perfect, it's a little god walking on earth.

I don't actively dislike either Roark or Galt. I just couldn't say that I actively like either one of them. Galt is presented as a god -- she seems to have thought of him that way. My husband and I describe him as being "so abstract, he isn't there; he's become pure Form [in the sense of the Platonic Forms]."

Sure, to make him look a little bit human, Rand makes him pace up en down at a certain moment, supposedly hesitating to break his principles and contact Dagny. But it's just paying lip-service, a token exercise, and of course he remains steadfast to his principles.

A scene which upsets me in the story is the one in which Galt won't let Francisco notify Hank that Dagny is still alive. Nathaniel talks somewhere -- I think in Judgment Day; or maybe it was in the Benefits and Hazards talk -- about being bothered about that, and her telling him that she was afraid of making Galt look "wishy-washy" if he budged on his principles.

And, oh yes, my favorite character in AS is  Hank Rearden. Francisco is also still too perfect for me (if Galt is God, then Francisco closely resembles Jesus).

There are scenes in which I find Hank quite real (although there is that respect, discussed in my post starting this thread, in which I could never quite believe that someone with the command over nature -- "the man who belonged on earth" -- he's shown as having would be prey to so severe a problem over his sexuality; in her original planning for the book, Hank was an older person, and then she changed the story so as to include his having a relationship with Dagny; it seems to me that some misfit of characterization was introduced with that change of plot line). But Francisco I find, as I've described him, "the one quicksilver spot of freedom." He seems to me to have elements of spontaneity the others (mostly) lack. I get an Errol (sp?) Flynn kind of "swashbuckling" sense (or a "Zorro" sense, to make it Spanish) from Francisco.

But speaking of Hank and "realness": One of the scenes I like a lot with him is the first scene where he appears. He's standing high up in the steel mill when the first heat of Rearden Steel is being poured. I once toured a steel mill (Keystone Steel in the Peoria area), and I can visualize that whole scene, what it would look like. She describes it incredibly well.

Her skill at visual description is among the features of her writing which I love. Speaking of that skill...Did you read her books in English or in translation? And I'm wondering...Have you by any chance ever read the Gormenghast series? That series (which I only read myself in 2003) I find a very interesting one to compare in technique of visual description to Atlas. Both Mervyn Peake and AR were masters at conveying the visual, but their methods were different. It would be fun to compare, if by any lucky chance you've read Gormenghast.

Ellen

___

Link to post
Share on other sites
Her skill at visual description is among the features of her writing which I love. Speaking of that skill...Did you read her books in English or in translation?

In English. I'll never forget the moment that I picked up a copy of AS in a cellar of a bookshop with English pocket books. I started to read the first page and I was immediately hooked. The rest is history, as they say. I'd heard about the book before and seen it in book stores, but then I was still at school (it was another, older, student who recommended the book to me), and reading such a thick book in English seemed an intimidating task at the time.

And I'm wondering...Have you by any chance ever read the Gormenghast series? That series (which I only read myself in 2003) I find a very interesting one to compare in technique of visual description to Atlas. Both Mervyn Peake and AR were masters at conveying the visual, but their methods were different. It would be fun to compare, if by any lucky chance you've read Gormenghast.

I'd never heard of it. I just looked it up at Amazon, but reading the reviews, I think this isn't my kind of book.

Link to post
Share on other sites
In English. I'll never forget the moment that I picked up a copy of AS in a cellar of a bookshop with English pocket books. I started to read the first page and I was immediately hooked.

Your reading it in English is impressive. From your description of being "hooked" by the first page, it sounds as if the literary merit of the writing registered from the start. I, too, was hooked by the first page -- and because of how well that opening scene was constructed. After Christmas, I'd enjoy doing a dissection of what's so skillful about the details. Talking to anyone about Atlas from primarily a literary angle has been a rare pleasure for me in all the years since I left Illinois. My best friend in college and I would talk about the details of the story for hours at times, in total innocence of there being any such thing as "Objectivism" and the "Objectivist movement." Neither of us had any idea, in the first two years after I first read Atlas (she read it some months later), that there were courses being taught on Rand's philosophy, etc., and that there were people for whom the book was a Bible. I look back on those conversations as the most fun of any I've ever had about Rand as a writer.

I'd never heard of [Gormenghast]. I just looked it up at Amazon, but reading the reviews, I think this isn't my kind of book.

It's of the fantasy genre, Gothic fantasy (using "Gothic" in the original meaning of a "horror" tale quality, not in the later meaning of romance novels like Jane Eyre and its descendants). And I suppose it's unlikely that a book of that type would appeal to you. However, in a couple separate posts, I'll copy a couple scenes from the first book of the threesome, Titus Groan. These are scenes I had already typed, having sent them at one point to a friend, the friend from whom I learned of Gormenghast.

Ellen

__

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just joined this website today.

A major lure was that I was very interested in the original purpose of this thread which was to discuss Ayn Rand's characters as models to follow - in the original post raised by Ellen and replied to by Barbara on whether Rand's characters are emulatable, to be taken literally as opposed to literarily. And I was formulating some points on this as concretely applied to Dagny, Rearden, Eddie.

That in itself could be grist for hundreds of posts.

Unfortunately, as I continued to read the thread, before much time had even been allowed, it seems to have veered off subject or gotten hijacked by two or three people into any other sort of issues related to Rand's writing style, where people lived, personal history with each of the novels, etc., and so on. So by the time I am ready to post, people are immersed in conversations on new subjects. From experience, this means that several topics tend to interleave. And posters may tend to get long-winded or post many times in a row because they try to address several different topics at once.

That's okay if the hosts and members on thist site like to have that sort of threads and those sorts of discussions. Doesn't work for me, though, so I think I'll go back to the several other websites I look at. Maybe I'll check back on the site in the future....

...Also on this site, looking at some of the more philosophical threads which would otherwise interest me, there are a few -extremely- long-winded or post-every-half-hour or post-on-every-topic people. As a matter of personal preference, I much prefer "less is more". Personally, I like non-repetitious posts. And I don't enjoy hearing the same people on every topic since - even if they have good ideas - I end up hearing them many times. I like Barbara's essentialized style of posting. This is simply a matter of personal preference...and due to having limited time.

[To conclude on a positive note, I think the intention of this site, however, to focus on producing new work, on esthetics, creativity is a great one.]

Philip Coates

Link to post
Share on other sites

Phil,

Welcome...

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL...

You do what ever is good for you. Whatever is good for you is good for us. Be advised that you are always welcome here. As I have said in other places, this is an intimate place for producers and their friends.

Good luck to ya' on finding a forum where posters are not long-winded sometimes or do not veer off in other directions. If you ever find one, please let me know. I want to see it to believe it.

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites

Phil,

When I saw that you were the latest member, I was pleased. I have always thought highly of your thoughts. Walking into the door and trying to piss on everyone is beneath you. Out of my respect for the people who run this site I'll say no more.

Link to post
Share on other sites

> Still like to see more of you however.

When I get a "put down" or an instantly hostile or defensive reaction to what were honest criticisms (accompanied by one compliment), rather than having them addressed, it doesn't make me eager to post again.

Phil

(It's an old Objectivist story: no matter how valid your case, when you criticize a student of Objectivism, too often you've simply caused resentment or made an enemy, not caused him to stop and ponder or carefully, thoughfully, unemotionally address what you said, point by point.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Phil,

I will address your criticism, at least part of it.

I have no problem at all with long-winded posts. Nor do I have one with threads that veer off in other directions (like this one did and is now doing again). I m sorry you are uncomfortable with this.

The main reason these things are cropping up here is creativity. To repeat from before, our business here is to hang out with producers of works (both producers and friends) - and that includes nurturing projects and authors both online and off. Every single person who is aboard this website is a potential book or screenplay and many already are so.

I am not interested in competing with other forums, nor in encouraging controversies of persuasion. I don't wish to spread Objectivism to beginners through this website (although some information is given if one or another shows up, especially the Inky's young friends.) Other websites do that already. I certainly have no interest in trouncing a bad idea for the entertainment of others.

I am interested in exploring ideas and seeing where the muse takes us - all from a basic Objectivist posture. I am happy to report that several projects are already underway.

I want to stress that the public being sought is for the works produced, not for the website. There is another very important aspect of the public I also want to stress. I am not so much interested in fostering literature merely for the Objectivist community, but for the public at large. Some works, by their nature, will be Objectivist-oriented, but any fiction at all written only to cash in on a target Objectivist audience will probably be pretty mediocre. That does not interest me (nor, I suspect, anybody else around here).

So, back to our wandering friends. If you look at our member list, you will see anything but mediocre on it. Some people do carry on a bit, I admit. But they are just exercising their chops for the show. Let them go on and feel free and good here. Let them know that their ideas are being read and appreciated by other intelligent and talented people. Frankly, I like that they do it. I don't wish to stilfe the good vibes we have maintained so far. And wait until you see what the result of all this is.

Phil, I sincerely hope you find some items of interest around here, try to be bit more tolerant inside yourself (to yourself) of the meanderings of some members of our select little group, and dig deeply inside your soul and that magnificent brain of yours to see what comes out work-wise. I know you have it in you.

But as I said before, please feel at home and come and go at your pleasure. Post or not post. You decide. Whatever is good for Phil is good for us too.

btw - Getting back to the thread, any thoughts on the benefits and limitations of using Rand's fictional characters as role models (or even those of others) and Ellen's very intriguing initial post?

Michael

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