"Ancient" post on Rand's Characters


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Phil,

When you enter a house for the first time, and the very first thing you say to the host and his guests is: your furniture is ugly, the paintings are awful and these people here have boring conversations, I think I won't talk to them, would you then really be surprised that the reception was a bit cool after that kind of introduction?

I think people on this list wouldn't mind honest criticisms if you yourself at least had made some substantial contributions to the discussions. But just coming out of the blue from a newcomer on this forum, it comes as no suprise that such criticisms are not favorably received. I think it is elementary netiquette not to start criticizing discussions if you haven't made any contribution to them yourself. It is a typical newbie error to do so; I hadn't expected it from you, in view of what I've read of your contributions on other forums.

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Phil, I was delighted to see you here, and I do hope you'll stay, at least long enough to see the overall thrust -- and the sense of life -- of this forum. If you don't like the direction a particular thread is taking -- if you think it's veering off course -- then assert yourself: bring it back to where you want it to be. Nobody controls a thread but the people posting to it.

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What Barbara said.

Let me just add that this board here is still very, very young and very young things have a terrible time keeping their balance. Try to go too far, too quickly and you fall on your face.

I've already had to take a break from posting here because I began to feel like I was just posting like I did on the old SOLOhq. I realized that Michael was bringing something new to life here and I was thinking of it in the same old ways. I think what Kat and Michael have started here has a real chance of growing into something we can all be proud of. Phil, I know you could have a powerful influence on what that something turns out to be.

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I read TF immediately after AS. I adored the Roark character.

I'm kind of happy I read those two books out of sequence like that. TF was perfect in length and overall tightness after reading AS.

I mean, I started reading it about 3 days after I finished AS, which was done as a marathon- any free moment available, in ten days. I was happy-tired at the end of it.

I enjoyed the isolated, pure-purpose feel of his character. Everything he did was tight and focused. A lot of my resonance came from where I was at that time- I was writing and playing in a progressive/avante garde group, we were writing very complicated instrumental compositions, yet we were being booked with everything but that kind of thing. It was like Mahavishnu Orchestra opening up for The Sex Pistols- sometimes we took a lot of flak.

So, the whole idea of sticking to your artistic principles really worked for me.

I saw the movie for the first time not long after I read the book, and I was a little let down, but I still enjoyed the Roark character- that seemed to play through what I thought was a rather stilted movie. I wish someone would remake that film. It would probably be a heck of a lot easier to take on than Atlas Shrugged, which I fear will not ever get done until long after I go to dust.

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I don't wish to heavily moderate this forum, but sometimes a little housekeeping makes sense just to keep things somewhat organized. I have moved the book excerpt over to a thread of its own in the Books, Tapes and Video category as it deserves a thread of its own. Always feel free to start up topics over there about books, movies and stuff like that, even if they are not Objectivist related. If something is cool, share it.

Kat

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> "hope you'll stay, at least long enough to see the overall thrust...this board here is still very, very young...try to be bit more tolerant inside yourself (to yourself) of the meanderings of some members"

Guys, I overreacted in my first post. And was too negative too quickly.

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"If the characters are taken literally, are they healthy humans?" [Ellen]

This is an extremely important question because it applies not only to reading a novel but to living.

Rand's characters differ in regard to their realism and/or role model status. Regarding Eddie Willers, Ellen asks whether "whatever is right" is a good answer for a ten-year old or whether it shows a lack of adventurousness. Part of the answer is Barbara's point that there is a distinction between taking something literally and literarily. Ayn Rand is not writing realistic fiction but stylized fiction. Eddie's quote is put in the book to stress his unbending nature where ethics is concerned. But Eddie is not an innovator, not on the mental level of the main heroes, so it would be a mistake to portray him as a leader or innovator, rather than a follower. Also, a good novelist has secondary characters who we only catch glimpses of. They are more one-dimensional, written to stress a trait or a characteristic. And so you can't really ask whether this single quote of Eddie's shows lack of independence if he were real, unless you know whether in another mood or situation he expressed an independent streak. What one is supposed to do in reading literature or in absorbing or trying to emulate Eddie (as opposed to doing psychology--a different context) is to abstract out that attitude of always doing what is right, forgetting whether it would be said at that age, and use it as inspiration to do so in one's own life.

This leads to a very important point: Ayn Rand not only did not fully flesh out all of her characters, but she did not sketch her good characters as -perfect-. We can see that in the confusions and mistakes made by Rearden and Dagny in regard to, in the one case, not understanding himself, his moral code, his sexual preferences fully. And in the other case, some degree of tunnel-visioned focus on the job, saving the railroad to the exclusion of doing other things, thinking through other things.

"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?" [Ellen]

Without these mistakes or conflicts or short-sightedness there would be no story and thus no novel. Certainly, the other or primary heroes (Francisco, Galt) are shown making fewer of these mistakes across the entire novel. But there is another point: To be too critical or disillusioned with Dagny or not to view her as a role model because she is not fully aware of even important things about herself is to deny human nature and the degree to which even towering, admirable people make silly mistakes or have huge blind spots. But the important point is that they are no less admirable because they are not perfect. I'm going to come up with a new, original thought now, and remember that you heard it here for the very first time:

Nobody's perfect. (Not even you.)

[There, I've said it. I've been dying to find a context to say that to an audience of Objectivists :-)]

Nonetheless, it is also quite important to consciously remind oneself when the characters' attributes are ones that should -not- be literally emulated, without translation. Roark's indifference to people and unwillingness to grant a single word more than necessary dramatizes his independence in a novel, but one does not literally manifest independence in that extreme a form in everyday life, nor are the members of the architecture profession literally quite so much of a mindless herd as they are required to be in the novel, nor are so many people at the top of professions mediocrities, nor as far as I know is a Toohey literally possible.

There are two opposite kinds of mistakes those who are basically admirers (Objectivists...and ordinary fans) have made over the years encountering Ayn Rand's towering heroic characters ... and the world of her novels more widely. Both of these mistakes are very widespread and highly damaging. Both are mistakes in how to read, use, or gain sustenance from literature (and the other arts) and mistakes in what degree of embrace or distance to take with powerful role models.

One is to absorb everything about the heroes or the book too uncritically into your soul, becoming a Dagny workaholic or a Dominique alienation-and-contempt-atrice or a Roarkian impervious anti-social monosyllabist...or someone who thinks himself surrounded by evil in a vicious, verge-of-the-Dark-Ages world.

The other is to turn away from that (from the characters or from Rand or from the novels) when one finds an imperfection or a one-dimensionality or a mistake, rejecting the character or viewing him as not fully admirable, and not implementing him as a role model for how one should live one's life in -any- form.

Phil

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Now that's the Phil that I know. I hope to see you posting more often here in that manner(long-winded though it was ;) ). All minor criticisms aside, one thing I see that this site has going for it, is that regardless of the directions it runs off in, it maintains it's civility and level of intelligent discussion. I have yet to see anyone here try and refute an argument with the argument-from-intimidation counterpoint of "limp-dick, pomo-wanker". I see great discussions of ideas going on here, rather than inflated, disingenuous attacks against character. I look forward to participating in these discussions with you. You bring much value to the table.

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Phil,

You wrote:

Nobody's perfect. (Not even you.)

[There, I've said it. I've been dying to find a context to say that to an audience of Objectivists ]

Glad to be of service. Did you notice that you were not duly repudiated around here for that? Dayaamm! We've got a lot of improving to do on this forum...

Seriously now, you pointed to two very important issues in responding to literature. You wrote:

Both are mistakes in how to read, use, or gain sustenance from literature (and the other arts) and mistakes in what degree of embrace or distance to take with powerful role models.

This really needs fleshing out - and it is very, very important. I have a few thoughts (logically, since I am an artist), but I have two questions first.

Forget about all the others. And this can go for anybody who wishes to answer, not just you, Phil.

(1) How do you personally use or gain sustenance from literature? (Let's limit this to fiction for the sake of discussion.)

(2) To what degree do you take fictional characters to be powerful role models (or not)? (Rand's characters and others.)

I am not interested in theory here. I am interested in the personal valuing part. the thing that makes you spend your money and spend your time and efforts on it and think deeply about it without anybody telling you to.

This manner of inquiry comes from a conviction. I think it is extremely important to look inside ourselves and see what we actually do before we discuss what we should do.

Michael

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Phil,

I want to add a thought or two to the previous post. You wrote above:

Ayn Rand is not writing realistic fiction but stylized fiction.

To me, this practically cuts to the core of everything you were saying. The real point is about how fiction affects us.

So let's talk about Rand's heroes as role models. Before we discuss what type and to what degree they should be role models, let's do like she did with values. Let's ask why we should take them as role models at all.

There is a grave danger in using literary characters as role models. I think characters can be extremely useful as an alternate form of communication, i.e., another way of the author saying "This is what I mean," but in a non-verbal manner.

Even Rand's definition of art as a "selective recreation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments" hints at this. An art work is not a mold for a person to pour his own personality into and become something else. It exists so we can look at a concrete and say about an idea, "It's like that."

For instance, how much should a man love his own creative work and how much integrity should he have in compromising it? You can say, he should love it more than he regards the opinions of others and he should not compromise it, but when you get out on a job in the real world, you usually have a boss you have to deal with.

Thus an image like Roark taking his plans back and refusing a commission because he would not alter them is a powerful way of looking at a concrete act and saying, "An extreme position on this is possible and that is how it would be."

Whether or not you should do that is something that you have to decide for another context, i.e., the conditions of your own life at that moment, not the conditions of Roark's. If you have a family to feed, for example, then you have a situation he did not have. Then you could divide your work into two areas, somewhat like Rand did when she did odd jobs so she could write, if you feel that your creation demands that level of integrity. If you are doing a job where 6 will do one day and half-a-dozen another, then adopting an attitude like that is sheer boneheadedness. Roark's function is to show you what could and ought to be in his circumstances.

When you mention Roark's one-syllable style of talking, that is not one of the things I personally would not try to emulate from a character like him. However, it is a temptation to focus on non-essentials like that and adopt them, thinking that you are thus adopting the underlying virtues. It is a whole lot easier than the thinking you need to do to get to the principles. To become monosyllabic, you merely have to imitate him.

And this leads to my point. A fictional character serves more as another way to look at a universal truth than as a role model. In the "Writing Techniques" section here on OL, I just talked about Atlas Shrugged basically being a quest plot for Dagny. Seeing her gradual increase of wisdom (and Hank Reardon's) as she goes on her adventures in quest of finding out what is destroying the world is a wonderful way of examining our own mental coming-out-of-the-darkness regarding the destructive results of altruism, both inside ourselves and in others.

This does not mean that being a workaholic is good or that trading the man you love for another higher level producer when he comes along is a good thing. Those aspects are nonessential and completely petty next to the real value Dagny can offer a reader.

There is a fun anti-Rand book, gonzo journalism, that I got a kick out of when I read it, called It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand by Tuccille. He lampooned the girls who would show up at NBI lectures in black capes, dollar sign brooches and long cigarette holders, offering their wares to appropriately attired heroes.

That is how NOT to be influenced by Ms. Dagny Taggart, role model.

This is just a start of a discussion, but I want to know where you want to take this. I see it going off in several directions.

Michael

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Hi, folks.

This is the first I've had time to see what's been going on here in about the last two weeks. The week after New Year's I was mostly occupied with a proofreading task (a very enjoyable one, of a book written by a friend who's a masterful writer -- no complaining about the "task," but it did keep me busy).

Today, just when I thought I'd be free for awhile from projects with deadlines, my husband and I received bad news about an article of his which is pending for inclusion in an encyclopedia (geared to high school students) on science in relation to religion: the bad news was the page proofs from the publisher. The publisher's copyeditor has made changes which water down the thesis of the article -- and which are unacceptable. So I expect I'll be busy again the next week or so, being involved in the back and forth with the publisher.

Meanwhile, I'd like just to say that I found these questions Michael asked interesting, and hope to write about them when I get a chance.

(1) How do you personally use or gain sustenance from literature? (Let's limit this to fiction for the sake of discussion.)

(2) To what degree do you take fictional characters to be powerful role models (or not)? (Rand's characters and others.)

I'm amused by the timing of my reading that first question, because it ties directly to something which occurred at the meeting of the Ayn Rand Society at the American Philosophical Association convention the last week of December. My husband attended. One topic was what Ayn Rand took as a principle from Aristotle's Poetics. As the Aristotelean scholar, John Cooper, who was chairing the meeting pointed out, Aristotle didn't say what AR thought he said about literature showing life as it (might be and) ought to be. What Aristotle actually said literature provides -- in my words, a school of life -- is what I personally have always used literature for; plus for delight in the craft of skilled writing. I hope to have more to say about this later on.

Re question (2), my immediate reaction is to say that I've never taken literary characters -- or even real people -- as role models. I'd have to give that immediate reply more thought. In what sense do you mean, "role models"? What I'm interpreting it as meaning is trying to base one's own personality and actions on a character (or other person). But maybe you mean something less strong than that, something like getting ideas of possibilities. For example, say a woman like Marie Curie might provide a "role model" for a girl in the sense of Madame Curie's having become a scientist in an era when few women pursued scientific careers, and thus providing a positive case in point that could help with the girl's confidence in trying to pursue a scientific career. But this wouldn't be attempting, for instance, to adopt the mannerisms and characteristics portrayed in Greer Garson's film depiction of Madame Curie. The second sort of thing -- aping a fictional character (or real person) -- is what I was assuming you meant when I first read the question.

Ellen

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  • 3 weeks later...

> trying to base one's own personality and actions on a character (or other person). But maybe you mean something less strong than that, something like getting ideas of possibilities. [Ellen]

Hi Ellen, the dictionary simply says that a role model is someone worthy of imitation, or of imitation in a particular role. So that can mean one emulates one aspect of a person's actions or spirit or behavior, but not every aspect. One doesn't feel a necessity to wear a cape or die one's hair to have the same hair coloring as Howard Roark :-). I'm giving a talk on "Heroes and Role Models" at this summer's TOC conference. --Phil

Your Marie Curie example is right on target, but that doesn't mean that a fictional portrayal can't have something worthy of emulation. Or maybe a certain movie actress in all her films portrays emotional intensity or some other characteristic you want to remind yourself to have in your life.

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Phil:

I'm giving a talk on "Heroes and Role Models" at this summer's TOC conference.

Yes, I read your posts about that on RoR; also the thread started by J. J. Tuan's essay. I admit that I'm having trouble relating to the whole issue, and I'll say that I think that my difficulties relating might have profound depths in terms of why I never considered myself "an Objectivist." It seems to me that from the beginning my approach to Rand's writing has always been different from the approach of the Objectivists I've met. It seems to me that what I was looking for, what I was responding to, wasn't what they were. My initial interest in Rand was because of how very good a writer I thought she was (the first book of hers I read was Atlas, in June '61, two years before I learned of the existence of NBI and of the philosophy as such). I think that this difference of approach is proabably related too to my troubles identifying with the importance so many people place on AR's own "moral" status -- vide the current arguments regarding the Valliant book.

In mulling over all this -- though not coming to any "conclusions" I can even properly formulate -- a sentence came to my mind. I'll share the sentence. It was: "What I seek from literature is insight, not inspiration."

Musingly,

Ellen

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Michael:

Ellen,

Why not make your statement in the Objectivist manner? (Er... based on written Objectviism, not the Objectivists.)

"What I seek from literature is a mirror, not a mold."

Well...because seeking "a mirror" isn't what I meant? I don't mean by "insight" a reflection of myself, I mean understanding of the ways of human life. See my comment earlier about Aristotle's actual views on esthetics. (I realize that you were probably joking, but clarifying in case you weren't...)

Ellen

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Ellen,

I suppose I deserved that for being too facile, but you're right: a bit of tongue-in-cheek was also involved.

I haven't read Aristotle in the raw yet about aesthetics, but the most important aesthetic concept I have come across of his, if I understand it correctly, is that of catharsis, which provides tremendous emotional benefit to the spectator. This, of course, is not even covered in Objectivist esthetics (without the "a" for some reason), yet the emotional runoff is completely true. That is a principal source of the feeling of being refreshed or having taken a bath on consuming good art. At least Rand did talk about the importance of climaxes in literature.

Anyway, to go a bit deeper into the mirror idea, I was setting up a divide in my mind where - on one side - people use art to see themselves reflected - not on the surface level, but on a level where they can understand things, even when such things are about unfamiliar people, places and motivations. The reflection is in the approach and not exactly in the character presented.

It would be something like, "I can understand how a person who thought that, or did that, can exist," or "That is partly the way I see the world," or on rejecting an artwork, "That is completely false."

(Just as an inane aside, though, from one angle, ALL artwork is false by definition.)

That epistemological process approach is the reflection I see.

Now on the other side of the divide is what you called "inspiration," which I understand in that context as people using art as something to be emulated. The words Objectivism uses are things like "heroic," "to be looked up to," and so forth. Rand even included volition as the defining characteristic of esthetic type. The danger of this is that it can become a mold - like a rude, antisocial, super-achiever who refuses to feel pain - and you can wreck your life trying to be like that. (I know this from empirical experience.)

What I find interesting is that the "process reflection" or "epistemological mirror" in my sense can include heroes and villains, but also includes so much more. The "inspiration only" angle eliminates the simple pleasures I get from contemplating something without apparent meaning and knowing that the world is a good place to be in and that I belong in it. This last, to me, is one of the major foundations of why art is so important to human beings.

I should do more thinking on this also...

Michael

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Brief thread hijacking wearing my editor hat... (If people want to pursue the subject of current preferred writing style, we should transfer the subject to a thread of its own):

Michael inquires about the dropped a from aesthetics in O'ist writings. There's one where the O'ists were ahead of the curve (though many of them still want to hold out for the generic "man"). Abbreviated diphthongs are becoming preferred styling for Greek words. E.g., how often have you seen in English-language books and articles published during the last about twenty years the spelling "orthopaedics"? Roger at least used to gripe about "esthetics" instead of "aesthetics," but I expect he's fighting a losing battle on that one.

Ellen

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> "What I seek from literature is insight, not inspiration." [Ellen]

Hi Ellen,

Even though I get both from literature, I don't see anything wrong with this. Maybe you already get enough inspiration somewhere else from a different source. Maybe you most desperately need insight. Maybe you are where you need to be and don't need inspiration so much. Maybe you don't find the characters real or admirable. I don't think being an Objectivist is defined as that or about whether or not AR's personal life is of interest to you. It's about agreement or disagreement with the philosophy.

But having said that, I find the debates about who is or is not an O an incredibly dumb waste of time by otherwise intelligent people [i don't mean you but I mean the endless, tedious debates and pulling and tugging over who gets to wear the golden fleece of Objectivism]. (And obviously degrees of fleeciness are possible...so it can be analog not binary). I would rather see people exhaust their neurons thinking about whether they agree with philosophical ideas A, B, C rather than doing the two-step on whether O = A+B+C and a separate step of whether or not they are therefore an O or a non-O.

Complete mental masturbation.

And not even to climax.

Phil

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ellen Stuttle just made the following comment on a thread where I am discussing a book about plot structures in literature:

MSK wrote:

"The issue of society being able to dictate what is proper or not in romance is very strong in Rand’s writing, even from the beginning (see “The Husband I Bought” in The Early Ayn Rand). Rand seemed to have an overly-strong aversion to sexual scandal. She gave extreme importance to it. For example, in Atlas Shrugged, there is a great deal of highlighted secrecy of affairs, then Hank wanted to punch out a casual stranger (during his car trip with Dagny) who insinuated that he was aware of the affair, and Dagny collapsed into tears after her tell-all radio broadcast.

I simply cannot imagine Rand writing about any of the other types of forbidden love, although she did live through an experience of a large age difference and adultery. It is interesting to see how society was an antagonist."

You said a mouthful there, Michael -- although one which would probably be better to discuss on some other thread. IMO, Rand was VERY conventional in her attitudes about sexual relationships. Truth is, this bothered me from the start (since I was very unconventional): I saw resemblances, for instance, between Dagny's and Fransisco's "forest glade" first encounter and my own relationship at the time with a certain person, but...(see my post about Rand's characters, if considered as real persons: I couldn't imagine myself being so ignorant as Dagny apparently was -- she's even presented as surprised that she could be interested in an activity she'd vaguely heard of others participating in).

Rand grew up in a Russian cultural scene. She seems to me, though in one respect to have rebelled against the mores, in other respects to have accepted them. And I wonder if Anna Karenina, which she read in highschool -- and hated -- didn't leave a lasting residue of fear of what would happen to the woman in society-flaunting, publicly-known circumstances. The odd thing is, for instance, that at the time of the break between her and Nathaniel, "society" -- the then-"in" mores -- were at the height of "sexual liberation." And yet she feared what the public would think. In truth, there probably wouldn't have been a more auspicious time, in terms of her winning points with cultural leading lights of the era, for her to have been upfront about her unconventional relationship. What I think is that basically she didn't sympathize with "bohemianism" or anything resembling it.

Ellen

As I believe that attitude toward sexuality is one of the critical factors in the impact a role model has on a person, then this discussion is extremely pertinent here.

Most of the Objectivists I have interacted with are very outspoken about freedom of sexuality, yet seem as uptight as any 18th century Puritan in their own lives - and in their condemnatory attitudes toward people (other than Rand) who exercise sexual options not sanctioned by society. The sole exception is that homosexuality is starting to gain a bit of acceptance, but certainly not in all Objectivist quarters.

I wonder if this attitude I observe is a reflection on their adopting Rand's view by imitating her own attitudes, even where they were at odds with some of her stated views.

Frankly, this posture seems to be a very safe one for people who are afraid to live. A person can SAY that he is open-minded, moral and whatnot, and he can condemn others to his heart's content, but he can LIVE according to a different standard - a SAFE one. It takes guts to openly (with emphasis on this word "openly") practice what you preach.

I can think of no greater example of the principle of "sanction of the victim" than letting society dictate your sexual life IN ACTION, while you profess to believe otherwise.

If this seems like I am being harsh on Rand, it is because I sincerely believe that these kinds of mixed signals that she sometimes put out (especially as a role model) need to be identified and dismissed so that her many good ideas can better flourish.

People who ape Ayn Rand's weaknesses impair the spread of her strong ideas by being a horrible example (and role model) for others to look at.

Michael

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MSK wrote:

Most of the Objectivists I have interacted with are very outspoken about freedom of sexuality, yet seem as uptight as any 18th century Puritan in their own lives - and in their condemnatory attitudes toward people (other than Rand) who exercise sexual options not sanctioned by society. The sole exception is that homosexuality is starting to gain a bit of acceptance, but certainly not in all Objectivist quarters.

I wonder if this attitude I observe is a reflection on their adopting Rand's view by imitating her own attitudes, even where they were at odds with some of her stated views.

I think there is an aspect of imitating, but that often there's also a pre-proclivity. I commented on an earlier thread (I've forgotten which one by now) about a tendency toward self-righteousness which predates their discovering Rand in a number of those who end up identifying themselves as Objectivists. There's also, I think, a tendency toward staidness, toward what I'd call, in personal shorthand, "goody-goodiness." I refer again to the characterization of Eddie Willers as an example: "whatever is right." Now, no, I'm not keen on doing "what's wrong," but stating "whatever is right" as one's goal in life? Ick. The moral sternness and straight-lacedness comes through as an attitude in Atlas especially amongst her novels. Whereas this attitude didn't appeal to me, I think it did appeal to a noticeable percentage of those who ended up wanting to use the label "Objectivist." There are a lot of reasons because of which one might be interested by Rand and attracted to her philosophy; but as you've pointed out yourself, Michael, in your "love/hate myth" post and elsewhere, the vast majority of people who admire Rand in various ways don't become "card-carrying." I'll add that amongst those who specifically identify themselves as "Objectivists," there are further breakdowns amongst those who are concerned with purity and those who are looser in their approach (this isn't an identical line of difference as that between the "closed" and "open" school interpretations, though it's related).

Ellen

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  • 4 years later...

This thread was linked to by Ninth Doctor on the "Atlas Shrugged Movie - June Production" thread. On reading through the posts, I notice a question I overlooked or forgot to reply to. Not anything significant, but just for the record: No, I never was involved in The Laissez Faire Electronic Times circle, and don't recall ever even hearing of it or of J. Orlin Grabbe, though maybe I've come across these names somewhere I'm not remembering.

My exchanges with Russ Madden were mostly on the WeTheLiving family of lists (also the later Atlantis II) and Thomas Gramstadt's RandFeminism list (or whatever it was called), on which the post starting this thread originally appeared.

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

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just now discovered this thread. It was interesting to read the variety of responses concerning the character Howard Roark. I recently read The Fountainhead for my “Nietzsche v. Rand” study here at OL. I had read it originally in 1967 (maybe twice), then in 1983, then in 2010. I was a bit shocked in this recent reading at how much more complex and self-reflective was the character Roark in the book than in my memory. I like the Roark that is actually in the text a lot.

I still think it is a great book for young people to read as they are leaving home and entering the world. However, there is a lot I would gently add, from my work experience, when talking to them about career planning and what individual ideal they might make for themselves.

Ellen, am I correct in thinking that the title “Who Is Dagny Taggart?” in your root post refers to Charles Wieder’s essay in Objectivity?

“Who is Dagny Taggart?” by Charles Wieder

I. Intersection of Rationality and Romance

II. Dagny Taggart v. The Mythological Atlas

III. Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greek Myth: Parity?

IV. The Artist’s Sense of Life in Rand’s Imagery and Theory

V. Problems in Deriving Philosophy from Art

VI. Objectivism Exemplified in John Galt—and Dagny Taggart?

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Ellen, am I correct in thinking that the title “Who Is Dagny Taggart?” in your root post refers to Charles Wieder’s essay in Objectivity?

“Who is Dagny Taggart?” by Charles Wieder

I. Intersection of Rationality and Romance

II. Dagny Taggart v. The Mythological Atlas

III. Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greek Myth: Parity?

IV. The Artist’s Sense of Life in Rand’s Imagery and Theory

V. Problems in Deriving Philosophy from Art

VI. Objectivism Exemplified in John Galt—and Dagny Taggart?

No. As hinted in the prefacing comments ("Thank you, Karen, for examining Rand as a culture-myth creator."), the essay I was referencing was Karen Michalson's "Who Is Dagny Taggart? The Epic Hero/ine in Disguise," from Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand. The discussion list was going systematically through the essays in that volume.

I've met Charles Wieder -- only once I think. Larry knows him, though I don't think they've been in touch for years. There was some history of dissension between Charles and Karen about origination and working out of the Dagny-as-mythic-archetype theme. I've forgotten the details. Also details of divergence between the two pieces.

Ellen

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