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I told her that I liked The Fountainhead and she asked what I thought about the philosophy, the theories in the novel. I said that I didn't know there was any philosophy in it, and she said, then how can you say that you liked it. I said, because I loved the story. It was fascinating. She got mad and she left, and I never heard from her after that. It was her philosophy that she was so proud of.

Did you disagree with some of her philosophy?

Oh yes, I did. I just disagreed with the fact that philosophy was the most important element. She stood there leaning on the mantelpiece giving me the evil eye. She really disliked me when I said it. She was very proud.

Is that what Howard Roark would do? Would he get so upset about what someone else thought that he'd give them the stink eye, leave the event in a huff, and never contact the offender again? It sounds like the behavior of someone to whom others' opinions are very important.

She complained to Nathaniel Branden that John Galt would know what to do, but she didn't. This was about her depression, I think. Or her critics which savaged her great novel in their reviews.

Of course others' opinions were very important to her. (That is, whom she considered important people.) She wanted an affair hidden from the view of all but the four principals. NB said she seemed much more conventional in her personal life than the radicalism of her philosophy. By keeping the affair private but sharing explicit knowledge of it with the principals she could live the lie it reflected her great integrity. The opposite was true and Barbara Branden said it would have been better if they had hidden it from everybody for the effect it had on her and Frank at least, if not Ayn and Nathaniel. (All after "everybody for the effect it had" is my supposition, not Barbara's as stated by her.)

--Brant

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I told her that I liked The Fountainhead and she asked what I thought about the philosophy, the theories in the novel. I said that I didn't know there was any philosophy in it, and she said, then how can you say that you liked it. I said, because I loved the story. It was fascinating. She got mad and she left, and I never heard from her after that. It was her philosophy that she was so proud of.

Did you disagree with some of her philosophy?

Oh yes, I did. I just disagreed with the fact that philosophy was the most important element. She stood there leaning on the mantelpiece giving me the evil eye. She really disliked me when I said it. She was very proud.

Is that what Howard Roark would do? Would he get so upset about what someone else thought that he'd give them the stink eye, leave the event in a huff, and never contact the offender again? It sounds like the behavior of someone to whom others' opinions are very important.

J

Jiminy-criminy, and here I'd thought that you'd pick up on the difference between Rand's response as described and her self-statement in "The Goal of My Writing."

It's part of Rand's self-description that she read and wrote for the story (see "The Goal of My Writing"), and she named as the chief requirement for a good Romantic novel "plot, plot, and more plot."

But I think that what she wrote for, much more than for simply the story, was the message. And that message-dominance becomes so top-heavy in Atlas Shrugged as to direct, and even overwhelm the flow of story.

Message-dominance hadn't become that top-heavy in The Fountainhead. Maybe thousands of readers enjoyed The Fountainhead in the way this woman (the original of Peter Keating) said she did - for the story, never mind the philosophy. But Rand, who later said --

Romantic Manifesto

1975 Signet Second Revised Edition

pg. 156

[...] I approach literature as a child does: I write - and read - for the sake of the story.

--

gets angry and leaves the house (assuming the report is accurate) at being told that someone read and enjoyed The Fountainhead simply for the story.

Ellen

PS: Note that the name is spelled "Bannett" in the 100 Voices interview.

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Peter Reidy posted this information on a different thread:

Interesting sidelight to the Rabwin discussion: she (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcella_Rabwin) was fairly well-known in her own right. Her husband was the doctor who delivered Judy Garland. According to one biography, he had some months earlier talked her mother out of having an abortion.

Ellen

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I told her that I liked The Fountainhead and she asked what I thought about the philosophy, the theories in the novel. I said that I didn't know there was any philosophy in it, and she said, then how can you say that you liked it. I said, because I loved the story. It was fascinating. She got mad and she left, and I never heard from her after that. It was her philosophy that she was so proud of.Did you disagree with some of her philosophy?

Oh yes, I did. I just disagreed with the fact that philosophy was the most important element. She stood there leaning on the mantelpiece giving me the evil eye. She really disliked me when I said it. She was very proud.

Is that what Howard Roark would do? Would he get so upset about what someone else thought that he'd give them the stink eye, leave the event in a huff, and never contact the offender again? It sounds like the behavior of someone to whom others' opinions are very important.

J

Jiminy-criminy, and here I'd thought that you'd pick up on the difference between Rand's response as described and her self-statement in "The Goal of My Writing."

It's part of Rand's self-description that she read and wrote for the story (see "The Goal of My Writing"), and she named as the chief requirement for a good Romantic novel "plot, plot, and more plot."

But I think that what she wrote for, much more than for simply the story, was the message. And that message-dominance becomes so top-heavy in Atlas Shrugged as to direct, and even overwhelm the flow of story.

Message-dominance hadn't become that top-heavy in The Fountainhead. Maybe thousands of readers enjoyed The Fountainhead in the way this woman (the original of Peter Keating) said she did - for the story, never mind the philosophy. But Rand, who later said --

Romantic Manifesto

1975 Signet Second Revised Edition

pg. 156

[...] I approach literature as a child does: I write - and read - for the sake of the story.

--

gets angry and leaves the house (assuming the report is accurate) at being told that someone read and enjoyed The Fountainhead simply for the story.

Ellen

PS: Note that the name is spelled "Bannett" in the 100 Voices interview.

Yes, it appears that Rand was intent on being pissed off no matter what compliment she received. If you wanted to praise her work, apparently you had better give the exact reasons for liking it that she arbitrarily wanted to hear that day.

It's yet another example of the hair-triggered temper that her ARIan airbrushers claim didn't exist.

J

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I don't trust that woman's story about Rand's comportment in her home. Not a bit of it. Not even that Rand was even there. For the last I'd need some collaboration. That done I still wouldn't trust what was left. I would have had to have been there personally before I'd ever say this was evidence of Rand this or Rand that. I trust what Barbara Branden saw and experienced and wrote and talked about and what I saw of Rand in public, not that Hollywood twit.

Let's watch out for confirmation bias that Rand was a bad person proved by current conversations about unwitnessed by us past events.

--Brant

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Let's watch out for confirmation bias that Rand was a bad person proved by current conversations about unwitnessed by us past events.

Unlike Jonathan - who I think is missing the interesting issue relating to Rand as writer - I don't see the story told as unflattering to Rand - and, unlike you, I do believe that Rand called the woman instead of meeting her by chance, as Barbara thought happened.

The 100 Voices interview testifies that Rand wrote to the woman at least twice, once in 1936, a letter which McConnell describes as "seem[ing] very grateful to [bannett] for helping her," and once the letter you saw for sale on eBay.

About the issue of story in literature (and film), a letter Rand wrote in 1934 regarding Red Pawn is illuminating. I'll type in a part from that in awhile before continuing with the biographers' accounts of Rand's getting the idea for The Fountainhead.

Ellen

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I told her that I liked The Fountainhead and she asked what I thought about the philosophy, the theories in the novel. I said that I didn't know there was any philosophy in it, and she said, then how can you say that you liked it. I said, because I loved the story. It was fascinating. She got mad and she left, and I never heard from her after that. It was her philosophy that she was so proud of.

Did you disagree with some of her philosophy?

Oh yes, I did. I just disagreed with the fact that philosophy was the most important element. She stood there leaning on the mantelpiece giving me the evil eye. She really disliked me when I said it. She was very proud.

Is that what Howard Roark would do? Would he get so upset about what someone else thought that he'd give them the stink eye, leave the event in a huff, and never contact the offender again? It sounds like the behavior of someone to whom others' opinions are very important.

J

It sounds like how Dominique would react in terms of walking out and never dealing with the person

again.

Perhaps Ayn was acting like a "woman."

Vanity...philosophical, or, physical...thy name is ...

A...

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It sounds like how Dominique would react in terms of walking out and never dealing with the person again.

Adam,

Are you grasping who the woman was, that she was the original for Peter Keating?

What I find interesting in regard to the personal relationship is Rand's continuing gratitude for Bannett's help with placing Red Pawn, and her pursuing an acquaintance at all. Indicative of more charitableness on Rand's part than she's generally thought of as having.

I'm reminded of something Burns said to the effect that if you displeased Rand, you were frozen out. But the example she gave was from my husband's Full Context interview, an instance where he irritated Rand, briefly (one of several such incidents over the span of some years). And he was not frozen out. He was a participant in the epistemology workshops and although he'd originally been invited just as an observer, he was subsequently permitted to ask questions.

Ellen

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Adam,

Are you grasping who the woman was, that she was the original for Peter Keating?

Ellen

Ellen:

Thanks for talking down to me.

Yes, I am quite aware of who her neighbor was and that she was the "inspiration" for Peter Keating's

character.

My quick comment was directed at the observation by the Bannert woman that Ayn gave her the "evil eye" and walked out, never to return.

To me, that type of action is part of Ayn's persona.

Did Ayn not say that Dominique was herself in a bad mood.

A...

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Unlike Jonathan - who I think is missing the interesting issue relating to Rand as writer ...

No, I'm not missing the issue. Bannett praised Rand's novel for exactly what Rand claimed was important to her as a writer -- the story -- yet Rand blew a gasket anyway. So, apparently either "the story" was not the goal of Rand's writing, but rather the message was, or Rand just liked to be pissed off and therefore went out looking for reasons to feel insulted and misunderstood.

J

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Adam,

Are you grasping who the woman was, that she was the original for Peter Keating?

Ellen

Ellen:Thanks for talking down to me.

How was it talking down? No way I could tell from what you said if you'd read the earlier posts and knew who the woman was.

Yes, I am quite aware of who her neighbor was and that she was the "inspiration" for Peter Keating's character.

My quick comment was directed at the observation by the Bannert woman that Ayn gave her the "evil eye" and walked out, never to return.

To me, that type of action is part of Ayn's persona.

It doesn't seem to me that much part of her persona, and what seems odd to me, considering the kind of character she based on this woman, is that she initiated contact with her and accepted a dinner invitation.

Did Ayn not say that Dominique was herself in a bad mood.

According to Barbara, Ayn added when talking to close friends. "Or Frank if he were a woman." I'd forgotten that detail from Barbara's biography until I looked up Barbara's telling of the story of how Ayn got the idea for the book.

Ellen

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Unlike Jonathan - who I think is missing the interesting issue relating to Rand as writer ...

No, I'm not missing the issue. Bannett praised Rand's novel for exactly what Rand claimed was important to her as a writer -- the story -- yet Rand blew a gasket anyway. So, apparently either "the story" was not the goal of Rand's writing, but rather the message was, or Rand just liked to be pissed off and therefore went out looking for reasons to feel insulted and misunderstood.

J

I've never seen indications of Rand's doing the second. She developed a short fuse over the years, but she'd cool off as quickly as she exploded, sometimes within the span of a sentence, and she'd apologize if she thought she'd blown up unjustly - or sometimes, on second thought, realize that she might have misunderstood a question and say something to the effect, "But perhaps the questioner meant...," and proceed to address the alternate possibility.

What I thought the scene indicated (assuming that Bannett, Mrs. Rabwin by then, described it accurately) was the discrepancy between what Rand said her goal was in her writing and her anger at the philosophy being disregarded.

This is especially interesting in light of a letter I came across which Rand wrote in 1934, a section of which I'll quote in the next post.

Ellen

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"tiers or layers of depth"

On looking up references to Red Pawn in the Letters volume, I came across a long letter in which Rand discusses her idea of "building the plot of a story in such a manner that it possesses tiers or layers of depth."

Letters

1995, A Dutton Book

pp. 7-8

Editor's preface:

To Kenneth MacGowan, a film producer and director whose credits included Little Women (1933) and Anne of Green Gables (1934). In 1947, he became chairman if the UCLA theater department.

May 18, 1934

[....] The novelty of what I propose to do - and I believe it is a novelty, for I have never seen it done deliberately - consists in the following: in building the plot of a story in such a manner that it possesses tiers or layers of depth, so that each type of audience can understand and enjoy only as much of it as it wants to understand and enjoy, in other words so that each man can get out of it only as much as he can put into it. This must be done in such a manner that one and the same story can stand as a story without any of its deeper implications, so that those who do not care to be, will not be burdened with any intellectual or artistic angles, and yet those who do care for them will get those angles looking at exactly the same material.

If the plot of a story is simple and understandable enough to be interesting, alone, by itself, to even the lowest type of mentality, if it has the plain elements that can appeal to all, and if, at the same time, that plot carries a deeper meaning, a significance which can be reached only by the highest, then the problem is solved. I must emphasize once more that it is not merely a matter of a plain story - for the sake of the "lowbrow" - artistically presented for the sake of the "highbrow." It is a matter of the plot, the story, the very meat of the film arranged ingeniously enough to satisfy both. Is there any reason why a story cannot be built in such a way that it is convincing and interesting to those who cannot analyze it and yet just as convincing to those who can?

[she illustrates "on the example of Red Pawn.] [....] It does not require a great deal of mental effort to be held by the suspense, first, of the woman's mystery, then of her growing predicament, then of her solution of the problem. Those who cannot go any further will be held merely by these physical facts of the plot as it develops, merely by the most primitive suspense of the story, by the quality they would enjoy in a plain serial.

But those who can see further, will have before them the spectacle of a rather unusual emotional crisis involving the three characters of the story, and the picture of a life and conditions which they have not seen very often.

Those who want to go still further, will see the philosophical problem of the main figure in the story - the Commandant of the prison island - the clash of his belief in a stern duty above all with the belief in a right to the joy of living above all, as exemplified by the woman. And this clash is not merely a matter of details and dialogue. It is an inseparable part of the very basic plot itself.

[she goes on to say that normally "an attempt at philosophy in a motion picture" would be enough "to frighten everyone away from it," but if the philosophy can be done in such a way that it doesn't intrude on the enjoyment of those who aren't interested in the philosophic aspects, "well, then, why not?"]

Ellen

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Ellen:Thanks for talking down to me.

How was it talking down? No way I could tell from what you said if you'd read the earlier posts and knew who the woman was.

Ellen

No problem, you know how thin skinned us modern metrosexual males can be...

A...

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Ellen,

Thank you for drawing attention to the letter excerpted in #38. I looked it up in the book. Rand’s appreciation and developing of plots that can appeal to ranges of intellect in the audience is squarely fine. In talking about fiction, there and later, she greatly stresses plot, as most everyone here knows. Yet characters are also a draw for audiences of wide scope. We and our ancestors long back have been arrested by stories, but also by meeting the characters in them. I recall the orphan girl at the end of the movie Days of Heaven. She is escaping from the orphanage and again hitting the road, saying in narration “maybe I’ll meet some sort of character.” That was treasure she carried from the story just past, and it is treasure of our life stories.

The story of Job is interesting, but so is meeting, in imagination, this character, with whom many readers or listeners can identify to some extent. The characters in stories can vividly present human nature, with different receivers getting different amounts of what is on show. Last evening we watched a 1945 film Brief Encounter. There is a story for our experiencing with two people their falling in love in tragic circumstances. The particulars of the story are for enactment of those characters’ awakening of love, its earthquake, and in their case, its sorrow. This film was a box-office success.

Rand’s focus in this letter is on plot and its layers for audiences. But she had or came to have some knowing of the draw by characters and of various depths of their appreciation. She realized, sooner or later, that she wanted to create some characters she could admire and adore, and she realized she wanted to create positive characters readers would like to meet (and some characters holding interest or entertainment besides those).

All of these aspirations, I should say, seem in principle synergistic with the manifest ideological purposes in her fiction. Three years after her letter, Rand wrote Anthem. Yes, a drawing story, but also a character not foreign to the eventual many, many readers.

Stephen

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Ellen

No problem, you know how thin skinned us modern metrosexual males can be...

A...

I thought it was all males. :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

Seriously, peace be upon us.

Ellen

There's a problem.

I didn't sign off on this.

--Brant

hate to spoil your party

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It's hard to believe Rand actually structured her stories this way. All she seems to be saying is she's combining action and philosophy and every dolt who can read can get the action and be happy happy, happy. What I was hoping for was more the mechanics of plot construction.

For all her intelligence, sheer writing ability and long association with Rand, Barbara Branden had the most difficulty with that and appreciated how much of Rand's life seemed to be a well plotted, climatic novel. It was, but that plot needed Nathaniel Branden so the orthodoxy never got to appreciate that with the ironic result of Ayn Rand falling out of their hands leaving a sock puppet behind.

--Brant

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Rand's forte and method was a logical, plausible 'What if?'

Authors generally regarded as literary greats -- Hemingway, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Salinger, Joyce never considered 'What if?'

Pop stars Rowling, King, Poe, Vonnegut, Adams, Azimov are fantasy merchants. Anything goes, the goofier the better.

Trick plots: O Henry, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.H. Munro, H.G. Wells, Joseph Heller, G.K. Chesterton

Hard-headed realism: Raymond Chandler, C.S. Forester, James Clavell, Truman Capote, Mario Puzo, Honoré de Balzac

Juvenile: Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, Jean M. Auel, J.R.R. Tolkien, A.A. Milne, C.S. Lewis, George Orwell

If I had to pick two authors similar to Ayn Rand, I'd say RLS and Jules Verne

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I want a plot in a story. I never had much interest in literary greats except a little in Dickens. Three quarters of the way through The Brothers Karamozov I suddenly lost all interest in the characters and I never finished the novel. Fortunately, I had already read the speech of The Grand Inquisitor. I only read three Hugo novels, Les Mis., Toilers of the Sea and Ninety-Three. His poetry in English obviously needs to be read in the original French. ("Who is the greatest French poet?" "Victor Hugo, alas.")

--Brant

Rand was my one doorway into serious fiction and, yes, she was a great writer of fiction and that means she is a great literary figure even though Atlas Shrugged creaks more with each passing year because cigarettes, passenger railroads and typewriters are passe and so too the psychological-political ignorance upon which the plot is constructed and the world of absolutism extended too far off its justified, metaphysical base (reality is absolute but humans have some latitude for messing around with it out of ignorance by paying the price of being wrong [bumping into things and saying "ouch!"])

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"tiers or layers of depth"

On looking up references to Red Pawn in the Letters volume, I came across a long letter in which Rand discusses her idea of "building the plot of a story in such a manner that it possesses tiers or layers of depth."

Letters

1995, A Dutton Book

pp. 7-8

Editor's preface:

To Kenneth MacGowan, a film producer and director whose credits included Little Women (1933) and Anne of Green Gables (1934). In 1947, he became chairman if the UCLA theater department.

May 18, 1934

[....] The novelty of what I propose to do - and I believe it is a novelty, for I have never seen it done deliberately - consists in the following: in building the plot of a story in such a manner that it possesses tiers or layers of depth, so that each type of audience can understand and enjoy only as much of it as it wants to understand and enjoy, in other words so that each man can get out of it only as much as he can put into it. This must be done in such a manner that one and the same story can stand as a story without any of its deeper implications, so that those who do not care to be, will not be burdened with any intellectual or artistic angles, and yet those who do care for them will get those angles looking at exactly the same material.

If the plot of a story is simple and understandable enough to be interesting, alone, by itself, to even the lowest type of mentality, if it has the plain elements that can appeal to all, and if, at the same time, that plot carries a deeper meaning, a significance which can be reached only by the highest, then the problem is solved. I must emphasize once more that it is not merely a matter of a plain story - for the sake of the "lowbrow" - artistically presented for the sake of the "highbrow." It is a matter of the plot, the story, the very meat of the film arranged ingeniously enough to satisfy both. Is there any reason why a story cannot be built in such a way that it is convincing and interesting to those who cannot analyze it and yet just as convincing to those who can?

[she illustrates "on the example of Red Pawn.] [....] It does not require a great deal of mental effort to be held by the suspense, first, of the woman's mystery, then of her growing predicament, then of her solution of the problem. Those who cannot go any further will be held merely by these physical facts of the plot as it develops, merely by the most primitive suspense of the story, by the quality they would enjoy in a plain serial.

But those who can see further, will have before them the spectacle of a rather unusual emotional crisis involving the three characters of the story, and the picture of a life and conditions which they have not seen very often.

Those who want to go still further, will see the philosophical problem of the main figure in the story - the Commandant of the prison island - the clash of his belief in a stern duty above all with the belief in a right to the joy of living above all, as exemplified by the woman. And this clash is not merely a matter of details and dialogue. It is an inseparable part of the very basic plot itself.

[she goes on to say that normally "an attempt at philosophy in a motion picture" would be enough "to frighten everyone away from it," but if the philosophy can be done in such a way that it doesn't intrude on the enjoyment of those who aren't interested in the philosophic aspects, "well, then, why not?"]

Ellen
If only Artistically Spent Old Ayn Rand had reviewed the ideas of Innovative Artistic Explorer Young Ayn Rand before writing the manifesto/universal rulebook on art! Damn, what a refreshing surprise to see Rand writing about each reader getting out of a work of art as much as he puts into it -- and embracing the idea to the point of being eager to construct her art specifically to serve that purpose -- as opposed to asserting that there is one objectively correct subject, one theme and one meaning in any work of art, and that if they can't be identified, then the work ceases to be art. Young Rand wasn't just tolerant of "the lowest type of mentality," but was excited about finding a way to alter her method of creating art so as to accommodate it!

Wow. I think that certain Objectivists reading those thoughts from 1934, without being told who wrote them, would think that they were written by some evil Kantian socialist destroyer fraudster, especially the bits like "not be burdened with any intellectual or artistic angles." They've been trained to be so burdened, and to burden everyone "beneath" them with recitations of each artwork's "true" meaning.

J

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Ellen

No problem, you know how thin skinned us modern metrosexual males can be...

A...

I thought it was all males. :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

Seriously, peace be upon us.

Ellen

And I thought that all men are whales...lol

Fair enough, peace be upon us.

A...

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Ellen,

Thank you for drawing attention to the letter excerpted in #38. I looked it up in the book.

I found it a fascinating letter, with its clearly presented description of how she was thinking about writing at that time.

Incidentally, I've long wished that Red Pawn, the specific story she was trying to get filmed, had been done as a movie. Something else which it displays - besides her "tier" method, and her non-standard treatment of an old story type - is her incredible ability to visualize. There are vivid scenes in the screenplay which I see in inner space and would like to see well done in external form.

Rand’s focus in this letter is on plot and its layers for audiences. But she had or came to have some knowing of the draw by characters and of various depths of their appreciation. She realized, sooner or later, that she wanted to create some characters she could admire and adore, and she realized she wanted to create positive characters readers would like to meet (and some characters holding interest or entertainment besides those).

A feature of The Fountainhead is that she started with a character who produced an idea, instead of an idea which produced characters. She experienced a major "eureka!" event in forming the character Peter Keating from observations of a real person. She drew gargantuan conclusions in enormous entwined spheres and levels of connections. Her conclusions weren't necessarily accurate, but something her story has done has been to teach many who have taken Rand as exactly portraying truth to see examples of Keating and other "second-handlers" all around them.

Ellen

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