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Friday, October 30, 2009

Rand Without Tears

Adam Hirsch has a well-written review in this Sunday's New York Times Book Review of Anne C. Heller's new biography, Ayn Rand and the World She Made.  This is one of two recent bios of Rand.  The review is worth a look (especially for those who, like Tom Townsend in Metropolitan, prefer literary criticism to novels and, presumably, book reviews to books).  I was a Rand fan as a youth, until my hard edge was blunted by a fortuitously-timed lost weekend in Montreal and my first encounter with Kerouac's writing.  (Apparently, it takes a cliche to beat a cliche.)  I still reread her epic novels from time to time, without shame or caveat, and still find them alternately gripping and awful.  But I like this paragraph from Hirsch, which I think accurately captures some of her attraction:

Rand’s particular intellectual contribution, the thing that makes her so popular and so American, is the way she managed to mass market elitism — to convince so many people, especially young people, that they could be geniuses without being in any concrete way distinguished. Or, rather, that they could distinguish themselves by the ardor of their commitment to Rand’s teaching. The very form of her novels makes the same point: they are as cartoonish and sexed-up as any best seller, yet they are constantly suggesting that the reader who appreciates them is one of the elect.

Posted by Paul Horwitz on October 30, 2009 at 02:12 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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That extract makes me think of scientology.

Posted by: keitht | Oct 30, 2009 3:18:59 PM

Adam Kirsch, not Hirsch. "Adam Kirsch is a senior editor at The New Republic and a columnist for Tablet Magazine. He is the author, most recently, of 'Benjamin Disraeli.'"

Posted by: anon | Oct 31, 2009 11:20:46 PM

Quite right. Thanks for the correction.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Nov 1, 2009 12:49:28 PM

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