By Joseph Kellard
My sister, nephew and his friend, Evan, who had never been to New York City before, visited me from Virginia recently. Acting as amateur tour guide, I drove them around Manhattan one Saturday. Once we made it into the city from the Triborough Bridge, Evan, who is 14, expressed awe at the size of some large, modern apartment buildings. As we drove through mid-town, he kept looking upward out the back window. (I was reminded of that line from the first letter in the book "Letters of Ayn Rand": "I am so Americanized that I can walk in the streets without raising my head to look at the skyscrapers.")
Among our stops or the places we passed were Park Avenue, the Metropolitan Museum, Central Park, Trump Tower, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, the GE Building, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Flatiron Building, McSorley's Old Ale House, Wall Street, the still undeveloped property where the Twin Towers once stood, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge.
I noticed Evan continued to take particular interest in the buildings, and he revealed that he wants to be an architect. So later, back on Long Island, I handed him a copy of the 25th Anniversary edition of "The Fountainhead," whose cover features Frank O'Conner's wonderful painting "Man Also Rises." I told Evan he may be too young to understand the book. If so, I suggested he pick it up again in a few years.
Evan told me that his mother's boyfriend had already suggested that he read the novel; that it had "changed his life." (Sound familiar?) Evan also said he liked to read and enjoyed books about "psychology." I said that the novel is very philosophical. He thanked me, and said that after reading the description on the back cover, it sounded interesting.
Afterward, I thought about the young man on the bike who meets Howard Roark while he sits on a boulder overlooking a valley dotted with summer resort homes that he created. No, I didn't create "The Fountainhead," but giving it to a youth like Evan nevertheless reminded me of that famous line from that scene at Monadnock Valley: "Roark looked after him. He had never seen that boy before and he would never see him again. He did not know that he had given someone the courage to face a lifetime."
Joseph Kellard is a journalist and columnist living in New York.
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