Friday, February 5, 2010

Shooing Away Potential Fountainhead Fans

By Joseph Kellard

I wrote and sent the following reply to a so-called book reviewer of "The Fountainhead" -- whose denigrating comments about the novel were posted on the website of Tehelka, described as India's Independent weekly news magazine.

To Samrat Chakrabarti:

In an effort to get your readers not to read certain books, among them my favorite novel “The Fountainhead," you write:

“Ayn Rand Memo to the young Indian — Ayn Rand is not a philosopher and The Fountainhead is not the philosophical El-dorado, in fact we are not sure there is one. People are not made of cardboard, a good argument needs rigour and philosophy begins with an acknowledgement both of the complex world we live in and the paradoxes of the human condition. Rape is not the same as passion, ambition is not the measure of man and an aggressive, no-holds-barred individualism as a personal philosophy is particularly attractive during years of heightened hormonal confusion.”

First, Objectivism offers inquiring minds a comprehensive philosophy, from metaphysics to ethics to esthetics. Your readers should read "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand," by Leonard Peikoff, to fully understand the absurdity of your claim. The discerning reader will understand why, when they come across life’s complexities and contradictions, that there can be and are answers and that there is, as Ayn Rand called Objectivism, "a philosophy for living on earth."

Moreover, the characters in her novels are anything but cardboard – Miss Rand sheds the deadening, mind-numbing details that naturalist writers employ in their novels to supposedly make them more "realistic," and instead focuses on the essentials aspects of the particular type of human being that she wanted to portrait -- and in the process her novels made some very perceptive and even innovative observations, such as the second-handedness of Peter Keating.

As to the alleged "rape" scene in The Fountainhead, you should point your readers to an excellent essay, "Understanding the 'rape' Scene in The Fountainhead," by Andrew Bernstein, in "Essays on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead,” which explains why Roark’s first sexual encounter with Dominique was anything but rape.

Lastly, I’ll address just the most important of your parting slights. It’s a slight that is best encapsulated by the person who read Miss Rand’s books in their youth and says: "I used to like Ayn Rand, but then I grew up." No, you gave up!

"The Fountainhead" was the first book that I ever read by Ayn Rand, back in my mid-20s, when I used to read a slew of novels by naturalist writers. By the end of the novel I was totally captivated by Roark -- and Ayn Rand and, later, her philosophy of Objectivism. I went on to read all of her books.

I can confidently say that reading the “The Fountainhead” started the long, roller-coaster ride process of changing around my troubled life for the better when I was still young. That’s primarily due to the fact that Miss Rand wasn’t a journalistic, naturalistic-type writer, but rather a romantic realist who created heroic characters as they could be and ought to be. If reading “The Fountainhead” had that profound impact on me, then it can do the same for the very readers you’re trying to shoo away from this great, philosophic, life-changing novel.

~ Joseph Kellard
East Meadow NY


Henry said...

I would like to 2nd Mr. Kellard's comments with regard to my own life. Don't push aside the chance to reach for the highest potential that is possible to you. You have only one life, don't let anyone's superficial comments let you miss the chance to decide the value of Objectivism by your own first-hand thinking. In my view, Objectivism is the greatest philosophical achievement since Aristotle.

Michael M said...


Excellent rebuttal!

And "No, you gave up!" is a line I will be quoting you on. It's an attention grabbing lead into explaining that the renovation of one's own philosophy requires serious effort over years, not weeks.

Also, it is not necessary that everyone be one of Rand's "new intellectuals" leading the cultural metamorphosis in order to achieve it. Through the blogs, one can see an incredible number of ways and degrees in which those who read the novels embrace some or most of her ideas while keeping others at arm's length.

Simultaneously, of course, they also provide us with instant access to clip their false assumptions before they flower.

Joseph Kellard said...

Henry and Michael: Thank you for your good words about my post.

Anonymous said...

Solid response! Excellent! I'm glad you responded publicly and thank you for sharing here. I benefit from the clarity of your thoughts and enjoy your style.
Elizabeth Michiels

Joseph Kellard said...

Elizabeth: Thank you for your reply and good words.

~ J