This another post from my personal blog: http://atrainv.wordpress.com.
Title: The Fountainhead
Author: Ayn Rand
Imprint: Plume (2005)
(Request pending for OPAC)
I just finished reading a book I’d been putting off for years. Partly because of its exorbitant length, but also because I have a tendency to purposefully neglect books that are commonly espoused as “must-read-classics.” Yes, I can be that stubborn.
I finally caved in a few months ago, however.
I have a tradition of buying a new book every time I go downtown with my Social Psych students as they work on their experiments for their first assignment. I went into the bookstore and saw this one cradling the barrier between the Fiction and Philosophy sections. I thought to myself, “Well, I guess it’s time.”
Anyways, I’m glad to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite my stubborn anti-snobbism (which is really just being a snob myself). It was refreshing to read a book that was so rigidly structured and purposeful. Most of the modern fiction that you’ll read (and I’m guilty of writing in this style myself) feels a little too… natural? Not to say that this is a bad thing, of course, just that “classic” literature tends to feel like there is more deliberate content in its prose. If there was ever a novel that felt deliberate, this is the one.
Collectivism versus Individualism
Be prepared to be hit over the head by the end of the novel. It can get very preachy. Don’t let that dissuade you, however–the preachiness is very convincing. If you’re coming into the novel with a background full of socialistic ideals and collectivism (as I was), be warned that this novel will challenge you more than most. It is a novel that praises rugged individualism like I’ve never encountered in my life.
This debate is one that’s very dear to my heart and invades almost every aspect of my life (for reference, see my post on Punk Rock).
Since I began to consider politics and economics (read: high school and college days) I’ve always leaned towards the left; often-times the extreme left. This continuum is interwined, I believe, with those of Idealism versus Realism and Subjectivity versus Objectivity. The more I grow up (ha!) I find that these extremes are never really the answer.
The extreme left in politics isn’t practical and ends up being inefficient, while the extreme right neglects the human element and increases economic disparity.
Idealism can be argued for both sides of the political spectrum with realism existing somewhere in the center.
I find that things are less relative than we’ve always liked to think. No matter how special and unique we like to think we are, there is an objective world out there (we can get into Skepticism at another time, perhaps). This allows quality, integrity, and judgment to exist. This is why it is ridiculous to say, “Well, I like ______ so I think it’s good.” Goodness is an objective description based upon certain criteria. Things have infinite forms of “likeability,” but that doesn’t make them “good.” We cannot discount the effect of perception, however, as it is important to understanding ourselves and those around us.
The Fountainhead, however, is an exercise in extremes. It will challenge you on all of these aspects. It promotes extreme Individualism (read: the political right… although this is debatable) to counterract extreme Collectivism (read: the political left). It promotes extreme Idealism over extreme Realism. It promotes extreme Objectivity over extreme Subjectivity. Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism is rampant throughout the novel, but there are specific moments where it really does feel like you’re being beaten into submission. In the best possible way.
Extremism is fun to dabble in. It’s much more exciting than moderation. Reality will always try to pull you back to the middle, in my experience.
Anyways, definitely give this novel a shot. The story itself is a pretty good read . If nothing else, it’s good to challenge your views in order to find yourself wrong or to strengthen them even further.