Ayn Rand was an abysmally bad novelist, a pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, would-be “guru” (in the absolute worst sense of the term — exactly the sort of pretentious turd one would expect to have floated to the prominence during “the sixties”.
What is most offensive about Rand is: she was genuinely capable of being BETTER than that.
She simply couldn’t be bothered.
Oh, sure: she pretended that she gave a shit about what she was doing — especially early on.
The problem is: she had absolutely no “follow-through”, whatsoever.
Take these excerpts from For the New Intellectual:
This book is intended for those who wish to assume the responsibility of
becoming the new intellectuals. It contains the main philosophical passages
from my novels and presents the outline of a new philosophical system.
The full system is implicit in these excerpts (particularly in Galt’s
speech), but its fundamentals are indicated only in the widest terms and
require a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosophical treatise. I am
working on such a treatise at present; it will deal predominantly with the
issue which is barely touched upon in Galt’s speech: epistemology, and will
present a new theory of the nature, source and validation of concepts.
This work will require several years; until then, I offer the present book as a lead
or a summary for those who wish to acquire an integrated view of existence.
They may regard it as a basic outline; it will give them the guidance they
need, but only if they think through and understand the exact meaning and
the full implications of these excerpts.
When I say that these excerpts are merely an outline, I do not mean to
imply that my full system is still to be defined or discovered; I had to define
it before I could start writing Atlas Shrugged. Galt’s speech is its briefest
Until I complete the presentation of my philosophy in a fully detailed
form, this present book may serve as an outline or a program or a manifesto.
For reasons which are made clear in the following pages, the name I have
chosen for my philosophy is Objectivism.
Now, let’s think about this: she CLAIMS that “her” system had been “define” BEFORE she even began writing Galt’s speech. Moreover, she CLAIMS that the aforementioned speech is “its briefest summary”.
WHY IN HELL DID SHE not COMPLETE The moral basis of Individualism or Objectivism: a philosophy for living on Earth?
If those involved with the “Objectivist movement” were honest with themselves, they would have no choice but to regard only the following texts as even partially having been “authored” by Ayn Rand, herself:
- For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (1961). New York: Random House.
- The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism (1964). New York: New American Library. Includes essays by Nathaniel Branden. Introduction was revised in 1970.
- Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966). New York: New American Library. Includes essays by Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Hessen. Expanded second edition published by New American Library in 1967. Introduction was revised in 1970.
- The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature (1969). New York: The World Publishing. Expanded second edition published by New American Library in 1975.
- The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (1971). New York: New American Library. Expanded second edition published by New American Library in 1975. See also Return of the Primitive below.
- Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1979). New York: New American Library. ISBN 0-451-61751-7. Includes an essay by Leonard Peikoff. A booklet of Rand’s title essay was published by The Objectivist in 1967. Expanded second edition published by Meridian in 1990, edited by Harry Binswanger and Leonard Peikoff, ISBN 0-453-00724-4.
My reasoning on this?
- The first editions were actually published during her lifetime, and (presumably) with her actual input. EVERYTHING post-1982 marketed as having been authored by “Ayn Rand” is a scam, in the sense that Leonard Piekoff (or his designated lickspittles at ARI) have had ample opportunity both to impose an illegitimate “context” on articles originally published in Rand’s various ‘zines/Ford Hall forum speeches etc. in “book” form, and — more importantly — to “edit” the source-documents.
Rand herself was known to do bullshit like that. We the Living (for example) was subjected to some fairly serious “memory-hole” treatment:
In 1957, Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged became a best-seller for Random House. Its success motivated them to republish We the Living in 1959. In preparation for the new edition, Rand made some changes to the text. In her Foreword to the revised edition, Rand declared that “In brief, all the changes are merely editorial line changes.” Rand’s description notwithstanding, some of the changes have been taken to have philosophical significance. In the first edition, Kira said to Andrei, “I loathe your ideals. I admire your methods.” In the second edition, this became simply “I loathe your ideals.” A few pages later, Kira said to Andrei, “What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?” Rand’s revision deleted this sentence.
The significance of these and other revisions has been debated. Rand scholar Mimi Reisel Gladstein commented, “She claims that the revision was minimal. Some readers of both editions have questioned her definition of ‘minimal’.” According to Ronald Merrill, Kira in the first edition “adopts in the most explicit terms possible the ethical position of Friedrich Nietzsche.” Rand had made her break with Nietzsche by the time she published The Fountainhead. Barbara Branden says, “Some of her readers were disturbed when they discovered this and similar changes” but insists that “unlike Nietzsche, she rejected as unforgivably immoral any suggestion that the superior man had the right to use physical force as a means to his end.” Robert Mayhew cautioned that “We should not conclude too quickly that these passages are strong evidence of an earlier Nietzschean phase in Ayn Rand’s development, because such language can be strictly metaphorical (even if the result of an early interest in Nietzsche)”. Susan Love Brown countered that “Mayhew becomes an apologist for Rand’s denials of change and smooths over the fact that Rand herself saw the error of her ways and corrected them.”
Nearly everyone who reads We the Living today reads the second edition. The first is a rare book; the second has sold over three million copies.
In other words, once Rand had managed to shamble out of (well-deserved) obscurity by (among other things) bamboozling the Brandens), she realized that her former embrace of Nietzsche (and explicit advocacy of proto-fascist “boot to the face”-type ideas), could be somewhat embarrassing — so she did everything in her power to ensure that the original version of her first novel went down the “memory hole.”
There’s something indefensibly awful about that.