FH: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The Fountainhead, p7-8

It takes Rand one page to mess up and sever a) our ability to be impressed by the “hero” and b) our ability to sympathise with him.

The story opens with our “hero”, Howard Roark, standing naked on a cliff. I do have to admit that this is competently handled, although there is one passage involving comparing the stillness to a momentary pause in a battle that should probably have been edited.

After this, we receive a description of Roark as a man made entirely out of angles. There’s a reference to him feeling the weight of the blood in his hands, which I’m choosing to interpret as something to do with total self-control because, hey, it’s not likely there’s actual blood on his hands, right?


Any hope of taking Roark seriously fails when we get a description.

“His face was like a law of nature – a thing one could not question, alter or implore. It had high cheekbones over gaunt, hollow cheeks; grey eyes, cold and steady; a contemptuous mouth, shut tight, the mouth of an executioner or a saint.”

However, Rand has also established that Roark has bright orange hair.

That’s fantastic. Our “hero” looks like Grand Moff Tarkin during his time at clown college.

(I’m also choosing to ignore that “saint” and “contemptuous” don’t really work together.)

“He looked at the granite. To be cut, he thought, and made into walls. He looked at a tree. To be split and made into rafters. He looked at a streak of rust on the stone and thought of iron ore under the ground. To be melted and emerge as girders against the sky.”

Right, of course. It’s 1943. This kind of thing was standard back then. What am I talking about, it’s standard right now among the more irresponsible companies.

I had a huge rant here about objectivism and interconnectedness but what the hell, life’s too short.

Wait, it gets worse.

“These rocks, he thought, are here for me: waiting for the drill, the dynamite and my voice; waiting to be split, ripped, pounded, reborn; waiting for the shape my hands will give them.”

Rand has a…unique idea of how the profession of architecture works.

See, an architect is fundamentally a designer and supervisor. Their job is to design a place that fits the client’s needs, then check on the progress of building it regularly.

Rand apparently did not realise this. In Rand’s world, an architect is a cross between Superman and the Protoverse Dr Wily. There are builders, but these are little more than SCVs, extensions of Roark’s almighty will rather than full human beings. Roark is the only meaningful person involved in the construction of a building.

Foolishly bringing real-world logic into contact with this stuff will probably end badly, I have to note that Roark’s hands will not give this material shape. Roark’s hands will deal with, at most, a mechanical pencil, calculator and slide rule. This is not quite a bulldozer or crane. The actual shape will be given by a man. I suspect we will never meet that man, because that man’s existence is a constant reproach to Rand’s bizarre pop-Nietzschean idea that only some people actually matter.

okay, no, that didn’t end well

bringing real-world logic into this book is like mixing matter and antimatter.

Next up, we meet people who are more annoying than Roark, yet somehow more sympathetic, despite – or possibly because – the author held them in contempt.

– OSM out


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