I have found many, many reasons to hate this book. Rather than go through the chapter-by-chapter, because let’s face it I’ve tried that and it was excruciating, I’m just going to go into detail on the author:
I really do not like Ayn Rand. I think no good came from her hands. I hate her books. I hate her work. I hate her heroes being jerks. I do not like Ayn freaking Rand. I do not like her, Sam-I-Am.
Her books are dumb. Her books are bad. Her every sentence makes me mad. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t think she should be fair. I do not like Ayn freaking Rand. I do not like her, Sam-I-Am.
Tempting though it is to write this entire post like that, I’m going to actually go into detail.
Part 1: Argumentation
Ayn Rayn’s argumentation technique was awful.
I mean seriously, deep-down horrible.
I think the problem is that she didn’t quite get that people could legitimately disagree with her, and thus wrote all her stuff under the assumption that as soon as people heard what she said they would immediately drop their former opinions and embrace the manifest truth she was spouting or some crap like that. It’s really the only explanation I can think of for why the arguments in the Fountainhead are so horrendously bad.
If you think I’m exaggerating, find a copy. You will never find an argument in favour of something Rand disapproved of which sounds like an actual real human being could say it. You will never find a hint of respect for people who like classical architecture; they’re all at best blinkered idiots who only care about a checklist rather than aesthetics, at worst evil Communist conspirators who don’t realise that architecture critics don’t get to cause revolutions and who get ludicrous rants about how evil they are and how they’re totally using altruism (scare chord) to destroy society because blah blah stuff that doesn’t make sense blah.
Nobody talks like that.
Nobody makes those arguments.
Cartoon supervillains do not exist. People do not behave in that “I’m not washing my hands…’cause I’m EVIL” fashion, unless they’re overdramatic teens putting on a pose to annoy their parents. Whenever I say Rand didn’t bother doing any research, that is mainly what I meant: her arguments against things do not bother addressing anything the people supporting those things would actually say, instead preferring to present it as an equal parts blend of legalism and tall poppy syndrome. Ignorance is actually the nicer interpretation; the alternative is to believe that she did look up all these things she is arguing about, then deliberately threw out that information and wrote a pack of lies instead.
Either way, however, she’s “arguing” against something without accurately describing what it’s about. That’s just plain dishonest.
(I *am* aware that people are likely to try and call me out on perceived hypocrisy; see below.)
Part 2: Application.
Ayn Rand sucked at following her own doctrines.
No, really. While I disagree with Objectivist ethics, I can at least have some measure of respect for those who actually apply them. They at least have the courage of their convictions.
Ayn Rand had “convictions” in the same way that…you know that Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin claims to be deeply principled because he sticks very closely to the principle “look out for number one”? Yeah. That’s pretty much how Ayn Rand approached her own philosophy.
This is a direct quote from Rand:
“Everyone has the right to make his own decisions, but none has the right to force his decision on others.”
Judging by Rand’s behaviour, there is an implicit “Unless I agree with you, in which case, go nuts” at the end of that.
The Fountainhead devotes its entire opening to telling us that if we like Classical architecture we are wrong. That’s technically not forcing a decision on us, but it’s fairly close.
Ayn Rand not once, but multiple times, demanded that her followers vote for a specific President. That is a clear attempt to force a decision on others.
Look, I don’t care who you vote for. But if your philosophy is based on the premise that nobody gets to force their decisions on others, you don’t get to do exactly that. If your philosophy rejects collective action as worthless and exploitative, you don’t get to exploit it yourself. This is How Not To Be A Colossal Hypocrite 101.
Her commentary on things like the destruction of Native American culture is also loaded with this kind of thing, in which it’s “none has the right to force a decision on others, unless I don’t think much of the others, in which case stomp ’em into the ground and steal all their stuff”.
And then we get to the major case: the rape scene in The Fountainhead.
Rape is by definition the attempt to force a decision on someone. Wikipedia states that Rand’s notes ‘indicate that when she started working on the book in 1936 she conceived of Roark as feeling that Dominique “belonged to him”, that “he did not greatly care” about her consent and that “he would be justified” in raping her.’
There is no such thing as being “justified” in rape. If Roark felt that way, that means he deserves to die.
While there is an indication that Dominique was attracted to Roark and wanted to sleep with him, Rand’s notes above mean that this doesn’t matter – Roark thought he was engaging in rape and went ahead anyway. Again, this means he should be shot into the sun. There should be no place for him in the civilized world.
(Roark later breaks Rand’s rule about decisions again when he a) dynamites the building, which somehow is not forcing a decision on anyone even though it wasn’t his money it was built with, and b) puts Dominique in hospital with this blast to cover their affair, not even thinking to warn her let alone get permission. Because tricking someone into risking their life in an area where you are engaging in egoterrorism is totally not forcing a decision on them, amirite? Here’s some glue. You’ll need it for the moral.)
I hate Howard Roark with a passion. He’s deeply uninteresting and a total likeability vacuum. The few moments of actual humanity he gets are invariably either recanted later or overwhelmed by the necessity to struggle against 600 pages of sociopathy to make him tolerable. He’s a smug, ignorant, condescending ass who has learned nothing since he was arrogant and fifteen. I loathe him. He is detestable in every way and does not deserve even a moment of respect.
I could fix this book with five words, added to the last page. Go through the bit about how they’re married now, cut to the end of the final sentence, paragraph break, and then add “And then Dominique shot him.” This fixes…not everything, because an editor would still need to cut the lectures about how classical architecture is evil and wrong, but it becomes a lot more tolerable. It becomes a story where Dominique takes back her life from sociopathic parasites like Roark. It becomes a story where the evil Roark does gets comeuppance, rather than one where it is rewarded. It puts justice back into the equation.
I’ll probably do a couple of things where I rip Roark’s lecture to shreds later, then let this topic finally die.
– OSM out