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Writing in The New Criterion, Anthony Daniels reviews a new Ayn Rand biography, concluding that Rand was not without talent, but was a particular kind of Russian-bred monster. Excerpt:
In her expository writings, Rand’s style resembles that of Stalin. It is more catechism than argument, and bores into you in the manner of a drill. She has a habit of quoting herself as independent verification of what she says; reading her is like being cornered at a party by a man, intelligent but dull, who is determined to prove to you that right is on his side in the property dispute upon which he is now engaged and will omit no detail.Her unequivocal admiration bordering on worship of industrialization and the size of human construction as a mark of progress is profoundly Stalinist. Where Stalinist iconography would plant a giant chimney belching black smoke, Randian iconography would plant a skyscraper. (At the end of The Fountainhead, Roark receives a commission to build the tallest skyscraper in New York, its height being the guarantor of its moral grandeur. According to this scale of values, the Burj Dubai would be man’s crowning achievement so far.) Industrialists are to Rand what Stakhanovites were to Stalin: Both saw nature as an enemy, something to be beaten into submission. One doesn’t have to be an adherent of the Gaia hypothesis to know where this hatred of nature led.
Finally, Rand’s treasured theory of literature, what she called Romantic Realism, is virtually indistinguishable from Socialist Realism:
Since my purpose is the presentation of an ideal man, I had to define and present the conditions which make him possible and which his existence requires. I had to define and present the kinds of premises and values that create the character of an ideal man and motivate his actions.
Zhdanov could have written that, and it is hardly surprising that, as a result, Rand’s heroes are not American but Soviet. The fact that they supposedly embody capitalist values makes no difference. Rand fulfilled Stalin’s criterion for the ideal writer: she tried to be an engineer of souls.
I’ve known a few Christians who claim to be Randians, and I have never understood this. As Daniels notes, Rand fanatically hated Christianity, and all religion. My sense is that if one claims to be both a Christian and a Randian, one either does not understand Jesus Christ, or does not understand Ayn Rand.
Anyway, Daniels’ review put me in mind of The Misfit’s judgment on the garrulous grandmother he’s just murdered in O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”:
“She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
(Meaning that only daily suffering would have forced her out of her solitary egotism, and compelled her to recognize the existence of other people, and to empathize with them.)
Be sure to read the entire Daniels review, if only for his comments on Rand and architecture.