The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Posted by Guy Pringle, 7th December 2010

A somewhat curious choice in that Anne talked about this book enthusiastically at reading group, having re-read it recently. At the next meeting - which Anne was unable to attend - we were raking around for something to add to our programme when the idea of The Fountainhead was suddenly centre stage. And at our meeting last week I'm sure I heard Anne express doubt about the book's suitability for a group discussion - simply that it had been a pleasant surprise to find the book as gripping as when first read.


No matter, once the programme is decided it is akin to leaving Southampton in an ocean liner. And on the evidence of the first few chapters I'm pleased to say that it's working for me. Howard Roark is an interesting character cleverly portrayed - not saying anything intended as censure or cynicism and yet creating a dispirited and dispiriting response in the people to whom he talks. Early days yet but it's always good to feel you want to read the chosen book than feel it's a chore to be got through against the clock (anything than have to confess you didn't finish).


I wonder whether there's a sub-genre of books that aren't the classics of Dickens, Austen and Hardy but sufficiently well-known to readers who feel they should have read them? Fountainhead feels like one and Tressell's Ragged Trousered Philanthropist another. In her introduction, written in 1968 and celebrating 25 years of this book which remains the best known of her works, Rand says, 'Certain writers, of whom I am one, do not live, think or write on the range of the moment. Novels in the proper sense of the word, are not written to vanish in a month or a year. That most of them do, today, that they are written and published as if they were magazines, to fade as rapidly, is one of the sorriest aspects of today's literature'.


Apart from a certain hutzpah - which, given this book's now even greater longevity, she seems entitled to - Ms Rand seems to have hit said nail firmly on the head. This Christmas many of you may come across a copy of A Simples Life. In case you haven't heard of it this is the biography of 'our favourite Meerkat, Alexandr Orlov' ie an animated character from a television advert. Or it may be one of two books with the same title - William & Kate - rushed out by publishers to capitalise on a recent announcement.


Ambulance chasing by publishers is not new and these books will give pleasure if bought for the right person but I can't help thinking Ms Rand would be horrified at what achieves publication nowadays. Thankfully, reading groups thrive on the kind of literature she describes and I look forward to attending our January meeting having finished this book in good time.



Marjorie Neilson said...

This year I have asked a friend of mine to buy me 'Cider with Rosie' as a Christmas gift. I did not get around to reading it many years ago but came across an excerpt and thought "why haven't I read this book?". The book mentioned above also sounds as if it might be something I should look at reading, along with 'All Quiet on the Western Front'. Am trying to read Pat Barker's 'Regeneration' trilogy and then there is 'Freedom' by Jonathan Franzen. Oh the dilemma, too many books and not enough time.

Yes, I have seen the 'A Simples Life' advertised. It was 'Simon's Cat' last year, which was an amusing cartoon on You Tube made into a book. It worked better on You Tube because it was animation.

Posted on Wed 08 Dec 2010 @ 20:14

Mandy Jenkinson said...

I discovered Ayn Rand last year and find her strangely compulsive. I'm glad she's back in the public eye. I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and enjoyed both - although preferred to read them in small doses rather than all in one go!

Posted on Sun 19 Dec 2010 @ 16:20

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