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Is Ayn Rand the epitome of bad taste?
That’s the one thing the New York literary world can agree on, it seems.
In the New York Times Book Review on Sunday, November 2, two writers opined on the burning question: Can what a friend or lover reads ruin the relationship? Mostly, they say that one must recognize that tastes vary. But, writing independently, they both reference certain books as self-evidently corrupt, such as Mein Kampf—and Atlas Shrugged??
It’s striking that both of them mention Ayn Rand off-hand—as the epitome of bad taste. They mean that one can’t be friends with someone who keeps a well-read copy of an Ayn Rand book on their bookshelf.
Both of them mention one writer as the epitome of good taste: Jane Austen. Austen is a thoughtful writer concerned with values, individual merit, and crucial choices, so one would think that anyone who appreciates Austen at least reads novels as art, that is, as speaking to fundamental values .
So it’s puzzling, to say the least, why they don’t take reading Rand as a sign that someone cares about values and choices. Of course, the most obvious answer is that they associate Rand with conservatism, which, in their comments, they associate with racism and mass murder.
The writers reference certain books as self-evidently corrupt, such as Mein Kampf—and Atlas Shrugged .
These sallies against Rand remind me of the clucking that surrounds Howard Roark in the high society world of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. They can’t ignore Rand, but, having made themselves incapable of even understanding why someone would appreciate her, they just yip and yap at her. All they do is reveal the extent to which theirs is a closed-off, modish social circle.
Meanwhile, Rand readers will continue to discover just how great a modern novel can be when it comes at the world first hand, beautifully and incisively, and declares itself for the values of human flourishing, celebrating the importance of life on this earth.
William R Thomas is director of programs at The Atlas Society.
Posted November 2, 2014.
“ Atlas Shrugged as Literature ” by Robert James Bidinotto. Before he was a successful thriller writer, Bidinotto knew good writing when he saw it.
Kirsti Minsaas on Ayn Rand’s writing techniques . Learn more about Rand’s literary techniques in these two classic essays, originally published in a volume I edited, The Literary Art of Ayn Rand.
Myths About Ayn Rand Would the literary world sneer at Rand so much if they realiized she wasn't a conservative and wasn't for mass murder?