Obscurity Knocks

Earnest, empathetic, industrious, unpretentious, gay Virgo in Milwaukee with a great life, amazing friends, and a wonderful family.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Fountainhead

I had never read anything by Ayn Rand. My dad gave me a copy of "The Fountainhead" for Christmas, and he subsequently told me that it's the book that helped make him a lifelong reader when he was in his early 20s. He's not a Rand disciple, but he likes the book.

As a bleeding heart liberal and as a progressive Christian, I obviously have problems with Rand's Objectivist philosophy. Yet I found the book fascinating and a real page turner.
Howard Roark is definitely a fascinating character. I’ve been so struck at how Rand classifies people into four primary archetypes:

1. Roark – a person as a person should be;
2. Peter Keating – a man who couldn’t be but doesn’t know it;
3. Ellsworth Toohey – a man who couldn’t be and knows it; and
4. Gail Wynand – the man who could have been.

I'm definitely not an Objectivist or devotee of Rand. I do believe in personal responsibility and accountability which is rooted in the values I acquired from my parents and my own experience. Rand does an excellent job of showing the problems that can come from groups, committees, and the drawbacks of consensus and compromise. Trying to find a balance between individual goals and the greater good is a continuing challenge. It seems to me that a healthy tension between individualism and overall societal goals can help out society. The pendulum has swung both ways throughout American history. For me, I'll go with Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson, and Obama over the trickle down, fend for yourself philosophy of Reagan and the two Bushes.

I have come across my share of Peter Keatings and Ellsworth Tooheys. Very few Wynands and, unfortunately, even fewer Roarks.

The book was overly melodramatic, so I give it an 8 out of 10. I do want to read "Atlas Shrugged" later this year.


Anonymous Lesley said...

I remember reading this book in college and really enjoying it, esp for the melodrama. I agree with your review a bunch. :) Well put.

12:32 AM  

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