Ayn Rand is joining the Penguin Modern Classics list for the first time with Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead both due out in February. Penguin say, "Rand wrote what are seen as the manifesto of Objectivism, but they're also political thrillers that keep you gripped. And Angelina Jolie is to star in the film version of Atlas Shrugged, which is coming out in 2008."

All I (think I) know about Ayn Rand is that she was rampantly right-wing (Objectivism, according to the wikipedia, is: "the pursuit of one's own happiness or "rational self-interest" ... the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual human rights, embodied in pure, consensual laissez-faire capitalism"), but I've no idea whatsoever if her books are any use. Any of you good folk read them? Any good?

Readers Comments

  1. Mark, what I've read of Ann Rand, Atlas Shrugged, and others is very over-written and has a tendency towards purple prose and excess but the struggle against conformity in all her characters is compelling in a super-hero way, sometimes perverse way which appeals to many Americans and is sometimes irresistible (even if her politics make one sick). Her characters ,though, are otherwise underdeveloped, one-domestional and meant to be "icons" more than flesh and blood. Any vulnerability or weakness is tantamount to having a virus, even a cancer in the self, the worst crime to Rand is weakness. She's more complicated ideologically and poltically than others have claimed, I thnk. She was witness and victim of Russian totalitarian as her first novels document the horrors of early communism and she came to America believing it the only alternative to the communist totalitarian which brutalized her family and allowed no personal freedom..or choices Unfortunately, she took this idea of personal freedom into dimensions which cancelled out humanistic aqnd social concerns. Her basic belief in the individual vs the state became a kind of treatise for unrestricted capitalism, self-interest and selfishness. But she nonetheless appeals to the part of us who need idealized versions of the "American dream" and to keep eyes shut to its tragic consequences on the weak and helpless. I can understand why Hollywood would love her---she's an advocate of celebrity politics, its guardian and proponent. Anyone who can't become a celbebrity and dominate, prevail, conquer through sheer force of personality and the advantage of select strengths isn't counted in her ideal "free" society, Essentially, that's why she makes me angry and disgusted--she wasn't known for other right-wing policies other than self-interested, unbridled capital possession over social egalitarianism. Reaganites embraced her every word.
    (sorry to go one but she's such a big deal here in the Staes, just as she would have liked it! The triumph of the individual might and charm!)

  2. Jesus, what could anybody add to that? Well said!

  3. "Any good?"

    No, but it still has more right to be considered a classic than Fleming or Wodehouse, both of whom have been published in that range for sometime.

  4. I think the most interesting thing about Rand wasn't so much her bizarre assertions (mainly around altruism as a motive) but the sheer grip she had over an entire generation of intellectuals. Most went on to refute her central premises, but at the time of discovery their zeal went beyond that of a convert.

  5. To follow up on what Leora said, Atlas Shrugged, particularly among Rand's writings, tends to captivate millions, despite itself. Rand's semi-autobiographical first novel, "We the Living" is quite good as I remember it from so many years ago, but because it's not super-hero like or gargantuan like her other works, it gets little attention.

    I might also add that our former Central Banker, Alan Greenspan, was heavily influenced by Rand's work at one time (although he backed away from it) and her tenets of fierce individualism and 'we are all best served by serving ourselves' still resonates with some of our conservative politicians.

    Even though she says her novels are not political - I think that's hogwash - her world view was formed I believe by the early post-revolution communist era.

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