Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I honestly don't know where to begin with this one. I've been putting it off for some time. I would go so far as to say I've been experiencing writer's block, all because I've wanted to write about this book, but felt so not up to doing so. It is simply one of the finest works of literature I have ever read. From the preface of the novel, Rand blasts the current condition of "throw-away" novels, books that are disposable and honestly forgettable. I've read many books such as this, and they are stacked on my bookshelves, as if they were some treasure to which I would gleam some future knowledge. She goes further to say that most books now lack the permanence of the 19th century Romantic novel. And this is exactly what I would compare The Fountainhead with. It brings the images of Frankenstein standing resolutely at the North Pole, or Friedrich's Traveler painting and thrusts them into the 20th century. In an earlier post, I talked about the conversation I had with Dr. Pepetone on whether Romanticism was inherently a Conservative movement or not. Of course, this was the beginnings of the thought processes that would turn Romanticism, with those bold characters that would shun society for individual values, to the Political idea of Libertarianism. And this is what Ayn Rand's books have been known for today, namely, being the cornerstone of Libertarian thought. I have wondered, since reading this amazing book, why it was never included in the courses I took on Romanticism and the Byronic hero, since Rourke is one of the best examples of that model in the 20th century. Further, Rourke brings the ideas of Capitalism and Anti-societal thought (marching to the beat of your own drum) together to show why Social Progressiveness is bringing about the downfall of human drive and magnificence. Only once, in the recent past, has society come together to achieve a goal that would truly be considered magnificent. The Moonshot that happened 40 years ago, landing man on the Moon. But I digress.

I want to talk about the book itself, not the philosophies behind it. Roarke, and Francone, and the other Protagonists are as finely constructed as the architecture that Roarke builds. In fact, for the most part, every character is molded and shaped as if by an artist skilled in her work like no other. I've never actually read descriptions of characters, as they are usually done poorly. But Rand paints visages that are unique and instantly form on the mind's eye. The descriptions of the settings are likewise, painted with words as eloquent and austere as a slash of a artist's brush would instantly create a world to explore. Each word is essential, every syllable needed to create the world that Roarke lives in. The buildings and even the natural settings become intricate characters in the story.

And the love story....ahhh.... it is the best romance (small r) novel I have read, with strength and passion, deception, banter, everything that a master romance novelist would need, except, in this case, you don't just donate it to Goodwill afterward, you keep it on your shelf and read it over and over. It is Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights written a century later, with the repressed passions and the flashes of desire and lust springing forth. It is truly a work that exalts the human spirit, and makes Pope's declaration of studying man all the more true, as the potential of what man can do on this Earth should shine as brightly now as ever before, and not sink into the mire of Reality Television and the uncaring world of people I see everyday. It's just not fair. People should be better than that. The Fountainhead is a love story about what it means to be human, to shine in all our glory, to the unlimitless potential that we have going forward.

I say this because after reading Rand's book, I saw Star Trek, and read Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe. Both deserve blogs in their own time, but suffice it to say that these examples of the unconquerable human spirit only compounds upon Rand's ideas of the individual soul as something that can do anything, from discovering the secrets of time and space itself, to solving the problems of this world without the help of corrupt politicians and unneeded regulations. The only disappointing thing is that there are too few individuals who truly act on those beliefs, and shine like a diamond in mounds of coal. And those that do are, as Rand has shown, are likely to be squashed by a society that only wants to pull those that achieve down into the mire, through the mechanisms that they have created to do so. It is when Othello's green monster becomes Godzilla, and lets no one escape the wrath of the multitudes.

But again, I have gotten off track. Read The Fountainhead for the shear exhilaration of the story line, and cheer on the architect Roarke and stand by him as he stands by his principles. Feel the strength of Roarke's physique, the firmness of Francone's stature, and read in sheer rapture as a wonderful love story is built, like a monument, out of the text. Even better, invest in the Audio Book of the story, as the narrator does a fabulous job in making each character come alive. And in this way, you won't miss a word by skimming, and believe me, you won't want to.

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