Pop Culture Experiment #1: Dances with Ayn. Or, The End, With Occasional Music

fountainhead Ha HA! You had all given up hope, hadn't you? You thought, "Oh, that's it. The Fountainhead has beaten him. There's no way he's going to finish that book."

Nay, friend. Nay.

My extended silence on the topic of Ayn Rand was not due to mere laziness. Rather, it was a necessity. If I stopped at any point during the last 100 pages - even to write a modest blog post - the sheer weight of Rand's turgid prose threatened to sweep me away and bury me in a pit so deep, it would make the Mines of Moria look like a pothole.

Sidebar: that was a nerdy sentence.

Nevertheless, I have conquered The Fountainhead. The pages have been turned, the plot absorbed, the philosophical implications mulled. And that leaves us with the simple question I posed eight weeks ago: does reading Ayn Rand make you a jerk?

I will dispense with my ranking system for this final post. As I read further into The Fountainhead, I realized my tongue-in-cheek criteria would shed little light on the actual experience of reading Rand. So I give you my simple answer. No, reading Ayn Rand does not make you a jerk.

It does, however, make you have some jerky thoughts. The following are examples of the kinds of things popping into my head over the past few weeks:

I'm glad I don't wear my conformity on my back.

Damn second-handers.

That building is nothing but compromise and weakness. I should blow it up.

And so on. Of course, Rand provides some convenient insulation from accusations of jerkiness. In her formulation, the person who acts in the spirit of selfishness only appears to be a jerk to the failed humans and power-grubbing parasites that inhabit our world. This person, accoring to Rand, is actually some sort of a mortal god. To wit, Rand suggests that people only think you're a jerk because they suck and you're amazing. It's an attractive idea, which probably explains the enduring popularity of her work.

Is The Fountainhead a great book? No. But it is a good book. And it is certainly one I found myself enjoying. Don't get me wrong- some parts are excruciatingly slow. But once you flense away the verbiage and extended abstract conversations, The Fountainhead is basically an exhaltation of man's infinite creativity. Whenever it discussed Roark and his work, I caught myself nodding in agreement despite my better judgement. Sure, her characters are little more than awkward personifications of her philosophical convictions. Yes, she has the subtlety of a 747. Still, Rand's book has carved out a little nook in my mind. There is much to hold on to, so long as you don't mind wading through a lot of chaff.

Now, onto Atlas Shrugged. After I clear my palate with some Philip K. Dick.