In a letter dated May 31, 1960, Flannery O’Connor, the author best known for her classic story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (listen to her read the story here) penned a letter to her friend, the playwright Maryat Lee. It begins rather abruptly, likely because it’s responding to something Maryat said in a previous letter:
I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.
The letter, which you can read online or find in the book The Habit of Being, then turns to other matters.
O’Connor’s critical appraisal of Ayn Rand’s books is pretty straightforward. But here’s one factoid worth knowing. Mickey Spillane (referenced in O’Connor’s letter) was a hugely popular mystery writer, who sold some 225 million books during his lifetime. According to his Washington Post obit, “his specialty was tight-fisted, sadistic revenge stories, often featuring his alcoholic gumshoe Mike Hammer and a cast of evildoers.” Critics, appalled by the sex and violence in his books, dismissed his writing. But Ayn Rand defended him. In public, she said that Spillane was underrated. In her book The Romantic Manifesto, Rand put Spillane in some unexpected company when she wrote: “[Victor] Hugo gives me the feeling of entering a cathedral–Dostoevsky gives me the feeling of entering a chamber of horrors, but with a powerful guide–Spillane gives me the feeling of listening to a military band in a public park–Tolstoy gives me the feeling of an unsanitary backyard which I do not care to enter.” All of which goes to show that Ayn Rand’s literary taste was no better than her literature.
Rare 1959 Audio: Flannery O’Connor Reads ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’
Flannery O’Connor Reads ‘Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction’ (c. 1960)
Ayn Rand Adamantly Defends Her Atheism on The Phil Donahue Show (Circa 1979)
The Outspoken Ayn Rand Interviewed by Mike Wallace (1959)
this is an awful attack on Mickey Spillane, he would have had nothing to do with these specious pseudo-intellectuals, they would have been awfully murdered in the first chapter. I could personally think of several ways to kill Virginia Woolf
I find this post appalling and unbecoming of what I am accustomed to reading on Open Culture.
Rather then go into an explanation of why Ms. O’Connor would make such a statement, the author presumes that the statement stands on its face. It does not.
I will confess to being a fan of Rand, but being of rational mind I am open to read criticism of her provided the position is justified. I see no justification in this article. I see a blog post by someone who thinks they are being funny making an inside joke to a group of friends that share the same uninformed opinion.
good article….would have been even better had the author not inserted himself into the discussion via the last sentence
The only thing this article made me is curious to read Mickey Spillane.
“…Tolstoy gives me the feeling of an unsanitary backyard which I do not care to enter.” All of which goes to show that Ayn Rand’s literary taste was no better than her literature.
Ha! Ha ha ha! If I was going to dis Tolstoy for anything, its that he makes everything too clean. Levin and Kitty off feeding the birds and stuff. Unless that’s what Ayn meant by unsanitary, I have to agree with the article on this one.
And even if that is what she meant, his writing is so… measured? It’s like the gorgeous blueprint for a house that would look horrible if it was actually built.
love when the author ends the article with their own quip about O’Connor that actually makes zero sense and does nothing to explain what the author’s pov would be re o’connor and/or the author she cites.. not surprised! :D
Clueless is cured by an education; but tasteless is never cured.
Friends, by the way, let friends read whatever they want – it is not their business to dictate a friend’s taste – only a typical totalitarian thug would try.
Your comment that “Ayn Rand’s literary taste was no better than her literature,” should not be protected under the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States. It should be treasonable.
Who are all these Ayn Rand supporters? O’Conner was spot on. Rand was a greedy, self-serving isolationist who couldn’t write a decent sentence. The more criticism of her the better. If Tolstoy or Virginia Woolf are “pseudo-intellectuals” as one reviewer implies, then I’d like to know who he deems the real intellectuals to be. The fact is Americans have increasingly become anti-intellectuals to their own detriment.
Ah, I can just taste the tears of all the Randians butthurt by this article right now.
“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged . One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” – John Rogers
One thing that puzzles me is conservatives who try to blend Randian economics with their “Christian” crusades against any social minority. Rand is the anti-Jesus. You have to choose one.
..for a website called “open culture,” I see that many folks, including the poster, are not open at all.
I don’t quite get the Rand hate, as I have not read the books.
I don’t think the suggestion to not read it was open at all
This is my first time reading anything on this site. I have not read Rand or O’Connor. The whole concept of shunning an author based on someone else’s recommendation is alien to me. The comparison to Spillane reeks of intellectual snobbishness thinly masking jealousy.
I won’t tell anyone what not to read. Furthest I might go is a bad informal review, “I could do better than that, and I’m not a writer!” So, anyone telling me not to read an author would probably lead me to at least reading reviews about that author.
And I will say that the last sentence ruined this little essay for me as well. The opinion expressed is unfounded, based on third hand information at best, and not even a conclusion that could even be supported by the essay.
Flannery O’Connor was a third-rate novelist and a fourth-rate mind. It’s not surprising that she hated Ayn Rand. The cult of mediocrity always look bad in the presence of greatness.
“All that rises must converge” puts Flan ery on top.
It never fails: whenever someone dares criticize Ayn Rand, her acolytes can barely contain their spittle-flecked outrage long enough to come up with some defense that completely dodges the heart of the argument but manages to soothe their wounded egos.
Which is more or less how Rand operated too, and certainly explains why her prose was such boring, tortured drivel. It was almost as if she was afraid to let the words speak for themselves because if that happened then the reader might too. I’m surprised that a writer with such subtlety as O’Connor wasted the ink mentioning her.
Did anyone else go and read the full letter (it’s linked in the article)? It’s quite short and the tone of the thing strikes me as pretty lighthearted. I think Ms O’Connor would be bemused by the flap her off-hand remark has made here. (Though, given her somewhat dark view of human nature, perhaps she wouldn’t be surprised at all.)
That said… PeterM, are you trolling? Or do you really not know that Flannery O’Connor was a great writer?
“That dear crazy woman,” Mickey said of Rand, “she loves Mike Hammer!”
Count down. 5-4-3-2-1. Here they come. The anti-Rand whack jobs whose sole job in life is to rationalize their own mediocrity. I think it’s what Rand called “Hatred of the good for being the good.”
TawnieO: Yeah, right. Flannery O’Connor was a great writer and Barack Obama is a deep thinker.
Anyone not knowing O’Connor is a certified genius and Rand a pretentious intellectual giblet must need a lot more education. Go back to Jr. High, where you probably read Rand and were so impressed by her wild, passionate cries for individual freedom (youngsters really admire selfishness on a grand scale). Read “Wise Blood” and see if you can’t relate, just a bit, to the main character. I know because you can post stuff on the internet you think you’re smart. Wrong. Any fool can. I do.
Okay, Randians, you have been following Eddie Lampert’s tanking of Sears, haven’t you? http://tinyurl.com/qcaesdd
Re: Rand’s novels. If one strips out all the meth-fueled ‘sociocultural’ ravings, what one is left with are torrid romantic rape fantasies. No wonder she loved Spillane.
The fact that we are debating the merits of Rand and, yes, even Spillane, show what a lasting impact they have had. Like them or not, they achieved greater fame and sold more books than O’Connor did (and I’m certainly not saying she was any less of a writer). They found their niches and their readers identified with them, which is really all it’s about as a writer.
I liked Ayn Rand’s novels. I loved Dostoevsky, admired Tolstoy, and was awed by Victor Hugo. Sadly, I have not read anything by Mickey Spillane. I confess to having told friends not to waste their time on certain novels, specifically, Moby Dick. I consider it to be the most overrated novel in American literature. So I can’t disagree in principle with Flannery O’Connor. I can only disagree with her judgment of Rand’s merits. I think she had some.
Ayn Rand’s prose is insufferable and pompous. Her characters are not believable as people. Her writing is trashy and her political beliefs are unsupportable by anything resembling evidence.
Ayn Rand wrote a decent tale. Mickey Spillane wrote books to entertain, and was wildly successful. He fully understood he was competing for my beer money, and was good at it. He was writing for me and thousands like me, and if you don’t like it, go read your pretentious bs and tell yourself you are better or smarter than I am.
It is of course not true, but keep telling yourself that, it will make you feel better about not knowing what The Calculus is, or how to solve differential equations, or what the first or second laws of thermodynamics are, or to understand them if you did not know what they were.
As for me, my opinion of you….Well, if you can’t do higher mathematics, you are at best a tolerable subhuman who has been taught to eat with a fork and not make a mess on the floor.
” Here they come. The anti-Rand whack jobs whose sole job in life is to rationalize their own mediocrity. I think it’s what Rand called “Hatred of the good for being the good.”
There is plenty of reason for disliking Rand – from her tortured prose to her blatant misreading of other philosophers (Nietzsche in particular is disgusting, as the better parts of Objectivism are stolen, pardon me, looted, from him), to her idiotic attempts to moralize taste.
The truly horrible part about both Rand and her acolytes, though, is their bastardization of logic. It works like this – claim what you want to be true as an axiom (“Rand is Great”), then state “A is A” and claim any disagreement is obviously anti-logic and anti-human. Ask Nathaniel Branden if that’s truly the human spirit.
It’s interesting, but not really surprising that O’Connor (a writer of Southern Gothic Christian realism) should urge a friend to avoid reading Rand (a writer of atheist philosophical romantic realism)… both authors were becoming successful in the 50s, they were published by rival big publishers (Random House and Harcourt, Brace), and Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged had made her one of America’s most successful and influential novelists. It seems odd that anyone would try and stop people reading whatever they wanted, but there is a note of professional rivalry here – O’Connor would obviously be jealous of Rand, the author of four novels – one of which sells half a million copies a year, and has done so every year since it was first published.
That might make sense if Flannery O’Connor were wholly motivated by sales and money, but anyone who knows anything about her as a writer and as a person knows she had other priorities. Research her — she’s fascinating.
Virginia Woolf is a pseudo intellectual?
@David Sherr “Virginia Woolf is a pseudo intellectual?”
Welcome to the internet. If you think that statement was ridiculous, just keep on surfing.
I think most of Rand’s critics don’t appreciate or understand Romantic literature.
I’ve read all of Rand, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and some Spillane. I read these of my own free will.
The only O’Connor I’ve read was as part of an assignment in English Lit. Really, not my cup of tea.
There’s no accounting for taste as far as the masses are concerned. Just look at how popular the Khardasian’s are. Gag! So, Rand out selling O’Connor is a silly argument.
Ayn Rand defenders are, perfectly predictably, chauvinistic defenders of her simplistic repackaging of the categorically disproven concept of Social Darwinism. You aren’t heroes, you aren’t inherently superior to others, you aren’t part of a master race that will inevitably rise above the rabble to rule an earth wherein everyone unlike you is inferior and, most importantly, you are a fifteen year old boy any more. Grow up, get over it.
I am always amused at those who believe that the best way to promote their point of view is to stifle opposing thoughts and prevent the hearing of opposing arguments and thoughts. If your argument is superior, those evaluating your work can read any opposing material and will still find your argument superior.
It’s not with the idea of stifling Ayn Rand’s message, John, or censoring her thoughts — such thoughts as there are. It’s with the altogether noble and praiseworthy desire to save one’s friends from an ugly, distasteful, painful encounter.
Still laughing at “treasonable.”
Was this before Ayn Rand collected over $10,000 in social security benefits?
Looks like the Rand cultists are spamming the comments. They’re sad little creatures who worship her selfish, anti-American, horribly written crap, and they get *very* upset if they find anything criticizing her books.
I have written a book on the Libertarians. Many of them view Ayn Rand as a gifted writer. That absolutely floored me. They saw themselves as so intelligent, so learned and, yet, they could see that her characters were one-dimensional, her prose painful to the mind and her plotting bordered on ludicrous. Not to mention that she was wildly self-righteous without much to bolster her case for her own “brilliance.”
Rand was a second-rate writer of fiction, at best, and was a third-rate mind. She was arrogant enough to believe that she was the only person to have had a sensible or original thought since Aristotle. Those who describe her as a ‘philosopher’ are slandering true philosophers.
I can see why teenage boys 14-18 or so are drawn to Rand and (Tolkien). What I can’t fathom is why they never grew out of them. Then again, lot’s of those same people still play video games well into their 30s, and 40s.
To say that O’Connor is infinitely superior to Rand – as both a writer and a moral thinker – is an understatement.
O’Connor fans Unite! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/03/flannery-oconnor-poets-corner_n_6093712.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000051
Rand was a genuine personality, filled with all the contradictions that implies. The world would be a less interesting place without her or her followers. The story of her life is edifying, if edification were really possible, which it’s probably not. There’s this section in Atlas Shrugged, John Galt or someone has commandeered a radio station, and gives a 50 page tirade,(or at least it seemed like 50 pages). If ever a person was acting out of a deep Jungian neurosis it was him and her, and it’s a wonder to behold. I would always recommend a Rand novel to anyone who enjoys the human parade, and who wishes to witness it in all its horror and glory. She and her followers are definitely part of the story, and not to be missed out on, in my hmo. But after reading her, I might suggest a little Cesar Vallejo, Spain Take This Cup From Me, as a chaser, something to cleanse the spirit for the next go around.
Rand’s taste in literature was certainly no better than her literature. It would be impossible not to be. Sounds like this Mickey Spillane character writes stories with clear distinction between good and evil, with the evildoers always getting their commeuppance. I’ll have to give him a read. As for Tolstoy, he’s despicable. His novel Anna Karenina is basically just a condemnation of chasing one’s dreams. I’ve no idea who this Flannery O’Connor non-entity is and frankly I’m no interested.
Three cheers for grammar and spelling!
While there is certainly a lot to criticize in Rand, both in terms of her writing quality and her philosophy, this is a disappointing attack by O’Connor (sounds like the arrogance and petty jealousy of so many writers and artists, and something I’d have hoped she was above). Besides that, objectively (no pun intended), Rand’s philosophy is worthy of discussion and recognition of the legitimacy of at least some of her complaints and critiques of statism; I wonder if O’Connor might have seen that aspect of Rand differently today, had she lived through the drastic expansion of the state in the 50 intervening years and seen its generally debilitating effect on personal initiative and freedom, among other things. The author’s tagging along doesn’t do much for me, either.
Did she pay into Social Security with her own money?
That’s right, she did.
So what is the point you’re trying to make, that social security is welfare?
“All of which goes to show that Ayn Rand’s literary taste was no better than her literature.”
Oh, please. Get over yourself.
Please, people. Research the literary legacy of Ayn Rand. Here are several good biographies.
AYN RAND AND THE WORLD SHE MADE
BY ANNE C. HELLER.
NAN A. TALESE. 567 PP. $35.
GODDESS OF THE MARKET
AYN RAND AND THE AMERICAN RIGHT. BY JENNIFER BURNS.
OXFORD. 369 PP. $27.95.
As a philosopher, an economist or a writer, she was a trainwreck. She actually has more of the character of a self-promoter and huckster than anything else. This makes her the Bill O’Reilly of her generation.
Along those lines, read the review of those two books.
O’Connor is hardly a reasonable choice for a writer with which to compare Rand. Much more to the point would be Harriet Beecher Stowe, as both made highly effective and very influential use of the novel as propaganda. Stowe was realistic, whereas Rand employed fantasy, especially in her most influential work, Atlas Shrugged. People who take that to be either a literary novel or an exposition of political philosophy in the manner of Plato’s Republic make a grotesque error. It’s pointless to attempt to plumb its intellectual depths, because it has none. But as a means to indoctrinate young people who are either willing to overlook its absurdities or lack the capacity approach the book analytically and recognize them, it’s brilliant.
Speaking as a mathematician, I am gobsmacked by the idea of comparing Rand to John Nash. If she’s proven any theorems then please tell the world about them. I promise to be suitably awed and amazed.
It’s ironic, and puts me in good company. One of Rand’s books that I happened to be reading a couple decades ago remains the only book that I have ever tossed into a nearby garbage pail. I was walking down the street and took expedient action against a book I judged to have no redeeming value. Wouldn’t do that to one of Flannery’s texts, by a long shot! Or any other that I can remember.
I don’t wish that I could remember what precise set of phrases led me to jettison the Rand book, but I thought its content was too shallow for human thought. It was excruciating as it was obvious.
Isn’t O’Connor best known for “Wise Blood”?
It’s a great novel, by the way, and better than her short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”
Alisa Rosenbaum (Ayn Rand) was a victim of Stalinist Russia, and this explains her disdain for Russian Novelists. And her love of pulp fiction is the same as mine. The truth is that she was a romantic, and adventure stories appeal to romantics. But as a philosopher, she knew the best way to reach the broadest possible audience is to broach your philosophy using such stories, and this is why she is still such a prolific and respected communicator 40+ years after her death.
Rand’s Objectivism, a secular ethics, is perhaps the greatest philosophical accomplishment of the 20th Century. Her respect for individualism is a result of her rejection of “Communism” under the U.S.S.R. and her desire for justice in the form of meritocracy. The fact that she used stories of productive and creative genius, and homeless transient laborers, like John Galt, to illustrate her ideals, doesn’t discount their power. Her call to judge people objectively based upon their actions, given the liberty of their own values, is unique among philosophers.
Although rarely understood, and often misrepresented, Rand’s genius was expressed not in the literary quality of her fiction, but in the logic expressed in her non-fiction works. Anyone who reads the breadth of her books is changed. As an atheist, Rand had the courage to reject irrational faith and corporate bureaucracies, calling out those who had profited without merit from the work of others. We would be better off if we had more Objectivists.
There are two general classes of readers: Those who encountered Ayn Rand while also enduring puberty/early teen years; and those who encountered Ayn Rand after previous exposure to real authors and philosophers.
Rand appeals to that first group in a way that is both difficult and interesting to fathom: The ideas and ideals seem poignant to an inexperienced, fresh mind. To anyone with a whiff of real life experience under their belt, it is cloyingly, stultifyingly unbearable.
She was a serial torturer of the English language.
This article was brought to you by Ellsworth M Toohey.
I read Mickey Spillane, Ayn Rand, Flannery O’Connor, Victor Hugo, and Tolstoy. I was in my teens when I plowed through We, The Living, Atlas Shrugged and older when I read the Virtue of Selfishness. All of these books were phases in my reading taste. To credit Ayn Rand with a valid economic point of view on a workable scale is akin to mowing your lawn with the garbage truck. Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein presented a more coherent world view.
I suggest a dip into Tuccille’s “It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand”.
The “world would be a less interesting place without her or her followers”, but that can equally be said of Ezra Pound, who, anti-Semitic fascist money crank though he was, was a vastly more skilled artist, which Rand wasn’t.
It does stand on its face.
Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, as a basic philosophical concept makes no sense. Sure the possibility of an objective existence outside the bonds of human perception exists, but human perception dictates reality, not vice-versa, that’s why books like 1984 are so thoroughly terrifying, because they represent the purest exploitation of that notion.
To assume that something exists of itself is rank foolishness, nothing exists of itself on the human plane of perception, the fact that we can argue the value of that statement only enhances, instead of detracts, and the logical fallacy that I just brought up being a potential truth in my reality also bolsters it.
Skipping past her philosophy, her other ideas, such as the virtues of selfishness, propped up by libertarians and self proclaimed “Free thinkers” is a great justification for the continued subjugation of the masses via capitalism instead of communism. Rich people love her books because it gives them justifications to be rich assholes.
And, most egregiously of all, she’s just a poor writer.
She has no understanding of people, plot and her dialogue is leaps over the idea of reversal and goes straight to contradiction “I love because I hate you.” sums up 90% of her dialogue.
Let’s also not disregard the fact that freud would label her obsession with selfishness as an reaction formation against her communist upbringing, which when you’re arguing for rationality is pretty much the exact opposite.
She was human, and though she was human and her failings were just so, that doesn’t excuse the clinical and lifeless way she perceived literature, art, and the human struggle.
Her notion is message before craft and that appalls me, if you’re going to write a philosophical treatise, write a philosophical treatise, don’t write a turgid attempt at romance then shoe-horn a 36 page monologue about the shittiness of helping others.
I am not saying that you are wrong to like rand, and since fundamentally objectivity is non-existent for humanity, you are entitled to believe what you want to believe regarding her philosophies.
But as someone who was offended by the fountainhead’s writing, messsage annd philosophical outlook, I have no problem filling in the justifications for O’Connor’s sentiment.
I am sorry if this sounds unnecessarily angry, but I just am very much not fond of Ayn Rand. I hope you can see where I am coming from
O’Connor, a great American writer Randians would do well to read, did not do anything other than tell a friend that Rand was a godawful hack. This is self-evident to any literate person and not a violation of anything..
O’Connor wasn’t publicly attacking Rand. She was writing a private letter to a friend. This letter and others she wrote to friends weren’t published until 1979, long after her death. It’s not surprising that the deeply religious Roman Catholic O’Connor wouldn’t care for Rand’s atheist philosophy. The recurring theme in O’Connor’s writings is redemption and unexpected grace which arrives despite her characters’ best efforts to escape God’s will. I’d compare O’Connor to Dostoevsky. The best understanding of O’Connor comes from reading her last collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge.
As soon as I read “factoid” I stopped reading. This is not a word.
I somehow to have escaped reading Rand in junior high school in the 1950’s, but I did read O’Connor without the detriment or benefit of teachers while I was an English major in college a decade latter. I also had read my share of Spillane, whose seems to be criticized mostly by pseudo intellects just because he found his niche. I never tell anybody what they shouldn’t read, but I’m always glad to recommend something I thought my fellow readers would enjoy.
And the Twilight novels, The Da Vinci Code and countless other pieces of utter crap sold a lot of books too. Doesn’t mean they were any good. Despite the popularity of Rand’s low brow selfishness, she was a really bad writer. I can read lots of stuff I disagree with and still find some enjoyment in it as long as it is well written – not the case with Rand. Regardless of her message, the writing simply sucks.
Its possible to love opposites in equal measure. Ive read Rand. Her novels are tough and turgid and in need of editing. But her life long outrage over what Bolsheviks did to the family business and the demoralizing effect it had on her father seemed valid. And her message struck a nerve with me…beware anyone who asks or demands sacrifice for the greater good. Theres sure to be something up their sleeve. Ive also read Oconnor. Theres a particular story about a one legged atheist who attempts to seduce a seemingly virginal bible salesman who steals her prosthesis and leaves her in a hay loft. Absolutely fantastic. Wicked fun. I love Rand and Oconnor. Brilliant original gals who believed passionately in their message. Spillane? I havent gotten there yet. Im sure he was on to something too. Sorry about the spelling mistakes. Damn android.
Clickbait is a genre all its own—and you, O author of this post, are a master.
Well, what I got out of this thread is that badmouthing others is never a good look for anybody.
No Christian “crusades” against any “minority”.
A Christian recognizes the fact that all men are created in the image of God no matter how hard they work to deface that image. God made one race of man that now exists in various sizes and colors, all of which are mere adaptations and mutations of that original combination of the genes of Adam and Eve his wife for life.
Many things are done in the name of Christ, few are actually Christian: Few are actually the good works we were created to do before the world was created.
There is very little here that appears open to me. It seems like the left, and the right, are once again lifting their leg on each other. Regarding culture: I mostly see a culture of hate, bigotry, and arrogance here.
I could offer a critique of Ayn Rand’s ouvre that would meet an objectivist’s standards, but it would be a 23-page monologue, and no one with taste would enjoy it.
In regard to the comments section all I can say is, haters gonna hate.
The most appealing quality about Ayn Rand’s work to me and why I am such a fan is its “in your face” honesty and integrity, the very starkness which induces distaste and whole hearted agreement at the same time. Her work should never be judged only on how “literally” good it is, for it can never be a lietrary masterpiece. Her philosophy however, is the true masterpiece of the sense of life!
It would also make sense if Flannery O’Connor were /substantially/ motivated by sales and money. I am not saying even that /that/ was true, but what you said smells to me of straw.
Very nicely put. But what can be done about the O’Connor “cult?”
Should anyone be surprised by the term: it was first used by her professor/writer friend in Georgia who is now deceased.
Well that’s just completely unfounded and quite honestly completely inaccurate. Flannery O’Connor was one of the greatest American writers of the last century along with Marilynne Robinson. If anything, Ayn Rand was the mediocre thinker and writer, though even then, “mediocre thinker” is too generous for her outrageous philosophy. I can’t help but laugh at the thought that Ayn Rand could even be considered “greatness.”
The only — and I do mean ONLY — people who think Ayn Rand is a great writer are the people in her cult (which, as this comment thread attests, is both sizable and snippety.) We can all think of a lot of other great writers who we may not love, but whom we can agree are great or at least estimable. To think this way about Rand, you have to be a so-called objectivist. With that crowd, her “genius” is the first article of faith.
I read him as a teen. You want hard-boiled detective fiction, Mickey delivers. To get a flavor of his style, one of his books (either ‘My Gun is Quick’ or ‘I,The Jury’ has this opening sentence: “The guy was dead as hell.” I outgrew MS, Tarzan,also Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series, which is racist as can be: “The epitome of the Yellow Peril”, Fu Manchu is described as having emerald green eyes, as this “monstrous master of malevolence” tries to destroy western civilization. But some books have really held up over time,particularly Wilkie Collins (‘The Moonstone’; ‘The Woman in White); also both H. Rider Haggard (‘King Soloman’s Mines; ‘She’) and John Buchan (most famous for ‘The 39 Steps’). I read one of Buchan’s books called ‘The Dancing Floor’ and it terrified me as a teen and then left me twitching in my bed all night last Christmas holidays when I re-read it. And Buchan, along with M.R James, was a master of the short story and the supernatural. ‘The Grove of Ashtaroth’in particular — I cannot read the final sentence without shedding a manly tear or two. M.R James and Buchan can be found on the internet (expired copyright). Years ago I attended a four day writers’ conference in Palm Springs. I not only met Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison but also Roderick Thorpe, upon whose work the ‘Die Hard’ movie series is based. He read a draft of my novel and said, “This is good, but you don’t know how to write action.” I was proud of my action scenes, but Rod said, “You want to know how to write action? Learn from the greatest action writer in the English language. Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘Treasure Island’. The scene where young Jack Hawkins is climbing the ship’s rigging, being pursued by a bloodthirsty pirate with a knife in his teeth, knowing that once he gets to the crow’s nest at the top, there is nowhere else to go.
ahhh, a wise guy, eh?
Two of the most influential, mysterious and entertaining books I have ever read were Atlas Shrugged and I love Ayn Rands work and can’t understand why anyone would be so demonstrably negative about her beautiful fiction efforts.
Apologies I meant to say Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead
I’ve never understood critiquing Ayn Rand as a “bad writer”. If anything, Ayn Rand’s descriptive writing –describing scenes and settings– is among the best I’ve read in terms of clarity and vividness. Moreover. I simply don’t relate to people asserting that her characters are one-dimensional or unreliable or “paper-machete”.
Really, the only character that can be fairly charged with those flaws is John Galt, but if one properly understands Galt’s role in Atlas Shrugged, one realizes his character development fits the novel perfectly. Galt is supposed to represent both and ideal to strive for, and the symbol of the strike of the “men of the mind”. Hence, it is proper to keep his character somewhat aloof, as contrasted to the fully developed characters of Dagny and Reardon. And this brings me to my other point.
I always found Rand’s characters well developed for what she was trying to accomplish in writing her novels: Her novels where philosophical novels, and the character development in her novels generally represented the development of the philosophical point she was trying to portray. In this light, her characters are very well developed and very relatable.
Moreover, I read her novels before I knew anything about philosophy, and I most certainly did not read the novel from the perspective discussed in the previous paragraph(s). Nonetheless, I remember thoroughly enjoying her descriptive ability and, on a rather superficial level, her character development, even though the didn’t fully grasp the import of what she was doing. And this is coming from an avid reader who had already read many different novels and authors. Hence, my experience, even on a superficial level that didn’t take account of or fully integrate her purpose, belies the assertion that she is a bad writer.
Yikes! I wish I had proofread better, or there were an edit function, because there are a few bothersome typos I failed to correct in my other comment.
“Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, as a basic philosophical concept makes no sense. Sure the possibility of an objective existence outside the bonds of human perception exists, but human perception dictates reality, not vice-versa, that’s why books like 1984 are so thoroughly terrifying, because they represent the purest exploitation of that notion.”
Wow! So “human perception dictates reality” huh? Where does that leave causality, an idea center to all of Classical Physics and our everyday lives? By changing our beliefs and therefore our perception, can we make it so that jumping off a tall cliff with jagged rocks at the bottom will not ultimately result in severe injury and most likely death, if only we perceive that it will not? Are you willing to participate in a study seeking to prove this hypothesis? If not, do you truly believe “human perception dictates reality?”
I really don’t understand why being objective about any subject is so controversial, especially in a world where the collective (no pun intended) mass of human knowledge is accessible to anyone. Nor do I see why it is so offensive to consider loyalty to your own country. With more life already behind me than is left ahead, I suppose the more you learn the less you know is coming to pass.
This bit from Ms. Rand would have been enough by itself to lead Flannery O’Connor to the conclusion she did about Ayn Rand’s atheism and cruelty…
‘If any civilization is to survive it is the morality of altruism that they must reject’
Your first paragraph puts Rand’s writing in context and makes complete sense; but the second paragraph couldn’t be further from reality. It is, in fact, a false equivalence. John Nash’s contributions to economics are actually based on mathematics and have been proven to be sound theory using verifiable data. Ayn Rand’s economic philosophy is based on ideological beliefs that have failed over and over again; the latest example of that failure can seen on an epic scale in Kansas, under Governor Brownback. Comparing the economic contributions of Rand to Nash is like comparing the debunked hypotheses of nazi eugenics with the theories of Stephen Hawking; there’s absolutely no equivalence between the two. One has caused harm and the other has added to humanity’s collective knowledge and understanding of the universe.
Actually, it is. Norman Mailer coined the term in his book “Marilyn”, 1972.
Yes, it came off as humorous to me as well. A bit of fun.
Rand’s writings are one of those topics youthful college freshman find worthy of debate and discuss.
After that, most get over her.
So completely true. My assessment as well. She a brief college freshman topic at best – which ends with freshman year.
Actually Ayn Rand and Mickey Spillane were friends.
I see some defenders of Ayn Rand’s writing in the thread, I can *at least* defend her taste — these remarks of hers abou Tolstoy and Dosteyevsky, Hugo, it’s all looking pithy, and perfectly resonable to me.
She despised welfare recipients and the welfare state. If she had her way there would be no welfare. If she had a shred of decency she would have starved to death or eaten out trash cans rather than accept welfare, typical right wing hypocrite.
Ayn Rand wrote approvingly of Ibsen, of Dostoevsky and, above all, of Victor Hugo. So she clearly had a bit of taste. She decided she detested Tolstoy. I think this was partly because the worst feature of her writing (lengthy passages of comment and exposition that are insufferably boring and of only dubious relevance) is identical with the worst feature of old Lev’s. In both cases, it stems from an unwarranted authorial lack of confidence that plot and characters are making the points effectively. On a bad day, there’s not much telling the pair of them apart and I think Rand, on one level, knew this. At their best, by contrast, they are wholly different: Tolstoy excels at characterisation – particularly of people in states of extreme misery; Rand is good at plot, sometimes at pacing (when nobody’s making any long speeches) and at a certain kind of waspish satire.
She is thought in some quarters not to have been particularly well read and I suspect she discovered few if any imaginative writers of substance after she went to America. Spillane would have looked a better writer than he is because, as a native Russian and French speaker, she would not have noticed the frequent clunkiness of his prose.
Yet she still has real strengths and it’s a shame nobody ever seems to have introduced her to George Eliot, from whom she could have learned so much. Romola, in particular, is a novel that, to me, resembles what The Fountainhead could have been if purged of its resentful misanthropy.
Even if I hadn’t read all three writers, I’d hazard a guess, from the tone of the comments, that it is the O’Connor fans who will display the capacity for humour.
Just for the record advising someone not to read a book or author that you yourself have read and disliked is normal.
The suggestion. That it’s not or that it is in some way deplorable, despotic, tyrannical or ‘treasonable’ (😂) is absurd beyond even that which Camus imagined the human mind capable of in its fruitless, yet inevitable, search for meaning and value. Children.
Who the Hell cares what other people think about a given author? If you like their work, so be it. If you don’t, then don’t read it.
‘… … Rand’s Objectivism rejects primitivism and tribalism, while arguing that they are symptomatic of an “anti-industrial” mentality. Rand claims that the indigenous Native Americans had no claim to property rights. When Rand addressed West Point Military Academy cadets in 1974 and was asked about the dispossession and “cultural genocide” of Native Americans which occurred en route to forming the United States, she replied that indigenous people “had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages …. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights – they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures” – they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using.” Rand went on to opine that “in opposing the white man” Native Americans wished to “continue a primitive existence” and “live like animals or cavemen”, surmising that “any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.” … …’ (wikipedia)
Who protects the insurance companies’ investments?