Happy Ayn Rand’s Birthday 2013

I celebrate February 2, the birthday of Ayn Rand, by opening one of her novels to a random page and reading. Today I read these two passages from The Fountainhead.

“Miss Cook, I’ve read Clouds and Shrouds and it was a spiritual revelation to me. Allow me to include myself among the few who understand the courage and significance of what you’re achieving single-handed while…”

“Oh, can the crap,” said Lois Cook and winked at him.

“But I mean it!” he snapped angrily. “I loved your book. I…”

She looked bored.

“It is so commonplace,” she drawled, “to be understood by everybody.”

[Part Two, Chapter 4, p. 240.]

“Mr. Janss, when you buy an automobile, you don’t want it to have rose garlands about the windows, a lion on each fender and an angel sitting on the roof. Why don’t you?”

“That would be silly,” stated Mr. Janss.

“Why would it be silly? Now I think it would be beautiful. Besides, Louis the Fourteenth had a carriage like that and what was good enough for Louis is good enough for us. We shouldn’t go in for rash innovations and we shouldn’t break with tradition.”

“Now you know damn well you don’t believe anything of the sort!”

“I know I don’t. But that’s what you believe, isn’t it? Now take a human body. Why wouldn’t you like to see a human body with a curling tail with a crest of ostrich feathers at the end? And with ears shaped like acanthus leaves? It would be ornamental, you know, instead of the stark, bare ugliness we have now. Well, why don’t you like the idea? Because it would be useless and pointless. Because the beauty of the human body is that it hasn’t a single muscle which doesn’t serve its purpose; that there’s not a line wasted; that every detail of it fits one idea, the idea of a man and the life of a man. Will you tell me why, when it comes to a building, you don’t want it to look as if it had any sense or purpose, you want to choke it with trimmings, you want to sacrifice its purpose to its envelope—not knowing even why you want that kind of an envelope? You want it to look like a hybrid beast produced by crossing the bastards of ten different species until you get a creature without guts, without heart or brain, a creature all pelt, tail, claws and feathers? Why? You must tell me, because I’ve never been able to understand it.
[Part One, Chapter 13, pp. 164–165.]

Rand, Ayn ([1943], 1952), The Fountainhead. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company. Reprint, New York: Signet.

One thought on “Happy Ayn Rand’s Birthday 2013

  1. With razor-sharp clarity (as though watching a movie), I can still see myself in my mind’s eye, in early 1972, alone, squatting to the lowest wire rack on the south wall of a little book/magazine/tobacco store (“R&K”, it was called, and long-gone) in the downtown section of my small hometown–eyeing a lone copy of Signet’s paperback edition of “The Fountainhead,” and wondering, as I casually thumbed it, whether it would be worth buying for the $1.50 cover price. Eighteen years old, I still wasn’t much of “a reader,” though I did feel I wanted to become one…. Anyway, I bought it (and it alone) that day.

    The inside of the front cover of the well-worn edition bears, in ink, my name and the date I finished reading it: March 10, 1972. In that first reading, I remember constantly waiting for the characterizations or plot to fall apart, and evidence compromise or inconsistency. And I remember being astonished that it never happened.

    It is odd, isn’t it: those casual, random moments of life that will stay with you forever, as a part of you–quite without your having, as they’re being casually lived, the slightest inkling that they will….

    And that’s my anecdote—in the wake of your ritual, this February of 2013.

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