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The Journals of Ayn Rand Paperback – August 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Rand (1905-82), the controversial author and founder of Objectivism (the philosophy of rational self-interest), continues to have a loyal following. This current work consists of her previously unpublished working notes (1927-60s). It is not a personal memoir (an authorized biography is forthcoming) but a glimpse into the evolution of Rand's thought processes and writing over four decades. Over half the book, arranged chronologically, is devoted to the composition of Rand's most important novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Harriman (a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy, Claremont Graduate Sch.) carefully considers plot, theme, dialog, character development, etc., and provides succinct annotations that are bracketed within Rand's text. A companion to the Letters of Ayn Rand (Dutton, 1995), this is recommended for larger literature, philosophy, and political science collections, as well as any library with patrons interested in Rand.?Janice E. Braun, Mills Coll., Oakland, Cal.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Both those inspired and those irritated by Rand's radical individualism will find support for their response in her journals. Sympathetic readers will enjoy sketches of unfinished projects, philosophical fragments, essays and testimony about communists in Hollywood, and extensive notes for her two major novels. Harriman's (Philosophy/Claremont Graduate School) sycophantic but helpful comments guide the reader through the unpublished material of an unwavering proponent of individualism and capitalism who is not afraid to condemn altruism or dismiss democratic authority with scorn. Indeed, the ease with which she labels most people ``parasites'' suggests that Rand was born too soon: Her self-confident dismissals of all who disagree would have made her a phenom on Crossfire or talk radio. Others will be struck by what is absent here: For Rand there are no open questions. She explicitly started ``with a set of ideas'' and then studied ``to support them.'' An instinctual antipathy to collectivism born of a childhood spent under communist rule established the substance of the writer's worldview, and her subsequent intellectual activity involved communicating convictions rather than exploring them. Fiction provided an outlet for this ideological single-mindedness, allowing her version of reality to be presented through fantasy worlds shorn of anything inconsistent with her beliefs. To demonstrate how individualism and collectivism work ``in real life'' and acceptance of a flawed concept such as charity results when we depart ``from facts,'' Rand wrote novels representing, she said, ``the kind of world I want.'' Even when recognizing that her idealization of the defendant in an actual criminal trial was probably inaccurate, she claimed that it ``does not make any difference,'' for even if he was not as she perceived him, ``he could be, and that's enough.'' This volume reveals not only how strong conclusions can flow from trumping fact with fiction, but also why Rand seemed to be living on another planet. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452278872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452278875
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Wisehart on February 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Simply a wonderful book. Starting before her first book "We the Living", continuing through her masterpiece "Atlas Shrugged", to the final years of her life, this is Ayn Rand's development as a writer and a thinker--as only she could show it. You will see her accept commonly held bad ideas early in her career, only to later discover their flaws and repudiate them. If you are interested in your own development as a thinker, there is no better guide than this account of the development of a master.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Neil Parille on January 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
Jennifer Burns, after spending extensive time in the Ayn Rand Archives, demonstrated in her 2009 book Goddess of the Market what had long been suspected: David Harriman has edited Rand's journals in a most misleading fashion, even deleting entire sentences and names without telling his reader. He has also changed the wording of things Rand wrote. For example Burns says, "[m]any of the edits involve small words that carry great weight, such as 'if' and 'but.' Sentences that Rand starts with a tentative "if" are rewritten to sound stronger and more definite."

What is worse is that Harriman never told his readers that he was making such dramatic changes; in fact he implies the exact opposite.

Unfortunately, this has also been done to at least five other books of Rand's posthumously published material. A detailed analysis has been done of Robert Mayhew's editing of Rand's Q & A. It is truly shocking.

Rand worked hard to keep the integrity of her published work intact. What some of her editors have done to material published after her death is a disgrace.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
There are very few people who believe nowadays that it is a worthwhile activity to discover how to think. This book is for such people. You will see diagrams that show relationships between events in Atlas Shrugged that you never knew existed. You will also find marvellous feats of abstraction which demonstrate an author's ability to "see a streetfight, then describe a battle."
The downside to this book is that there is quite a bit of repetition, although with interesting variations. It's like a textbook that distills hundreds of mathematical instances into a an abstraction which is so general that you are bored - all the instances look like one another, since they all look like the abstraction.
If you enjoy thinking - I mean, really thinking, not quoting "intellectual works" mindlessly in cafes - then I advise that you obtain a copy of this book, and *study* it alongside each of Ayn Rand's novels.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Toiler on January 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
If you happen to be an intellectual struggling through the travails of achieving very long-range goals, then this book has a mother load of precious gems for you to mine. You have to work at it, though. You have to want it. You have to already know what it's like to sit day after day in front of a white piece of paper and force yourself to work—especially to solve difficult mental problems on your own. Serious intellectual work is tough going, and this book will show you just how tough it was even for one of the brightest minds the world has ever known, yet it will also help you to see how that same mind overcame those challenges.

For me, reading this book was a little like having Ayn Rand come back as a ghost to hover over me, urging me on in my struggles to be a fiction writer, promising me that I will succeed if I work hard enough, employ good study methods, always engage my own values, and above all use reason as my guide.

This book is not for everyone. Though David Harriman did a remarkable job of selecting the right content and sorting it for clarity and readability, it remains just what the title states: Ayn Rand's personal journals. It is not a diary. There's nothing here about personal hobbies, romance, or life's milestones. Only her writing notes were included so that the reader can see a straightforward record of the orderly mental processes that she applied to her work.

Personally, I found this book to be challenging, informative, and highly inspirational — a fascinating look into a fascinating mind.
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By pondscum on December 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
OK, we know that the journals have been edited, but I'm not enough of a "True Believer" in Rand's god-like status to get offended that the editor would mess with the gospel. In fact I found the philosophical sections in this book boring enough that I skipped over most of them.

What I did find really interesting was the insight into Rand's fiction-writing process -- for example, starting out with the characters and detailed notes on their background, motivations, and development while often not sorting out their roles in the plot until much later. I got a laugh out of the alternate-universe ending to "The Fountainhead" in one of the draft plot outlines, and for "Atlas Shrugged" it was fascinating to see that some details of setting and dialogue were set very early while other things didn't fall into place until much later. (For instance, it appears Rand originally had a different and larger role for Ragnar in mind, and ended up turning him into a pirate when she dropped that plot line and couldn't figure how else to fit him into the story. She started out with a lot of clear ideas for individual scenes that eventually made it into the book, but in her notes it was clear she hadn't worked out the plot connections between them yet, nor all the personal connections between the characters.) I'm used to thinking analytically about the technical and nonfiction writing I do myself, so from my perspective it's interesting to see how one might approach a large-scale work of imagination instead.
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