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The Ayn Rand Cult 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0812693904
ISBN-10: 0812693906
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Paperback, December 30, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to this devastating and often heavy-handed critique, Ayn Rand, whose novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged exposed millions to her philosophy of virtuous self-centeredness and capitalist freedom, was an oppressive personality whose Objectivist movement demonstrated all the classic elements of a destructive cult (its messianic leader and its separation of group members from family and friends). Walker presents his subject as an arrogant, dogmatic bully who brooked no criticism and as a repressed narcissist who feared her own emotions and hid behind a glorification of reason. He concludes that Rand was no more than a third-rate pop-novelist of propaganda fiction and that her "vulgar Nietzschean" philosophy's obsessive concern with the overachiever?who requires protection via absolutized individual rights?contributed to the movement's cultish aspects. Walker also savages self-esteem guru Nathaniel Branden, who was Rand's protege and extramarital lover; their explosive breakup in 1968 pulverized the Objectivist movement, whose contemporary schisms and crosscurrents he ploddingly tracks. In a vitriolic chapter on Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan?a one-time member of Rand's inner circle?Walker unpersuasively contends that this banker's "inflation-obsessed" policies grew out of Rand's theories. Those who find Rand's self-styled philosophy outre may not find much of interest in this scathing, albeit clumsy, expose. Others will find it a useful corrective to the Rand mystique. (Feb.) FYI: Branden's tell-all account of his affair with Rand and his role in the Objectivist movement is being reissued in a new edition in March as My Years with Ayn Rand: The Truth Behind the Myth (Jossey-Bass, $19 480p ISBN 0-7879-4513-7). While he does criticize Rand personally, his treatment differs from Walker's in that he still reveres her as a philosopher.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Ayn Rand's novels and philosophy have been the object of widespread popular interest since the 1950s. After her death in 1982, there was a spate of biographical and critical interest; her popularity continues with a U.S. postage stamp and a television documentary, both scheduled for this spring. These two books offer divergent perspectives on Rand, her followers, and the Objectivist movement. Branden (The Art of Living Consciously, LJ 3/1/97) offers a revised version of his 1989 memoir. A personal account of his intellectual and romantic relationship with Rand and their famous break, it is useful for its insider's view of the Objectivist movement and may appeal to those interested in gossipy details of the protagonists' lives. While objectivity isn't expected in an insider's account, this memoir nonetheless lacks critical distance, even after nearly 50 years, and is marred by plodding narrative and wooden dialog. Canadian journalist Walker makes a more valuable and original contribution to Rand studies. He analyzes the Objectivist movement, Rand's leadership role, and the politics of her inner circle in terms of the cult dynamic. This analytical perspective avoids the common extremes of hagiography and vilification that mark many accounts of Rand's schismatic movement. Walker also does a credible job of placing Rand's ideas in the context of philosophies that preceded and followed her, and it offers insightful chapters on three of her major followers: Branden, Leonard Peikoff, and Alan Greenspan. His account is well researched and clearly written, though it is sometimes weighed down by an unsynthesized accumulation of detail. A solid contribution to 20th-century intellectual history.AJulia Burch, MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, MA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court Publishing Company; 1st edition (December 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812693906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812693904
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

'Music Makes Me' music blog (tardypigeon)

Re. 'Let's Put The Beatles Back Together Again 1970-2010':

About the Beatles it's hard to write anything new...[Yet,] accomplished with fearless dilettantism by Jeff Walker, is the job of pruning what exists. The book is a veritable orchard of the resulting bonsai trees. To put it more crudely, this is a listmaker's wet dream.

Walker structures the book around the idea that, contra Lennon's song 'God', the dream is not over. [T]here is a way to claw back the Beatles' solo careers and construct a Beatlesque canon. To do this, Walker proposes a thought experiment. Suppose the Beatles, upon officially splitting up, had made a pact to continue to group together their best solo recordings under the moniker of the Beatles Releasing Collective (the BRC).

John still dies on December 8, 1980, but he 'survives' as 'ghost-John' recording artist by virtue of having a fair bit of unreleased work in the can. They still release [solo work but] the best tracks (ie. 'Nineteen Hudred and Eighty-Five' but not 'No Words' from Band on the Run) are creamed off and packaged for the BRC.

I would say [the book] is best described as a piece of conceptual art...At its heart is the notion of digging out 'Beatlesworthy' (as Walker puts it) songs from the post-Beatles period. A subjective--and subjunctive--cataloguing which is very much of our time. The idea of wresting programming duties from the artist is the sine qua non of the iPod playlist. It's a notion positively encouraged by the digital world we've surrounded ourselves with. As someone who runs what I'd like to think of as a discriminating music blog, I am all for eclecticism. Out with the overrated! Down with the merely popular (Indeed, at one point, Walker refers to to people whose appetites are sated by Best Of collections as 'cultural plebians'.)

To me, this is where the book comes into its own. The BRC's Black Album, a 1973 four-record boxed set juxtaposes the former Beatles' best solo tracks. [ie.] George's 'What is Life' is followed by John's 'Instant Karma', followed by Ringo's 'It Don't Come Easy', followed by Paul's 'Another Day'. (Interestingly, Walker relates that George made very similar collection in 1971 for Beatle fan[ friends] who couldn't wait for the boys to re-form.)

Walker's selections...are admittedly quirky at times: the Get Back sessions are abundantly represented [in a transition chapter]...However, I found the author's quirkiness endearing rather than irritating. Commendation must go to him for representing each of the Beatles fairly. I myself wouldn't have known where to start with Ringo.

Moreover, there is a marvellous boldness to the writing and to the choices. A boldness which rests somewhere on the assumption that the Beatles' [post-1960s work is] better listened to selectively...[W]hat counts as Beatlesque [is] not an easy question to answer, nor is Walker the type to ponder such philosophic questions. But perhaps that's the point. It's easier to classify the Stones' output...But the Beatles' work frequently eludes such categorisations. That's why we love it. That, I might add, is the best definition of what is 'Beatlesque'.

[T]his is not a book for completists, but for fantasists. And that is also appropriate: the Beatles were, after all, in the job of fantasising for a generation.

[T]he book does double duty as a repository of biographical data and contextual information about the song selections. Here I found Walker's pruning superb. You may know that John Lennon had a pony as a child, but I hadn't seen that mentioned before, and I certainly don't know many writers who would dare to be literal enough to mention it in the context of 'I Dig a Pony'. (And I mean that as a compliment.) You might not think it adds much to your appreciation of the song, but it I think it does.

Futhermore, the timelines Walker provides are helpful, but beyond that, they often have their own unexpected pathos, the week leading up to Lennon's death in December 1980 in particular.

[A]lthough...it is very informative, this is not a dry book, by any means. There is plenty of gentle humour: the short section entitled 'Ringo's Guide to Impressing a Bond Girl' (in short: nearly getting killed together) was a big favourite of mine. And how can you not love a book with the chapter heading 'Getting Past George's Obsession with Eastern Religion'?

I haven't even touched on many of the problems the book deals with felicitously. To select one...how do you go about compiling a great Beatles [Releasing Collective] 'live' album [set]. Walker shows how it could be done...Imagine if Walker was to catch someone's ear at EMI.

In summary: This is a well-meaning and worthwhile project, accomplished with good humour and a lightness of touch, despite the enormous effort involved. I cannot fault Walker's meticulous research, which has encouraged me to seeek out in particular some Harrison and Starr tracks...otherwise...buried...on...middling albums. Certainly this is a good antidote to the complacent, who might think they have listened to everything the Beatles had to offer them.

'Said the Gramophone' music blog (Sean)

[In late 2010] the Beatles' catalogue finally appeared for sale on iTunes...But...the songs of John, Paul, George and Ringo ha[d] been on iTunes for years. Just not their songs together. The Beatles' respective solo material wasn't caught up in the same licensing tangle...But who cares, right? Sure, everyone likes 'My Sweet Lord', 'Band on the Run' and 'Oh Yoko'-but after the Beatles broke up, "The Beatles sucked." Besides a tiny handful of exceptions, and a single here and there, the Fab Four's post-1970 output is scarcely worth paying attention to.

Or is it?

I'm reading a book [whose] title is as good a description as any: Let's Put the Beatles Back Together Again 1970-2010: How to Assemble & Appreciate the 2nd Half of the Beatles' Legacy'. It's a 20-word way of saying, Not so fast, kid. Or, Maybe there's something worth saving on that Ringo Starr album.

Jeff argues that the Beatles kept on making good music after early 1970--they just didn't make it consistently. The gems are hidden amid the dross, he explains, but today such dross can simply be ignored or consigned to oblivion. Imagine if the Beatles kept making music, just not all together. Alone, or in twos and threes, they went into the studio--and then released the best and most Beatlesque of this solo material as, er, the Beatles Releasing Collective.

This is Jeff's alternate-universe...Allen Klein and Yoko Ono don't wedge the boys apart. A mysterious manager called Arnold Zonn (aka "Cap'n Arn") swoops in and consoles their roiling hearts. Zonn had the psychological acumen to persuade [the Beatles]...to carry on, in a new form that would address all their separate aspirations. And suddenly there's room for not just one or two more Beatles albums--but 40 years' worth.

Over 500 pages, Jeff creates, curates and defends six "core" albums, 16 bonus CD-Rs, and various LP revisions overseen by the 'Beatles Releasing Collective'. All, in a sense, are imaginary [but can be made]. There's 1982's MoonDogs, a kind of Lennon memorial, with song's like Paul's 'Here Today' and John's '(Just Like) Starting Over'. There's 2000's 45, a 3-disc set [that includes the] Anthology's 'Real Love' and 'Free as a Bird'...And, um, lots and lots more. Each has been meticulously assembled, sequenced and refined--these are not crude collections of the mop-tops' solo hits. Jeff writes with passion and all the half-crazy focus of a serious Beatles fan.

But is he right? By carefully culling the best of the after-Beatles Beatles, assembling these songs into albums, can you make something that lives up to the legacy?

Judge for yourself.

beatlesnews Sept. 23, 2011 (okvegascowgirl)

[Jeff Walker's] premise is finding a way to appreciate all the solo material available after 1970, and enjoy it as a Beatles fan. The alternative universe the author creates to explain the way he's approaching the project is fascinating: what if the Beatles had still broken up (sorta) but continued to record and release material under the umbrella of the Beatles Releasing Collective.

As interesting as are his explanation of the BRC and how it could have functioned to keep Beatles music alive and well--in the tradition of the 'White Album' (where there was much individual creativity happening)--it's the early section where he makes his case as to why he believes the breakup coud've easily been avoided in the first place that has me glued to the book.

He uses a zillion sources to pull examples of all the times between 1970 and 1980 the four alluded to the possibility of working together. I'd never been aware of quite a few of these quotes, but the conclusion is intriguing: it wasn't ever extreme animosity that kept the Beatles from working together; it was the legal ramifications of the lawsuits, all of which stemmed from the existence of Allen Klein. Walker argues that if only Allen Klein had been out of the picture earlier, so much legal conflict could have been resolved easier or even avoided altogether.

The boys talked about missing the others, about how nice it would be to play and write together etc. that it's very easy to believe in 'what could have been'.

[I] soon will be heavily into the practicalities of assembling the BRC library, composed of solo music that sounds very Beatles-esque, and of course solo material that involved more than one of the Beatles.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

118 of 138 people found the following review helpful By John Allen <editor4k@bellsouth.net on August 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
After re-reading THE AYN RAND CULT (this time with the aid of an index, bibliography, and citations for each quote), I would be remiss in not correcting my 1-star review, dated 2/19/99. In fairness, however, and for educational purposes, I hope the earlier review remains posted.
As I write this, 16 of 43 reader-reviews carry only 1 or 2 stars. Most negative reviews read like cases of 'kill the messenger,' and many were clearly submitted by ardent Rand fans. In the investment world, one can often take analyses of "experts" as contrarian indicators; so, too, with book and movie reviews and, frequently opinions of others. [Of course, this caveat might also apply to me. You decide.]
I ceased to be a 'Rand fan' in 1980, after increasingly serious doubts that first began to surface in 1969. Because I personally knew 13 of the 29 people Mr. Walker interviewed, in addition to Ayn Rand and Frank O'Connor, I can confirm much of Walker's book from a first-hand perspective, beginning in 1964 at Denver University.
Walker's thesis is that "certain philosophies, by their nature, are conducive to a cult mentality," and that Objectivism is such a doctrine. His Introduction is the best summation of the "Objectivist Movement" I can remember reading during the past 20 years. The entirety of Chapter 2 is devoted to discussing cults in general, destructive cults, and the many ways in which Objectivism qualifies in virtually all aspects. The balance of the book, except for the 'might have been' alternative biography at the end, explores in detail each of those aspects, and much more.
His account covers vast territory in plain, non-jargonized English.
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122 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Michael Vanier on November 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, the book contains a tremendous amount of interesting historical information about Ayn Rand and the Objectivist movement. The author quite successfully makes his point that Objectivism was/is a cult; though this is hardly an original claim, it has never been so thoroughly supported as it is here. However, the book is so negative and biased that it undercuts the arguments Walker is trying to make. Walker doesn't even try to be objective; I challenge you to find a single positive thing said about Rand or the Objectivist movement in the book's 300+ pages. I think Satan comes across better in the Bible than Rand does here. Most of the evidence given is through quotes, generally from former Objectivists. That's fine, but there is also a tremendous amount of unsupported (and nasty) editorializing, e.g. "By all accounts, the young Alissa [Rand] was not a particularly lovable child." Also, Walker often goes to great lengths to discredit certain people (notably Nathaniel Branden), and then uses quotes from them to support later arguments. If they aren't credible, why should we give their opinions any credence? Also, Walker accuses Branden of being responsible for his second wife's death and subtly implies that Leonard Peikoff is a homosexual. I could go on and on, but the point I'm trying to make is that Walker has a tremendous axe to grind, and much of the book appears to be a smear campaign for its own sake. Furthermore, Walker never makes it clear exactly why he hates Rand and Objectivism so much, aside from the fact that Peikoff threatened to sue him once regarding a radio program on Rand that Walker wrote.Read more ›
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52 of 63 people found the following review helpful By mpresley@bellsouth.net on March 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Jeff Walker's book, "The Cult of Ayn Rand", is a mixed bag. The writing style ranges from erratic to concise and cogent, however his obvious disdain for Rand and the members of her circle intrudes on his analysis and places his own objectivity at question (pun unintended). On the other hand, anyone interested in understanding Rand and her followers ought to read the book in spite of its imperfections. The first clue as to the tone of the book is the cover. Rand (never what many would call a beautiful woman) appears as a caricature. This, when coupled with the garish yellow on red layout immediately tells the reader that what is inside is not likely to be either pretty or particularly refined. In this case it is easy to judge the book from its cover.
The book is fairly well documented from both existing sources along with his own interviews. Walker begins with a history of the inner workings of Objectivism as a cult followed by several brief discussions of key players-Nathaniel Brandon, Leonard Peikoff, and Alan Greenspan. The portraits are not flattering. Unfortunately, in the case of Greenspan, inasmuch as he was not a key player in either the formation or evolution of the "cult," Walker has to spend his time criticizing Greenspan's handling of Federal Reserve monetary policy. In Walker's estimation, the Fed Chairman's job performance has been and continues to be marginal at best. In the author's opinion, Greenspan is indirectly responsible for the Savings and Loan debacle, and directly responsible for, among other things, "Black Monday" and George Bush's reelection failure. Walker attempts to explain Greenspan's Federal Reserve policy actions as a function of the influence of Rand's zero inflationist and gold standard views.
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