574 of 678 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, very flawed work by brilliant, very flawed woman,
This review is from: The Fountainhead (Mass Market Paperback)Funny how most of the reviews are either unqualified adulation from Rand worshipers or slams from Rand haters. IMO, "The Fountainhead" is neither a prophetic work of great genius nor a piece of evil tripe. It is a brilliant work, perhaps even with flashes of genius -- but as flawed as its author.
I think Rand had the potential to be a great novelist, which she largely ruined when she decided she was the world's greatest philosopher since Aristotle. Any dogma is the enemy of art. If you read Rand's three major novels -- "We the Living", "The Fountainhead", and "Atlas Shrugged" -- you can see her dogma becoming more and more rigid, and her characters less and less human. "The Fountainhead" is a novel you can still appreciate even if you don't agree with the philosophy (and I think the philosophy has some excellent points, just taken to an absurd extreme).
Unlike some reviewers here, I don't find Howard Roark to be completely inhuman. He does feel pain -- not only the pain of his own struggle but of his mentor Henry Cameron and his friend Steve Mallory, the sculptor. It's just that, as Rand says, the pain "only goes down to a certain point" because it can't touch the core of his independent soul. But consider this passage when Dominique tells Roark she has married Peter Keating: "It would have been easy, if she had seen a man distorting his mouth to bite off sound, closing his fists and twisting them in defense against himself. But it was not easy, because she did not see him doing this, yet knew that this was being done, without the relief of a physical gesture." Clearly this is a man who feels and suffers. He can feel sympathy as well: for Gail Wynand, even for Peter Keating.
At that stage, Rand herself was still capable of sympathy for less-than-perfect characters. Guy Francon, Dominique's father, is an opportunist -- but ultimately still more a good than a bad guy. His relationship with his daughter, sparsely depicted, is nonetheless very "real" and touching. Even Keating, the ultimate "second-hander" and in many ways a despicable man, is to some extent sympathetic and is shown as having some good in him. His failed romance with his true love, Katie, is very poignant -- and the scene near the end where he meets her years after dumping her, when she has "gotten over" him and lost her humanity, is truly heartbreaking. (Though her loss of humanity and selfhood is a little too complete.)
Gail Wynand is a fascinating, tragic character throughout -- and in a way, his relationship with Dominique is more interesting than the Howard/Dominique romance. The story of his childhood and his rise in the newspaper industry is absorbing and very well-written.
Some reviewers mention stilted dialogue. I don't agree. Yes, there are long passages where the characters preach/philosophize instead of talking, and become nothing but vehicles for Rand's ideas. But apart from that, the dialogue is mostly dynamic, crisp, and quite believable (e.g. the first meeting between Wynand and Dominique).
Rand also has a terrific descriptive style. Take this passage describing the aftermath of rain: "The pavements glistened, there were dark blotches on the walls of buildings, and since it did not come from the sky, it looked as if the city were bathed in cold sweat. The air was heavy with untimely darkness, disquieting like premature old age, and there were yellow puddles of light in the windows."
And there are wonderful, memorable lines; one of my favorites is, "All love is exception-making."
Now the flaws. The character of Dominique, particularly in the first half of the book, is not very plausible. I don't "get" her masochism, the wallowing in her degradation at Roark's hands in their first encounter. (And yes, it was definitely rape -- Dominique herself repeatedly describes it as such.) Her motives for trying to destroy Roark's career when she has already realized she loves him never feel "real," no matter how Rand tries to rationalize them. I enjoy twisted love-hate relationships as much as the next gal (one of my favorite books is "Wuthering Heights") but this is twisted beyond plausibility. (Dominique becomes much more believable in the second half of the book, though; the scene where she finally comes back to Roark is great.)
Ellsworth Toohey with his grandiose plans for world power is even more implausible. And the idea that the dumbing down of culture is some sort of deliberate plot to pass off mediocre works as great ones in order to debase cultural standards ... puh-leeze.
Rand has an annoying tendency to restate every idea a dozen times and hammer the reader over the head with it. Eventually you just want to shout, "All right, Ayn -- I got the point!"
As for the philosophy -- yes, the occasional super-individualist like Howard Roark is great. A lot of great geniuses, including apparently Leonardo da Vinci, didn't have the "people" gene. But if everyone behaved like that ... I'm not sure it would be such a great world to live in. No matter how much Rand might pretend otherwise, her worship of the great man does have a flip side of contempt for the mass of humanity. See Wynand's comment to Dominique, "One can't love man without hating most of the creatures who pretend to bear his name." That's scary. So is Rand's palpable disgust for the imperfections of unheroic human (and particularly female) flesh.
A readable, thought-provoking book, but hardly a guide to life. Read it -- but with a critical mind.
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Showing 1-10 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 6, 2007 1:12:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 27, 2007 12:39:54 PM PDT
Gregory Lewis says:
'If you read Rand's three major novels -- "We the Living", "The Fountainhead", and "Atlas Shrugged" -- you can see her dogma becoming more and more rigid, and her characters less and less human." '
...I agree. Rand expended a lot of energy in crafting these tomes, but they end up more geometric--like her skyscrapers--than organic. Yes, they are solid and elegant, all very mathematically regular. But, not pretty to look at, and appealing to some, perhaps, but not all. She seems to have perfected her romanticized "ideal man" at the expense of a human one, and has a poor understanding of human nature.
Someone should have reeled her in before she got on her soapbox. She talks about "things as they ought to be," which should be a clue to an underlying need to close up the ideal character neatly at both ends. In her own words, she formulated characters to fit her philosophy (the philosophy already existed, it was called hedonism). I think Ayn Rand might have done well to pause for a moment and read that to herself again. While Rand said man needed redemption "from the murk of mysticism," in fact, I think it is precisely the murk that makes for less predictability and greater aesthetic interest.
As I've read this review, which I like and can relate to, some more ideas have come to me. Fountainhead is Rand's erotic fantasy. That would explain so much about the destructive relationship between Roark and Dominique. Yes, it was rape. Dominique subjects herself to continued brutality. Dominique's ambition is to dominate Roark (dominate, Dominique?).
Look at Roark: Muscular, sweating at the quarry, red hair, doesn't say much. The strong, quiet type, wouldn't you say? Look at Ellsworth Toohey, a physical degenerate. Of course Rand doesn't fantasize about Toohey. He is the antithesis of her sexual proclivity.
Just a suggestion, consider The Fountainhead from the point of view of a woman who perhaps doesn't even realize she's writing an erotic fantasy. And, if she doesn't realize that, then it makes even more sense she would go through so much trouble to justify it by contriving a "philosophical system" with so many plagiaries.
Do I enjoy The Fountainhead? Yes. Am I a fawning "Randite"? Charismatic gurus are not my thing.
Posted on Oct 10, 2007 4:26:56 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 10, 2007 4:35:08 PM PDT
C. Dixie Cobb says:
The review section for Rand's 'The Fountainhead' is not intended merely to treat her philosophy, rather it is intended to educate unfamiliar consumers with subjective and objective information about the AUDIOBOOK's technical aspects. I have read Rand's works several times and it appears obvious, to me anyway, that her novels were intended to inform a more general public, not debate the logistics or practicalities of her philosophy with scholars within the text of her fiction.
Any thoughts on Herrmann's reading or the recording conditions?
Posted on Apr 8, 2008 4:21:20 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 8, 2008 4:24:47 AM PDT]
Posted on Apr 28, 2008 5:15:48 PM PDT
John W. Schlatter says:
I would like to thank you and compliment you on one of the best and most complete reviews I have ever read..You made me aware of some of the things I missed...I hope you are doing a lot of writing, Lady Kate..You are not just talented but GIFTED and you are gift..Thank You Again...God Love Ya...John Wayne Schlatter
Posted on Jul 9, 2008 2:31:40 PM PDT
B. G. Reinhart says:
This is one of the best reviews I've ever read on Amazon. To the author: thank you.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2008 11:34:43 AM PDT
Jason Rees says:
Excellent review. I agree with Reinhart. Thoughtful, informative, and even thought-provoking.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2008 4:47:04 PM PDT
Read up on INTJ. You will understand Rand better.
Posted on Dec 13, 2008 12:39:09 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 16, 2008 3:39:10 PM PST]
Posted on Dec 28, 2008 10:24:34 PM PST
Tom Reagan says:
You have some good points but you miss in a few key places:
First off the rape scene is a rape in the legal definition, but there is no description of Dominique biting, scratching or pulling mace out of her purse to stop it. Does she seem like the type of character who would let it happen if a stranger in the street accosted her? Of course not. She is some one who has been able to manipulate every man she has met without once encountering a personality on par with her own. Because of this she has become very cynical about the world and does not believe in love. Though she wants Roark on a primal level, she is unable to admit it, and when he recognizes this and does what they both want, it shocks her world view and she goes to great lengths before Roark's overcoming of the challenges she creates forces her to finally abandon it.
As for Toohey, he doesn't actually want to take over the world, he just wants to give himself a power he knows he does not deserve. Think of all the crappy music critics who take more pride in trashing bands that people love than in identifying the beauty in music, or academics who simplify the great works into a series of buzzwords, ignoring what made them great. He cannot create anything, so he takes joy in tarnishing the works of others. Trust me, people like this exist in all facets of life. Think of how many people call into a radio station to say how much a certain professional athlete sucks rather than training to get that good at a sport themselves.
The book is not realistic in a scene by scene sense, but by taking slices of reality it touches on elements of life in a way that rang as true to me as any book I have ever read. And finally, Roark is not necessarily not a "people person," he has very close friends and a close lover. What makes Roark a hero is that he is completely honest at all times. That it causes people to see him as antisocial reflects on the nature of our social contact.
Posted on Jan 20, 2009 6:46:01 AM PST
Cory Deskins says:
This is a fairly well-written review;however, you are flawed. Like many other reviewers of this book, you describe the characters as unbelievable and impossible in real life. You forget that this is ROMANTIC literature. Ayn Rand admired art that reflected life long range. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged took a common trait inherent in her protagonists/antagonists and magnified it; in an attempt to reflect the views of society. Literature that is not romantic, dramatic, and inspirational is not worth the time to read. Today's culture in particular needs to see the possibilities of living a life long range; a life guided by reason, purpose, and self-esteem.
Also, Ayn Rand did not hate people. Ayn Rand did, however, hate the bad side of people. For once, she taught people to love others for their virtues, rather than their vices! I do not understand the nature of those who disagree with this. You will find that objectivists can be some of the nicest, most rational people one could ever hope to meet in one's lifetime.
Finally, how could a philosophy of reason be dogmatic? Ayn Rand was COMPLETELY AGAINST any kind of dogmatism. Dogmatism is accepting an idea on faith, or whim. Objectivism is absolutely not a product of whim, it is rather, a complete philosophy to guide man's actions by reason. It is in this "dogmatism" argument that we see the Weimar Culture rear its ugly head. People listen to Ayn Rand because she is rational. People listen to her because she is a hero. But wait, heroes are impossible! Humans can never know anything for certain!