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Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living Paperback – February 28, 2004
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A study of this kind is long overdue. Robert Mayhew has demonstrated an impressive vision in assembling a collection of this kind. One learns fascinating details about Ayn Rand's life, her extraordinary care with her craft, and the critical reception of her first novel. Mayhew also sheds important light on her philosophy as it developed in the 1930s and beyond. (Darryl Wright, Harvey Mudd College)
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This book is a rare exception.
It's a clear, straightforward, helpful and ultimately fascinating look at Ayn Rand's first masterpiece, written by noted scholars. Here are the partial contents:
From "Airtight" to "We the Living:" The Drafts of Ayn Rand's First Novel, by Shoshana Milgram
Parallel Lives: Models and Inspirations for Characters in "We the Living," by Scott McConnell
"We the Living" and the Rosenbaum Family Letters, by Dina Schein Garmong
Russian Revolutionary Ideology and "We the Living," by John Ridpath
"We the Living" '36 and '59, by Robert Mayhew
"We the Living" and Victor Hugo: Ayn Rand's First Novel and the Novelist She Ranked First, by Shoshana Milgram
"Red Pawn": Ayn Rand's Other Story of Soviet Russia, by Jena Trammell
The Integration of Plot and Theme in "We the Living," by Andrew Bernstein
This book provides fascinating glimpses into Ayn Rand's early development. Don't miss it!
WE THE LIVING ("WTL"), which was published in 1936, was Rand's first novel. Set in post-revolutionary Russia, it is Rand's most autobiographical novel.
This collection contains essays about the writing of WTL, background (in Rand's life and Russian history), its critical reception, its adaptation to film and stage, and philosophical issues raised by the book. The essays concerning the writing of WTL, its reception, and subsequent adaptations are all quite interesting. The philosophical essays don't break much new ground and are of lesser value.
Prof. Mayhew has contributed the most interesting essay, one concerning the changes from the original 1936 edition to the revised edition in 1959. In her introduction to the revised edition, Rand acknowledged making many changes, but claimed that they were only "line-changes." She specifically denied changing the "content." Prof. Mayhew seeks to defend Rand here, but I can't say that his case is persuasive. Some of the changes seem rather important and go to the substance of the book. Prof. Mayhew's defense of Rand is a bit forced and, unless you believe in the perpetual originality of Rand, unnecessary.
With a few reservations, I can recommend this book.