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My Years with Ayn Rand Paperback – February 26, 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 distanceAeven after nearly 50 yearsAand 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.


"Dr. Branden's account of his complex relationship with the literary great . . . allows us a fascinating glimpse into the passions of their lives--intellectual and personal. . . . [It is] not only a memoir of a mythic woman . . . but a chronicle of a stirring intellectual commitment to a political morality that indivudally could only fail." (NAPRA ReView)

"What a story! It's heroic, romantic, deadly, horrifying, tender-and I couldn't put it down." (George Leonard, author of The Transformation and Education and Education and Ecstasy)

"Relentlessly revealing. . . the myth of Ayn Rand gives way to a full-sized portrait in contrasting colors, appealing and appalling, potent and paradoxical. . . . it takes a special kind of nerve to write such a book." (Norman Cousins, author of Head First and The Healing Heart)

"Non-stop theater. All the ingredients are there: conflict, colorful characters, suspense, and a Greek inevitability of tragedy born of hubris. There's a nexus of sex nearly dizzying in its permutations." (Dale Wasserman, playwright and screenwriter, Man of La Mancha and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)

"Branden plots his relationship with Rand from a psychological vantage point, with devastatingly articulate results. . . . A fascinating portrait of Rand and her disciples." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Do you know my greatest reward for 'The Fountainhead?' You." (Ayn Rand to Nathaniel Branden)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (February 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787945137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787945138
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Readers should note that this book is a revised edition of Branden's 1989 memoir "Judgment Day". While it claims to be 'substantially revised', the revisions are not all *that* substantial. The many stylistic changes do make the book read better, and some less relevant sections have been deservedly excised.
Primarily, the book is altered so that Branden's associates from the period covered by the book are shown in somewhat more positive light. Allan Blumenthal, for instance, is no longer a quite conventional mama's boy; Barbara Branden is less clingy and shows up as a more autonomous individual. Her numerous affairs reported in the first edition are trimmed to a much smaller number.
Surprisingly, Barbara Branden is reported to have developed the concept 'psycho-epistemology', perhaps the key to Rand's aesthetics. This single fact should end any notion that Objectivism is all the ideas that Ayn Rand came up with and nothing else.
Nathaniel Branden is less self-aggrandizing in this edition, and he takes more of the blame for his failed first marriage and the personal disaster for many Objectivists which he helped cause. The portrait of Ayn Rand herself is little changed, which would make us wonder why bother with the second edition until we remember that this is not a biography of Rand but a memoir by Branden.
All in all, the book tells a fascinating story, and tells it rather better and more fairly than the first edition. But the changes, while interesting, are generally not radical and readers of the first edition should bear this in mind before they buy the current version. Those who have not read the first edition should definitely find this book of interest; it tells the very self-conscious story of a man, three women, loves of people, ideas, and their interrelationships, and how a something like a cult is formed and destroyed.
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Format: Paperback
Persons who know the facts of the Objectivist movement's history (facts primarily ignored by the Michael Paxton film) will know that it was Nathaniel Branden who was the prime architect of the movement. Through courses offered by Nathaniel Branden Lectures, later Nathaniel Branden Institute, the philosophy of Objectivism qua philosophy was first taught to the world.
Those familiar with the basic outlines of Nathaniel Branden's eventful life will also know: that he and Ayn Rand met and became friends when he was going on 20 and she was 45; that some years later they began an affair with the consent of their respective spouses; that the dramatic end of their personal and professional relationship in 1968 had explosive effects for the entire Objectivist community.
Branden has previously told the story of his life and relationship with Ayn Rand in the controversial memoir *Judgment Day* (1989). The present memoir is an extensively revised and updated version of the earlier book. Even readers who have read (and reread) *Judgment Day* will be fascinated by the new insights to be gleaned. *My Years with Ayn Rand* is as spellbindingly written as the previous work but it presents a richer, more complete account.
This is a not-to-be-missed by anyone interested in Objectivism -- or simply interested in the engrossing story of some remarkable people.
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Format: Paperback
Right now, there is an Ayn Rand explosion. Not only is Rand slowly gaining steam amongst academic thinkers, she is all over popular culture. There has been two successful fims ('The Passion of Ayn Rand' based on Barbara Branden's biography and the Oscar noiminated 'Ayn Rand: a Sense of Life.') Both the Ayn Rand Institute and the Objectivist Center- think-tanks devoted to Ayn Rand's objectivism- are experiencing huge popularity. Heck, today- Aug. 26, 02- C-SPAN will re-air the Ayn Rand episode of their American Writers series. The viewer request was through the roof. So why, with all her idiosyncratic views, can't we seem to get enough?
This biography goes a long way in answering that question. Nathaniel Branden, Rand's first 'intellectual heir', takes us on his journey with this enigmatic figure, Rand. From when they first met- he as a college student, she as the successful author of the Fountainhead- to thier intellectual partership and ultimately thier misguided affair. The most interesting part of the book, I feel, is the cacophonic break between Branden and Rand, forcing Branden to reevaluate his life and principles.
It would've been easy for Branden, now a successful psychologist, to handle this book badly. It could've wound up being a bitter memoir about what some have called a 'cult'. Or, it could've centered on a philosophical diatribe of Randian thought. Fortunately, it does neither. It is written almost as fiction. The players, even those Branden clearly doesn't like, are treated with respect and empathy. He also writes with remarkable honesty- clearly a sign of a man who's given much time to self-reflection. Yes, there are spots where Branden does get down on Rand. Her philosophy is also touched on, in part. None of this, however, is induldged in to a fault.
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Format: Paperback
The memoirs/biographies of Barbara and Nathaniel Branden are musts for anyone seriously interested in Ayn Rand and her work. This is my "two-fer" review of both books, which should be read together.

The young Brandens' encounter with Rand was the most important experience of their lives. Her force of personality and formidable intellectual powers pulled them into a strange menage-a-quatre with Rand and her husband, Frank O'Connor, even as the Brandens launched the Objectivist movement. Both of them came away simultaneously transformed by Objectivism and personally disillusioned with Rand. The Branden-Rand break caused Rand great pain (disguised as moral indignation) and led to the almost-total isolation of her final years. The picture that emerges from both books is that of a woman caught in a self-created storybook world, eager for the companionship of equals, obsessed with control, unwilling to meet the world except on nearly impossible terms, trying to break out of her emotional-sexual prison -- then rejected by the smart and ambitious man twenty-five years her junior who had made her the center of an explosive and influential movement but who also discovered his need to lead his own life and make his own mark.

Barbara Branden's book is mostly biography and marked the first step towards an objective judgment of Rand. The Passion of Ayn Rand is detached and wistful, while Judgment Day is an aggressive, sometimes painfully honest, memoir. Nathaniel Branden was still wrestling with himself when he wrote it. He recounts with pride how he emerged, wounded but intact, from his break with Rand and how his experience as both guru and victim of a cult-like movement affected his later work in psychology. On the other hand, The Passion of Ayn Rand projects no sense of struggle.
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