Introduction, and Chapters I-VIII
Not knowing that much about Ayn Rand apart from what I could find through google/wikipedia (no librarian points for Jess), I was surprised how much I found to empathise with in her introduction to The Fountainhead, written 25 years after its publication. One particular sentence stood out for me; when she is despondent about the failure to get published her husband convinces her
‘one cannot give up the world to those one despises’.
Now I’m sure those that myself and Rand despise would be very different (though as an idealist, I know that people are a product of their social conditioning, no one is really ‘bad’ and that to despise someone for their political views makes no sense when you can educate and illuminate them into changing them), but the passion with which she conveys her opinion is something I can identify with respecting.
The book opens with possibly the most off putting first paragraphs I’ve ever read. I had to re-read it several times to understand, and then I realised something; I was reading it too quickly. Instead of reading this book like a fast-paced feminist tract, like I did with The Golden Notebook, for example, I have to let the language wash over me, wallow in it. Because you can say what you like about the content, this is a beautifully written book, so far at least.
Roark and Keating, two apparent opposites, both leave Stanton Institute of Technology; Roark as a dismissed maverick, Keating as a graduating Golden Boy. Both wind up in New York City, both working in architecture.
Keating is everything you’re ‘supposed’ to be. He pushes himself to be in with the most important people, or at least those his capitalistic world view deems as important. Deep down Keating hates himself, he recognises what he is; a smarmy little Yes-Man, who will do anything to get to where he wants to be. The product of a pushy mother (my inner feminist is screaming ‘he’s living her life for her, she was denied this life by token of her gender and class’), Keating uses people, including(is naive the right word? More hero-worshippingly thick)Catherine, the niece of the great art critic Ellsworth Toohey (great name!).
Keating however still relies heavily on the talents of Roark. At the start of the book, I though Roark perhaps a little emotionally unintelligent, however, he isn’t he is just one of those people who is ‘right’. Because he is ‘right’ he will not do things he considers ‘wrong’, no matter how much this leads him away from the line of what you’re ‘supposed’ to do. He ends up renting a room with no roof, for example, rather than work for a firm who produces work he does not agree with.
Keating is more socially powerful that Roark, in so much as he has the power to get him a job with the firm of Francon and Hayer (Francon! How much to I hate Francon! What a knob!) but Keating also relies of Roark’s creativity (though I’m sure he’d hate it to be described as such) as he has so very little of his own.
Initial thoughts- love it. It’s really well written and apart from the first paragraph (I wonder how many other people that has put off) easy to read. I hate Keating, but also feel very sorry for him. Roark I kind of love in the same way I loved Henry in The Secret History-he would annoy the shit out of me in real life but as a character is fascinating. I also identify with his principles-before-personal-gain philosophy as its one I try to live my life by (without that much success to be fair, but still…).
Catherine is a bit of a tit, but the rest of the cast of characters represent nearly every part of human nature going. I especially loved the relationship between Roark and Cameron, the renegade architect who ends up employing Roark. Considering I’ve only read 100 pages Rand has managed a complete story, and I’m really looking forward to continuing.
I also love her constant crapping on classical architecture. Now I love my flouncy tat, marble/plaster cherubs etc but sometimes it is all a bit too much. The Parthenon as a metaphor for all that is staid and unexciting is a very brave, but well executed move. To say that I know nothing at all about the history of architecture or building, I’m following it all quite well. I think.
Parts are also hilariously funny. When Roark applies for the job looking for something ‘new’ and ‘new’ means a grain silo crossed with the Parthenon I did do a little chuckle, and the fact I got that made me feel all intellectual, which made me do an even bigger chuckle cos I’m not.
I’m also spending a lot of time going ‘Mad Men! Mad Men!’, (of which I have seen one season, but thought marvellous) especially comparing Keating to Pete Campbell. Talks on twitter with Mad Men geeks have revealed that they used Rand as an influence a lot in making the show. Again, my figuring this out all by my self made me do a little smile.
As I left them, Keating is now a high-up in Francon’s office, and Roark is unemployed. This seemed a natural place to pause. I shall carry on this evening. Tally ho!