So this weekend I had a bit of a crisis.
Having always considered myself a fairly decent sort, who tries to do her up most to live a fairly decent life, I am suddenly struck with horror and guilt that I might be a Catherine.
Catherine and Ellsworth (hate Ellsworth, hate him) have this long heart to heart (also known as Ellsworth Being a Manipulative Shit) towards the the end of Part 2 of the book, during which Catherine confesses to feeling superior to everyone she works with in social work, hating people who can do stuff for themselves because they don’t need her, and needing to be needed. She has tried so hard to help people, and has discovered that this is actually because it makes her feel better about herself, not because she is a ‘good’ person. Ellsworth calls her a selfish egotist and basically tells her to strap on a pair (which I’ve been saying from the beginning but never mind).
Now, altruism and me have always had an interesting relationship. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing stuff for other people, there is nothing more boring than a leper washer. Also, it isn’t really ‘doing stuff for other people’ when you end up with a cracking CV you flash around at every opportunity, is it?
However, I very much aspire to be a Decent Sort, and for me that includes Doing Shit For Free (ie voluntahing), and what have you. Hence the TSL (actually, that’s bollocks, the TSL was started because I was bored and boys like girls who like boys, right (ha! bit of a backfire there!) and it’s only since starting it that I’ve had to say its because I’m a Decent Sort as opposed to a very Regular Sort with a slightly boring hobby in order not to come across as Odd. Thus is the world we live in).
So how can I possibly do anything ever if everything is ultimately selfish? And then as soon as you say ‘I am self-defining as selfish. I am OK with this’ you have the world at your back going ‘but you’re not, you do so much good, oh I want to blow your goodness’. Its like the whole ‘fat girl’ thing but worse. Heads up-I am self-defining. I don’t need your permission to be something. OK? Good.
Anyways. See. This is what I’m talking about! Crisis! Turns me into a right cow-bag!
I had a horrible horrible waking-up-at-eight-on-a-weekend-damn-it cannot stop thinking about what it all means-er of a time, before deciding to try and not to think about it anymore, because I was going round in hideous circles and boring the the tits off everyone on Twitter. (sorry, twitter).
As many have pointed out, this is Not The Real World. Rand’s New York is superficial and stylised, and she uses extremes that would never work in real life in order to make broad sweeping judgements. A lot of people hate her for this. I don’t. I think its brilliant. How uncomfortable was I made by this device? How much did it make me think? How big an emotional response has her writing made me have? You can’t knock someone for that; writing fictional prose in a way to evoke both a decent plot, an emotionally challenging theme and complete characters that embody everything and nothing at the same time is hard. I am loving the book in the same way I love watching a really powerful film that makes me sit up that little bit straighter. Sometimes you just want to think, really think. And Rand is letting me do that.
Of course she’s also making me question my very existence to the point where I was seriously contemplating quitting my job, and the TSL, and twitter and blogging and working in pubs again just to make sure I wasn’t being like Catherine. I’m not. But if I hadn’t had people to listen to me rant off for a bit I very nearly could.
Anyway. Dominique has for some weird reason married Peter Keating, who is cracking up massively (honest to God i understand AV* more than I understand Dominique). Roark is once again broken after Ellsworth treacherously got him a job, only to persuade the guy to sue him (bastard, bastard) and along with his Collection of Emos appears to have hit rock bottom. What could possibly happen next? We begin Part 3 with a new enemy, the newspaper oligarch Gail Wynard. I know this enemy, and so feel a little bit more like my feet are on solid ground. Knowing Rand though, they won’t be for much longer…
*Yes. I think. Errrr
One thought on “Blogalong The Fountainhead Part VI”
I found this scathing discussion of Rand by Johann Hari to be interesting, if divisive, if you haven't encountered it already. Spoilers for the fountainhead are present, though!
(I've rather gutlessly avoided yet reading anything by her, myself; she seems a little grumpy, if interesting.)
Joe (aka thoughtlessjoe)