So. It is over. It is finished. I never have to read that book again, if I so choose.
Any yet….and yet…
I don’t think a fiction book has made me fundamental question myself more than The Fountainhead. From enjoying it as a tract against classicism in favour of modernism, to the brilliantly succinct ripping apart of the actually liberal elite to whom I hope to God I don’t belong (though clearly I do, which makes me feel a little bit sick, to be honest. How awful are we?), there were parts of this book that bored me stiff, but the parts that made me jump up and down, and immediately want to have Long and Involved Conversations were so many, I can’t not give it 5 stars.
So. What have I come out of this book thinking? I’m going to attempt to break this all down into points. If this makes no sense, bear with.
a) Collectivism, egotism, and me.
I still think that it would be better for everyone if we all worked and lived as one. However. The idea of ‘enshrining mediocrity’, of a man whose only genius is gathering others together in order to collectively tell the masses what they think today-that’s a very scary concept. In a world of social networking, which I have become heavily influenced by, how many so called ‘Voices’ are actually Ellsworth’s puppets? How many columnists and bloggers and Orwell Prizer’s am I reading, and being influenced by, which ultimately mean I have no free thought of my own, no way of achieving greatness because I am taking everything I believe in from a handful of sources, who don’t come with bibliographies attached. If we are all just clicking onto links onto links onto links, how do we know we aren’t just self-perpetuating a myth we are connected, when we are just Ellsworth’s Utopia, a thoughtless pulsing mass? This thought kept me awake all weekend, and I have come to the following conclusion; as long as one is self-aware that Twitter/Blogosphere/Facebook/Whatever is a tool to be used for research in the same way as any good database, as long as we do not sacrifice thought to Google, and as long as I never ever believe anything that anyone says about me, and have no idols, no pedestals to put the Ciffers and the bloggers and the tweeters that I have previously aimed to be one of, I should be OK. I won’t end up a Lois Cook.
The major change this has brought; having a Guardian by-line by the time I’m thirty is no longer an ambition, because I don’t want to be a ‘Voice’ of the people, I don’t want to be mediocrity enshrined.
I’ve already talked about how much the thought of turning into Catherine scares me. I’m now thinking something along these lines; its OK to be selfish, as long as you are honest about it. However. In order to prevent the Worship of the Catherine’s (and it happens, I’ve seen it, and it’s horrible), being a Good Person should be mandatory. If everyone used ‘From Each According to His Ability to Each According To His Need’ as a starting point for the rest of their life, there would be no room for selfishness. And even if some people do naturally feel good after a hard days graft, is there anything really wrong with that? So long as you don’t end up with an army of followers because you are behaving in a way that is natural to you and should be normal in any case, then I don’t really see the harm. There is far too much of a ‘I Will Work Harder’ attitude to altruism rather than one of ‘this is what I do, because what else would I do?’, in my opinion.
However, this is an incredibly privileged viewpoint that completely disregards human frailty and socio-economic circumstance and that brings me to another point.
This book isn’t rich v poor. It does however make sweeping statements about the rich v poor argument. Roark will live in squalor rather than see his ideas warped by classicism, however he cannot see how a family on low income would maybe not be able to do this.
Gail Wynard comes from ‘nothing’ and ends up full of power and stuff. This somehow means he has ‘won’. However, he was in the privileged position of being clever, and not having a family to support. Again, he cannot appreciate why someone who was not as clever as he was wouldn’t do as well.
Dominique Francon. Just don’t even get me started. It must be nice to be that attractive and rich and clever and manipulative and spiteful and still manage to make that little sense.
This book made me realise I’m not actually that great a feminist, though that never came as such a huge surprise!
d) The Book Isn’t Real
I have had to apologise so many times over the last three weeks for letting a fiction book take over my life (despite what I do for a living/what I spend the majority of my time doing, I have still failed in finding enough outlets for my bibliophilia). I am sorry for being really really boring, for having one crises after another, for clogging up timelines, and for generally being a right pain in the arse. I know a hell of a lot of people hate Rand. I don’t. I don’t like hating. You have to turn over your garden occasionally, and when you do weeds appear. But isn’t it better to know the weeds are there so you can get rid of them? Reading this book was more self exploratory for me than acid (not that I take acid, you understand). I have had such an amazing time doing it and thank you to everyone who has been reading the blog updates, and listened to me winge, and to @Lingmops and @CharlotteGore for lending me the book in the first place. Sorry, the spine is a little creased. And I’m going to leave it a good six months before I attempt Atlas Shrugged, if it’s all the same to you.