The Ayn Rand cult

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One of the decisions I regret most in life is opting to take Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead to Crete with me as holiday reading a few years ago. I’d never heard of it until I read about it in a broadsheet feature about the top 20 holiday reading books of the great and the good.  It was without doubt the worst novel I have ever read – in fact, I wouldn’t even call it a novel: just hundreds of pages of a deranged, badly-written philosophical manifesto draped over a crass plot.  By about 3 pages into the book I hated every character in it, the prose, the ideas, the plot and the author, but I perservered (skimmingly) to the end because I wanted to understand what all the fuss was about.

That being the case, I was amazed to see that Lifehacker’s recent The Books That Changed Your Lives post has three Ayn Rand novels in second place after the bible, considering that Lifehacker types always strike me as rational and concise, and not the kind of people to buy into this kind of thing.  It’s a small sample but even on Amazon, The Fountainhead scores an average of 4 stars from nearly 1,000 readers.

I was so incensed that this awful book should hit any kind of top ten again, that I started fishing around for some dissent, and was delighted to find a brilliant essay by Murray Rothbard from 1972,  The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult. If you’ve ever thought of trying out an Ayn Rand novel, I’d read this before you read the Amazon reviews.

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