Monday, November 9, 2009

The High Priest of Self-Centeredness

There are two new biographies of Ayn Rand on the market. She of the icy glare, the modified Hitler hairdo, the large dollar-sign brooch. Her philosophy behaved more like a religion or a cult, with fierce dogmas and sudden excommunications. But her devotees are legion. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was one of the earliest, sitting at her feet during her living room sermonettes in the early days in New York. And her books have sold millions of copies, mostly, it seems, to disgruntled and arrested adolescents who think nobody understands them.

Rand was traumatized by the Russian Revolution. Her family lost everything when the Bolsheviks took over. Impoverishment at the hands of Russian governments has shaped some of the greatest and most peculiar literature we have, from Conrad to Nabokov (his sister was Ayn Rand's best friend). None, perhaps, as odd as Rand's. Nabokov's peculiarities are well cataloged in A Book of Ages. Had these Rand biographies been published earlier I would have included more about her. She preached holy individualism, and fixated on muscular, dominant males in her novels, yet she kept her husband in a state of servility. He was fully informed about her twice weekly sexual intercourse with her lover and deputy. She made Frank wear a bell on his shoes so she could hear his movements around the house. During the 1970s her Wednesday evenings were devoted to watching Charlie's Angels. Odd doesn't begin to describe her.

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