Pumping Ayn


by James Killough

Reading Ayn Rand is like sitting in Vulcan’s forge watching him hammer a divine weapon, but boy is it hot and sticky down there, damn is he ugly, and fuck if it isn’t noisy.

In an article today in The Daily Beast, Michael Tomansky lauded a liberal religious group for giving the Republicans a taste of their own demagogy with an attack ad on their principles, using their love of Ayn Rand as its demagogic bludgeon of choice.

Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal as the architect Howard Roark and his adulterous lover, Dominique Francon, in King Vidor's "The Fountainhead." Rand's women are never faithful, always looking for a more alpha male, like insatiable gay bottom bitches.

I am probably completely off-mark with this SAT-ish analogy, but it can be said that Ayn Rand is to capitalism what Karl Marx is to communism.  Both are religion-hating reactionaries, except it would seem to me that Marx was somewhat less unhinged, even though that Jewfro of his could have used a trim.  I am a mildly unhinged religion-hating reactionary, but I don’t have Marx’s hair, and better teeth than Rand — well, most people do.

I avoided Rand for most of my life, then read Atlas Shrugged  and Fountainhead almost back to back in 2009.  I had a lot of time on my hands while the world collapsed in what seemed like a similar way to Rand’s dystopian version of the future in Atlas, but I was never really alarmed that it was actually going to happen the same way, in spite of the delirious Doomsday rantings of Randians online.

I do admit that being immersed in Rand’s world, with her Palin-esque screeching and, yes, demagogic prose for thousands of pages, affected me profoundly at different times during the day.  I wasn’t consistently affected by it, in other words.  I would wake up, read forty pages, then my inner Libertarian Nazi would march me to the bathroom, brush my teeth, declare me superman, haul me to the gym, and punish me, baby.  Grrrrrr.  Then home, protein shake, nap, cocktails, and my sense of humor would return, my love of the world despite the bitch she can be at times.

Grimm's fairytale villainess, the Hag Rand, cackles snaggletoothed before some of that similarly butt-ugly architecture she loved so much (left).

The effect reading Rand has on people is best summed up by Jon Stewart in a fake blurb on the back of his America; The Book: “This is similar to my works in that anyone who reads it is sure to be an asshole for at least a month afterward,” with an attribution to Ayn Rand.  That is very funny, completely true.  Except having read both Atlas and Fountainhead back to back, I sort of feel like I might have been an asshole for the whole summer.

Rand’s characters are admirable in what they accomplish, but I would loathe them in real life, and I would hope they would feel the same way about me.  They are all text-book psychopaths, devoid of compassion, empathy, humanity, characteristics they hold up to be weaknesses.  So, when you’re not working much because there’s no work around, but working out a lot and contemplating steroids because your roommate is injecting them into his thigh every morning, you start kinda buying into this shit, rather like how unemployed Social Democrats in Weimar Germany embraced Nietzsche, twisted him around, and the rest is some very unpleasant history.  Which thankfully never repeats, or we might truly have to start worrying about the Rand-loving Tea Party’s intentions.

I remember I even went around for a while after reading Atlas asking myself What would Dagny Taggart do?  Dagny is the blond, cold, calculating, romantically fickle, über-competent heroine of Atlas.  In actual fact, I had the wrong blonde.  It should always have been Chelsea Handler as my inspiration for how I should behave.  Indeed, I was an asshole.  I am very glad I re-gifted those books… to my roommate on steroids.

My atheist socialist Libertarian manifesto, "Venus Belched," will star Chelsea Handler as the slutty, judgmental, highly competent blonde.

The comparison between Freddy Nietzsche and Rand is likewise wrong; he was also mad, but something of a poet, a creator of beauty, albeit cruel beauty.  There is scant beauty in Rand’s work, although she does seem to have her opinions about aesthetics as expressed in her views on modern architecture in Fountainhead.  However, a cursory glance at her acknowledgements tells me, as a creative, that she is regurgitating the cranky, resentful, extremely spiteful attitudes of the modernists of her day towards the classicists, whom she portrays as wimpy, pudgy, effete sycophants.  Regrettably, the buildings she laments and lambasts, which the classicists designed during New York’s Golden Age, are some of the few lasting landmarks of the city, and are what define the Gotham look, not the cheaply built, antiseptic, unemotional, soulless high-rise boxes Rand extols as the paragon of the reflection of the soul of the perfect modern man.

As Tomansky notes, it’s useless trying to pick holes in Rand because we’ll be here all night and I’m once again in pre-production, so I don’t have time for my usual dissertations.  What I need to remind myself when I compare Rand to great world authors like Marx and Nietzsche, when I listen to Republicans and Libertarians who rave about Rand’s books as being some of the momentous classics in literature, is that people outside America have no idea who she is.  Not a clue.  When I was reading Rand and I talked about it with my partner, who teaches literature at the University of London, he’d only vaguely heard of her, and didn’t know anything about her philosophy.  This is because, for a Russian, Ayn Rand was absurdly jingoistic when it came to the States, but too comically so to even be insulting to the European and South American countries she ruthlessly pisses all over in Atlas.  In this respect, she reminds me of a “shouty crackers” schizo Parsi woman who walks up and down Baker Street in London all day screaming, whom my friend Yvonne and I used to watch with such delight and awe: you just let her rant on by, shake your head, giggle and walk on.  When John Galt raises his hand at the end of Atlas and blesses America with the sign of the dollar — ooops, sorry, SPOILER ALERT — if you’ve made it that far, past Galt’s eighty-page diatribe manifesto about capitalism, which I confess I skipped entirely, didn’t even skim, and you don’t throw the book at the wall, then you are, as Jon Stewart would say, an asshole, and not just a temporary one.

Remember when these two were considered evil incarnate? No? They very much were. Now they seem positively angelic compared to the Mad Tea Party.

I can’t leave you with a rant about a raving madwoman.  Or, wait, maybe I can just add to the fray.  What made me cackle a bit today was the fact Lady Thatcher is refusing to see Sarah Palin, who was quoted by Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times as saying, “I am going to Sudan in July and hope to stop in England on the way. I am just hoping Mrs. Thatcher is well enough to see me as I so admire her.”  First of all, Mrs. Moosehead, she hasn’t been “Mrs.” in years.  Show some respect if you expect respect from people you admire as fellow conservatives, but who, it would seem, don’t feel the same way.

An aide of Thatcher’s was reported to say, “Lady Thatcher will not be seeing Sarah Palin. That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts.”

Bwahahahahaha.  Just a quick note to this story, when I confirmed with our own Department of Protocol, Mr. Tuttle, that Lady Thatcher had ceased to be a Mrs. a while ago, he said, “Well, yes, but you’re expecting a lot from someone like Sarah Palin.”

To which I replied, “But she’s expecting to be President.”

Comments: 11

  • alison June 8, 201112:37 am

    Over here in Blighty we have just been introduced to the work of Ayan Rand via an almost incomprehensible series of programmes made by the BBC (which I don’t think you can access) called All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace. They are amazing and confusing at the same time but what I loved was the way Rand was portray as a flawed genius

    “The films tell an extraordinary range of stories: from novelist Ayan Rand and her tragic love affairs to the dreams and the frightening reality of the hippie communes; from the brutal politics of the Belgian Congo to the doomsday computer model behind the rise of modern environmentalism; from the lonely suicide in a London squat of the mathematical genius who invented the selfish gene theory to Alan Greenspan and his faith in a new kind of global economic system. And there’s also the computer model of the eating habits of the Pronghorn antelope.”

    Dammed with feint praise I would say that a life time’s work was reduced to a sound bite about shagging outside of the marital bed!

  • Hanson Anderson June 8, 20113:01 am

    I have mixed feelings about Ayn. I never cared for the Constructivist ideology any more than Nietzsche’s will to power. It was just too skewed for me personally to accept as real. I think that Anthem was her most interesting book. It was more Orwellian to me than Constructivist.
    I think she was addicted the Benzedrine which added to violent mood swings. I have an audio book of her lectures on writing fiction and she had such a huge ego I was immediately turned off.
    I couldn’t ever take her seriously after that. It was really blown out of proportion.

    I wonder if the Constructivist movement was as much a sign of the times as a viable philosophy. For example Sartre’s “The Stranger” was one of my favorite all time books, the nihilism notwithstanding. Maybe because it was about an atheist.
    I am not sure what the point to my comment is as much as just thinking out loud. I suppose that philosophers sometimes change, I suppose. Except for Rand. She staid about as obnoxious as ever. Not to offend everyone. I just didn’t like her lectures. She blasted authors like James Joyce as hacks. I think he was a god damned genius compared to Rand. She never suggested how they might “improve their writing” just that they were inferior in regards to her own majesty.

    Interesting article James. Thanks as always for the Killough perspective. I like it. You are one smart eclectic fellow. I am always impressed.

    • Pure Film Creative June 8, 20115:55 pm

      She was a major turn-off. Ugly inside and out, and her writing is like dragging around a stone weight. It’s the audacity of it, and how it makes you feel like you’re in some self-improvement boot camp. “I am de SUPAH-MENSCH! RARRRR!!!”

  • Hanson Anderson June 8, 20113:11 am

    Oh my. I can’t believe I typed Sartre, I meant Camu. I am sorry I just got up. Caffeine has not hit bottom.
    Camu’s The Stranger is a good short read if anyone has not read it. It is about an atheist tried for murder. It has a good ending in my opinion.

    • Pure Film Creative June 8, 20115:56 pm

      True, I stand behind Camus as an atheist I am proud of. And Chelsea, except she had a psychic on TV last night, ugh.

  • oldancestor June 8, 20115:33 am

    No dicks?

    • Hanson Anderson June 8, 20117:17 am

      Would you be interesting in having coffee and then doing something with me tonight? I thought maybe like things that a prostitute would do—but minus the money?

      • oldancestor June 8, 20117:51 am

        Steal your wallet after I tell you to undress and close your eyes? Sure. Make sure it’s stuffed with unmarked 10s and 20s

    • Pure Film Creative June 8, 20115:57 pm

      I am afraid of bumping you from number two on the Top Stories list, that’s all. Otherwise, I’d unzip.

      • oldancestor June 8, 20117:43 pm

        Maybe all our story titles should follow the “[famous person] has a [adjective] dick” format, regardless of content. I’ll make for a hilarious top stories list.

        Lady Gaga has a plastic dick
        Charlie Rose has a glass dick
        Andrea Del Sarto has a mannerist dick
        Pol Pot has a bamboo dick

        and so on…

        • Pure Film Creative June 8, 20117:47 pm

          I’m not quite there yet with the puerile humor. I’ll join you in a sec.

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