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She wore gowns by Adrian, the costume designer who, when still Adrian Greenberg, had promoted her from pleb to aristocrat in “The King of Kings.” The diagonal slash of her hairdo was soon complemented by a cape, and the jabbings of her cigarette holder punctuated her dogmatic, accented conversation.
Most readers make their first and last trip to Galt’s Gulch—the hidden-valley paradise of born-again capitalists featured in “Atlas Shrugged,” its solid-gold dollar sign standing like a Maypole—sometime between leaving Middle-earth and packing for college.
Only a handful become lifetime followers of Objectivism, Rand’s codified philosophy, which holds that reality exists as something concrete and external, not created by God or by a person’s consciousness; that emotions derive from ideas; and that self-interest rather than altruism is man’s ethical ideal.
Readers looking for rhetoric against government-sponsored health care will find a lungful of it in “Atlas Shrugged,” about two hundred and fifty pages (a hop, skip, and a jump by the standards of Randian narrative) before Galt’s broadcast.
Rand died twenty-seven years ago, at the age of seventy-seven.
She never ceased admiring her father’s refusal to coöperate with the new Soviet regime, which by the early nineteen-twenties had reduced the Rosenbaums to a communal apartment with a smoky cookstove. Knopf gave her, Rand started taking Benzedrine to meet the one imposed by her new publisher.
Rand’s days at the Communist-controlled Petrograd State University are depicted in her first—and least preposterous—novel, “We the Living” (1936), in which the heroine, Kira, tries to coax her doomed lover, Leo, toward a thunderous vow of resistance: “We’ll fight it, Leo. Bobbs-Merrill wound up bringing out “The Fountainhead” in 1943, to mostly bad reviews but eventually prodigious word-of-mouth sales.But a sizable number of readers seem tempted to return to Galt’s Gulch during leftward lurchings of the body politic.Sales of “Atlas Shrugged,” never less than robust, have these days been spiking, as commentators like Glenn Beck tout the book as an antidote to the supposed socialism of President Obama’s domestic program.This month, the first two full-length biographies of her that were not written by disciples or apostates of her movement (some would say cult) are making their appearance.These objective looks at the first Objectivist, Anne C.Heller finds the novel “phenomenally compelling,” possessed of a “thrilling intensity”; Burns, more warily, calls “The Fountainhead” a “strange book, long, moody, feverish” but ultimately “unforgettable.” It is, in fact, badly executed on every level of language, plot, and characterization.Dominique is not simply, as Burns would concede, “highly stylized”; she is a kind of couture-clad Tesla coil.Heller’s “Ayn Rand and the World She Made” (Doubleday; ) and Jennifer Burns’s “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right” (Oxford; .95), have different strengths and a shared weakness.Heller, a journalist and magazine editor, does the better job of dealing with Rand’s early life in Russia and her later personal dramas. had already been shaped by obsessive moviegoing, and she was determined to make the Midwest no more than a stop on the way to success in Hollywood as a screenwriter.Born in Russia in 1905, as Alisa Rosenbaum, Rand was the daughter of two St. We can do it.” As Heller points out, “We the Living” contains the only tragic ending in Rand’s fiction. There is a greater factual basis to the legend of Rand’s having met Cecil B. wardrobe department, and then had a writerly breakthrough with a courtroom murder drama called “Night of January 16th.” Thanks to a gimmick that allowed each night’s audience to serve as the jury and thereby choose the ending, the play made it to Broadway, where Rand railed against the producers’ subordination of its incidental messages about the beauty of unbridled individualism.Petersburg Jews, a prosperous pharmacist and his socially ambitious wife. A Soviet border guard shoots Kira as she tries to escape into Latvia. De Mille before she worked as an extra on his production of “The King of Kings” (1927). Settling in New York with her husband, Frank O’Connor (another “King of Kings” extra), Rand set seriously to work on the first of her two major novels, “The Fountainhead.” Writing the book took four and a half years, including the time Rand worked in the architectural offices of Ely Jacques Kahn, gathering material with which she could texture the professional world of Howard Roark.