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Cannonball Read III: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

By Jim Doggie | Books | October 14, 2011 |

By Jim Doggie | Books | October 14, 2011 |

Wait, wait, come back. I promise this won’t hurt.

Ayn Rand’s third novel tells the majestic (to read her hero-worship descriptions) tale of Howard Roark, an architect thrown out of school for not following style assignments and making modern-looking buildings when everyone else is still copying Early Colonial. Knowing what the hell any of that means doesn’t matter when there is all the juicy drama to enjoy; a rival architect with mommy issues and a severe lack of ideas (or spine), a ice princess who can only enjoy sex if she’s being raped, and a menacing newspaper columnist who appears to have his hand in everything. Those are the real reasons to read this book; the joy of watching the characters crash and spark each other makes the 694 pages a bit less of a chore.

I do say “a bit less” because Ayn Rand is pretty clear about the people she doesn’t like, the ones who contribute nothing to society or clutter its great historic pages with folk songs and plays about normal people. Repeated ramblings about second-handers and parasites occur ad nauseum, drilling the idea into the reader’s brain, but dulling the argument as the speeches go on (and on and on and on and on and on….), reaching the point where it seems the only way to make a real impact with The Fountainhead is to hit someone with the book.

I did get a funny feeling while reading a part of the book where a theater critic decides to praise a shit-tastic play. He reasons that he doesn’t get anything out of promoting a play that is good, but selling a dung heap to hungry audiences is a demonstration of real power. My mind immediately went to the blocks of TV that I now avoid to prevent myself from screaming at the set in frustration. I thought of the last movie I saw in theaters; Coraline. A unique, entertaining film that did not have to be sold to me…then I thought of Faster, and how many ads I’ve seen for it on television and hogging billboard space in Chicago. “Jersey Shore,” Auto-Tuned anything, Twilight, and “America’s Next Top Model”—I’ve ingested more than a few of these and never thought they were anything special. The very fact that these mediocre works were popular and being discussed with some modicum of respect made me wonder if there is a statue in America dedicated to “meh.”

(See? It’s possible to get something of worth out of an Ayn Rand piece and not turn into a libertarian fuck-nutter)

It can be hard to separate the story that lives in The Fountainhead from the preaching that interrupts things. And yes, it may take a couple of tries to do it, but I swear that it’s worth it.

This review is part of Cannonball Read III. For more information, click here.

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