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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.
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.
Dominique at one point tells Roark why she has decided to marry his slack, despicable opposite: “What else could I offer you? Rand was furious when Roark’s most important line in the novel’s big trial scene—“I wish to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others”—was cut from the film.
Settled companionably enough in a glassy, sharp-edged Richard Neutra house, Rand and O’Connor called each other Fluff and Cubbyhole.
(The book would have been a third longer had wartime paper scarcity not made Rand cut the manuscript.) The thematic repetitions are such that this novel about architecture becomes a kind of Levittown, with chapter after chapter hammered together to establish exactly the same point that was made in the one before.
The notorious scene in which Dominique throws herself against Roark with a lot of biting and blood (Rand called it “rape by engraved invitation”) is less arousing than confusing; the only thing detracting from Dominique’s pleasure is her disappointment that Roark doesn’t have, along with his marble muscles, a criminal record.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.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.Burns, a professor of history, more ably situates Rand within and against the world of American conservatism. for America with a stamped passport and the sponsorship of some relatives of her mother’s who lived in Chicago. Even before leaving the Soviet Union, she had published a pamphlet on the silent-film actress Pola Negri, and like a movie star herself she now refashioned “Rosenbaum” into her own new name.Both biographers overestimate, Heller more seriously, the literary achievement of their subject, whose intellectual genre fiction puts her in the crackpot pantheon of L. Ron Hubbard; it is no closer to the canon of serious American novels than Galt’s Gulch is to Brook Farm. Heller and Burns both knock down the myth that a Remington-Rand typewriter inspired the rechristening.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.He poured his efforts into gardening and the maintenance of his wife’s working comfort.Often sloppy at home, Rand cultivated a striking, geometric look for the cameras and for her growing public.