Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Change Of Heart

I read (and really liked) Atlas Shrugged as a callow teenager. Liked it so much in fact that it became one of my favorite books at the time. Subsequently I read all of her other books and stopped with Anthem. My devotion to her writing and ideology ebbed a little with each book and disappeared entirely by the last one. All this happened over a two year period. I have never returned to Rand since then and find my one time devotion cringe-worthy.

This review by Adam Kirsh in the NYT - Ayn Rand's Revenge does an excellent job of explaining what makes her tick.

Rand’s particular intellectual contribution, the thing that makes her so popular and so American, is the way she managed to mass market elitism — to convince so many people, especially young people, that they could be geniuses without being in any concrete way distinguished. Or, rather, that they could distinguish themselves by the ardor of their commitment to Rand’s teaching. The very form of her novels makes the same point: they are as cartoonish and sexed-up as any best seller, yet they are constantly suggesting that the reader who appreciates them is one of the elect.

I could not agree more from my own example. Love the phrase "mass market elitism" - that captures the essence of Rand's writing. Once I outgrew my insecurities, saw something of the world beyond the narrow confines of the small town I grew up in and acquired a sense of self, I found her writing very hard to like. I had not until now correlated the two things and always puzzled over the dramatic change of heart.

1 comment:

Priyamvada_K said...

HC,
I agree. Mass-market elitism is what it is. I would also say brainwashing (subtle and not-so-subtle). Brainwashing people into believing things that aren't true, brainwashing to intellectualize something that isn't.

I too liked her in my naive years and have since realized what a fake she is.

Priya.