Sciblings, I request your assistance in an important venture.
I recently learned that Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead was a top read among UC Berkeley undergrads in 1987 and 1997. This dismaying fact drove me to start assembling a reader, The Ayn Rand Deprogrammer. I’ve spent the last several weeks reviewing possible texts for this important new work. Here is the first candidate for inclusion, and going forward, I would appreciate any suggestions that you have for the Deprogrammer.
Mary Gaitskill: Two Girls, Fat and Thin
I spent much of my vacation reading Mary Gaitskill’s Two Girls, Fat and Thin, where Ayn Rand is presented as Anna Granite, an amphetamine-popping, average looking, salon-holding kook who writes The Bulwark. Gaitskill depicts the salons held in Rand’s apartment in the development of her second book, Atlas Shrugged (which apparently included Alan Greenspan!).
Gaitskill does a bizarro sex scene even better than Rand (from Two Girls):
She crouched in the darkened room, her face almost contorted with fear. He stood still in the doorway, arms loose at his sides, an amused sneer on his mouth. She felt her lip curl. She darted forward and then she felt her body, helpless and frail, crushed against chest. She felt her fists and elbows beating against his form. She thought she felt a deep, silent laugh well up in his chest. Effortlessly, he lifted her body and carried her to the stone sculpture. It was not an act of love, or an act of hate. It was an act of contempt, an act of detachment and brutality. Asia knew that she was being utterly debased by him. Yet the debasement was bound to an exaltation that made her moan. Their mouths locked; there was pain that tore her body and ecstasy that wrenched her soul. He crucified her on his stone.
Gaitskill attacks Rand in many ways, most directly through an article written by one of the two protagonists:
This cultural utopia of greed, expressed in gentrification and the slashing of social programs, has had its spokesperson and prophet for the last fifty years, a novelist whose books are American fantasies that mirror, in all its neurotic excess, the frantic twist to the right we are not experiencing. Anna Granite, who coined the term “the Truth of Selfishness,” has been advocating the yuppie raison d’etre since the early forties; it is only now that her ideas are being lived out, in mass culture and in government.
This book requires a lot of investment for the Ayn Rand critiques, but it is probably worth it. I love the depiction of Ayn Rand’s public lecture; it reminded me of visits to the Cato Institute.
Call for Submissions
If you think this is an important venture, please suggest texts in the comments for inclusion.