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Sunday, December 11, 2016
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (75 down 25 to go)
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
He did not think of dying. He though only that he wished to find joy and reason and meaning in life – and that none had been offered to him anywhere.
~ narrative regarding an unnamed character
~ then narrative regarding Howard Roark after speaking to the minor character
He did not know that he had given someone the courage to face a lifetime
This is the first time I’ve read The Fountainhead, and the second work I’ve read by Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged). The Fountainhead is the third-person narrative of Howard Roark, a talented young architect, and his struggle against the status-quo. The novel is set in America, New York City mostly, in the 1920s-30s.
My rating: 3 ½ of 5 stars
This novel satisfied #3 of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016: a classic by a woman author.
And ***fanfare*** it completes The Classics Club Challenge (at least 50 classics in at most 5 years). I’m very relieved to complete this as The Classics Club rules are a bit vague about the penalty had I failed. Though, I’ll probably just renew my membership and commit myself to another 50 in 5.
My opinion of The Fountainhead may have suffered by comparison with Atlas Shrugged which I loved. The Fountainhead just didn’t measure up. I believe there were two primary reasons. The lesser of the two: the subject, architecture is a bit esoteric; it just didn’t resonate. More importantly however, I felt this was a thesis on Rand’s philosophy whereas Atlas Shrugged was more about Rand’s views of government and economics. I’m a big fan of the latter, the former – not so much.
Ayn Rand is one of the most extraordinary authors I’ve read so far. She was born in Russia in 1905, and therefore a child at the time of the revolutions. She earned a university education in the Soviet Union, but managed to emigrate, before that became too difficult. She is the sole creator of a school of philosophy known as objectivism. She was an atheist, staunchly opposed to collectivism, did not believe in altruism, and a self-professed egotist.
But I don’t intend to review the author, just the book.
The Fountainhead begins in 1922 when Howard Roark is expelled from a prestigious architecture school because he will not conform to classical norms. Roark is brilliant, but an uncompromising modernist. The novel is about his struggle against the “old school”. He is resisted, even black listed at every turn, but he never compromises. Meanwhile, a schoolmate, less talented Peter Keating, rises meteorically in the profession.
Howard has a love interest – and I just don’t even know what to say about that. I thought the female character in Atlas Shrugged had a ridiculous love life. This one, Dominique Francon, the daughter of a prestigious architect, is just…BIZARE, and really implausible in my opinion.
As I write this, and think about it, my opinion of The Fountainhead is not entirely about my dislike for Rand’s philosophy. I believe there are some weaknesses in the novel: the esoteric subject, the implausible female character, and then the ending.
The conflict of the entire novel comes to head in a high-publicity trial. The trail is the real thesis – the conflict the entire novel has been about – altruism vs egotism. The outcome was a bit like Dominique to me – rather implausible.
Still, I feel I need to point out that 3 ½ Stars = I liked it. I didn’t love it. It wasn’t as good at Atlas Shrugged, but good.
Have you read The Fountainhead? Ayn Rand? What did you think?
Then man must wish to see others suffer – in order that he may be virtuous. Such is the nature of altruism. The creator is not concerned with disease, but with life. Yet the work of the creators has eliminated one form of disease after another, in man’s body and spirit, and brought more relief from suffering than any altruist could ever conceive. ~ Howard Roark at his trial.