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Without them the world collapses and its tiresome little lesser men, the collective-minded wishy-washy liberals, come running to ask them back. This is scarcely a caricature.

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Rand devoted many years to its composition, and her devotees believed, as she did, that it would revolutionise the world. But on publication it met with a storm of critical abuse. But the almost uniformly hostile critical reception plunged Rand into a deep depression, and she never wrote fiction again.

Students at universities gave her standing ovations, and some professors — most of whom were dismissive of her — rallied to her too. She was given an honorary doctorate, and appeared on prestigious television interview programmes. Decades later her books were still being cited in polls of American readers as among the most influential they had read, in one case placing Atlas Shrugged second only to the Bible in a list of the most important books of the twentieth century.

I can testify personally to her influence during the heady decade of the 60s. Unless you are prepared to embrace the brutal view that you care nothing about the inequalities and injustices which make the many start their race far behind the few, you cannot see the world as a place where the individual must stand alone or starve to death. The impulse that makes a woman comfort her crying infant generalises into the impulse most people have to help someone who trips and falls, or is stricken by grief, or is starving. It is not one jot admirable that Rand did not grasp this, or refused to.

Ayn rand and the world she made

Hook also pointed out that Rand misunderstood a philosopher she claimed to admire, namely, Aristotle; and one should add that she also grossly misunderstood a philosopher she claimed to despise, namely Kant. Rand could be and most often was a harpy, but Heller shows that she had her vulnerabilities and insecurities, and is scrupulously fair to her, especially in connection with her battles with critics. One should regret the overweening sense of importance Rand encouraged some architects to acquire, to the detriment of too many urban landscapes, and the deformed morality of greed and selfishness she extolled, of the type that resulted in millions losing their jobs in the current financier-induced recession; but it ought to be possible to recognise the merits of her novels while disagreeing with the line they seek to sell.

She had enormous talents, great charisma, courage and dedication — all as apparent in her work as in her life, and all acknowledged by Heller — and not all of her ideas were wrong: her secularism merits applause, as does her opposition to the use of force in world affairs, and as does her championing of liberty — or rather, this latter might merit applause if it were not in fact a coarse and callous libertarianism merely, which means liberty only for the few strong enough to trample on the heads of the rest.

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    5. The author is by no means a "Randian" but she is willing to praise the famous Atlas Shrugged "money speech" as "original, complex, and although somewhat overbearing, beautifully written. Here is one blog review of the book , which is in any case recommended.

      Anne Heller: “Ayn Rand and the World She Made” (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

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      The Truth About Ayn Rand: Origins [1 of 4]

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