February 11, 2005

Why Ayn Rand just gets better and better . . .


It’s the centennial of Ayn Rand, and in his most recent column for InsideHigherEd.com, Scott McLemeewonders how it is that her work continues to sell “in spite of being excluded, for the most part, from courses in literature or philosophy,” and despite the fact that the “extravagant claims for Rand’s importance” by the followers of her philosophy, the Objectivists, “are more than neutralized by the peculiar vehemence of scorn for her by most people over a certain age, and above a certain level of education.” Recalling a presentation he witnessed by the Ayn Rand Society at the American Philosophical Association concerning humor in her writing (there are problems with the notion, says McLemee, such as “the fact that Ayn Rand did not possess a sense of humor”), he goes on to conclude: “Perhaps the easiest thing would to be write off her lasting appeal to the fact that, while one cohort after another passes through its teenage years, the condition of adolescence itself is here to stay . . . Rand’s heroes . . . tend to have very cool careers, and enjoy some pretty tempestuous sex. Her fiction is like a tourist’s brochure for adulthood, showing only the more impressive scenes.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.