In 1991, the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress Center for the Book conducted the Survey of Lifetime Reading Habits. In it, respondents were asked to give the title of the book that had most influenced their lives. The books that were ranked highest were The Bible (#1) and Atlas Shrugged (#2). Alas, the survey did not seek to discover which one had influenced more people TO BECOME ASSHOLES.
When asked how she responded to the news of Rand’s death, Rand’s sister Nora said, “I didn’t.”
Rand often called her husband Frank “the power behind the throne.” Frank would reply, “You’d think I was the throne, the way I get sat on.” Friends would recount this banter as an example of how good-natured and funny Frank was.
Frank became a depressed alcoholic. For years, he drank alone in bars during the hours he was banished from his apartment so his wife could bang a man twenty years her junior in their marital bed.
Now, it’s not funny at all, is it?
Rand famously maintained her inability to make mistakes, explaining that acting rationally renders mistakes impossible—and that she had always acted rationally. She also insisted that her eccentrically defined terms hewed to their “exact meaning and dictionary definition[s].” When that was disputed, she and her followers blamed old, faulty dictionaries she encountered while mastering the English language. Interestingly, no one could recall which dictionaries these might have been. Nor has anyone been able to produce a dictionary ever that confuses egotist and egoist, or that defines selfishness as concerned with one’s own interest (minus the pesky modifier excessively), or that defines altruism as the assumption that ”service to others is the only only justification for [man’s] existence.”
If anyone out there does find it, you might want to get that shit on eBay FAST.
In 1969, Rand published a review in her vanity newsletter The Objectivist of Charly, Bullitt, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which she excoriated the films both aesthetically and philosophically. In that review, she sort of forgot to mention that she hadn’t seen any of them.
Rand was a strident atheist. She disdained utterly all religions and spiritual beliefs. When it came time to pick a future burial site, she selected one, in a cemetery called “Valhalla,” with a large tree. She told friends that she wanted visitors to her grave to be shaded and sheltered by its branches. Immediately after her death, the tree was STRUCK BY LIGHTNING and destroyed.
According to Jerome Tuccille, “Ayn Rand said, ‘Fuck you!’ to Dwight David Eisenhower.” Alas, he meant this figuratively.
When Gentry International wanted to make a movie of Atlas Shrugged, Rand agreed on the condition that they get Rod Serling to write the screenplay. Gentry brought the proposition to Serling, and “Serling simply laughed—his laugh getting louder and longer the more he pondered it.”
Parents: before you let your adolescent child read The Fountainhead, consider that Nathaniel Branden read that book as an impressionable lad of 14. He read it over 40 times in the subsequent five years, to the point where he could hear any sentence from it and recite the sentences that fell both before and after it. Next thing you know, he—hey, I’m going to hand the mic to Nathaniel again and cue up the Barry White.
“At one point I lay still, leaving all action and initiative to her, then suddenly rolled over and immobilized her, reversing the flow of energy, moving in a way that answered the greed in each of us — knowing that this was precisely what she wanted. I was in exquisite alignment with her and the deepest meaning of sex as I perceived it.”
I suggest Franny and Zooey as an alternative. Or The Hobbit. Or Native Son. Or Jane Eyre.
On the rare occasion that she did get a joke, Rand tended to ruin it. Mary Ann Sures once had Rand repeat after her “O wah, tah nah, siam.” She had to do it over and over and over—aloud and in her head—before she finally got it. Then she demanded to know how Mary Ann had come to learn the joke, and Mary Ann explained that as a child she’d sprung it on playmates she was mad at. Rand got all excited and said she planned to use it with “someone impervious to a rational argument.”
Rand, the most adamant atheist ever, was an extra in the Cecil B. DeMille film King of Kings, in which she was part of a crowd ecstatically clamoring over “Jesus, the Christ” (played by H. B. Warner). This role gives Ayn Rand a Kevin Bacon Score of 3.
Ayn Rand totally hit on Art Alexakis!! Alexakis, lead singer and guitarist of Everclear, heard Rand speak at UCLA. “She was this mean old Russian lady, and she flirted with me,” he said. “…she was like, ‘You are a very attractive young man…I like the look in your eyes. They look hard.’”
A 1967 article in Life magazine described Rand’s followers as “so ragingly individualistic that they pose a menace getting on and off elevators.”
In the early 1960s, Rand spoke at a symposium at Yale University. A young architectural student heard her speak, and at the reception he approached her. “My name is Stanley Tigerman, I’m at the graduate school in architecture here and I just wanted to introduce myself because reading [The Fountainhead]…when I was twelve or thirteen, was the thing that really impacted my life. And I just wanted to thank you for getting me here.” Rand looked him up and down and replied, “So what?”