Saturday, August 14, 2010

Comeuppances

For the life of me I cud never finish The Fountainhead inspite of having attempted to read it on three different occasions as many as three years apart, hoping that perhaps at 21 at last I was mature enuff to read the whole thing.

Well, no such luck. Now I just randomly skim the book, stopping and reading wherever my gaze happens to land at that particular moment in time.

Regardless of never having reached the ending, a lot of lines and vignettes come to mind. The one that follows is perhaps one of the book's best-known lines but today, I really envy Roark's self-centered detachment from the world of mediocre minds.

I think there's this famous scene from the Roark's trial, but I cant remember precisely where that falls becoz of my disjointed reading habits. In this scene, Toohey confronts Roark and says to him,

"Why don't you tell me what you think of me, Mr. Roark?" to which Roark replies,

"But I don't think of you."

Exactly.

I have a mental image of me whooping and cheering in the courtroom when he says this. But I'm sure Roark being Roark wud care nothing for it.

Now I imagine I was the one saying that and derive even greater satisfaction from it. Altho' this whole exercise makes me feel like I have missed the point by miles. No matter. My aim is achieved and I am in a much, much better mood now. :D

23 comments:

soin said...

even i though i dont read much i loved fountainhead. and me thinks atlas shrugged is better. have you read sicilian? its better than godfather.free

Tangled up in blue... said...

I havent read The Sicilian and I havent read Atlas Shrugged either. I have a lot of catching up to do with books. :D

Aporia said...

Oh wow. This is going down on my reading list.

Sherry Wasandi said...

Having read it at the impressionable age of 16, the book brainwashed me. I'm glad for that, and till date, it remains a favorite.

All of what Rand has written, has this immutable sharpness to it. Not just the style of writing, but the thought itself. Don't you think? It's that exact crystal clarity that I love, and am awed by.

:) Also, methinks Fountainhead is better than Atlas Shrugged. Not a very popular opinion, but I stand by it.

Deeksha said...

The fountainhead and me have a similar relationship. :) Roark is Roark after all,one of the most life-changing characters one would come across,but I become more and more enamored with Dominic every time. "Why do you do such a thing?" "Because it amuses me." :)

Anushka said...

I used to worship Rand and Roark at a point. I still maintain she's incredible at crafting plots and sounding really snappy. I'd go a step beyond snappy and call her writing inspired. But I've grown to hate the narrow-mindedness of her vision :( She's so presumptuous and full of herself.

Tangled up in blue... said...

Aporia, its a good read I've been told..by those who actually managed to finish it. :D

Sherry, a lot of people I know read it in their teens. And perhaps that is the age when Rand's ideas appeal to one the most. Becoz at that age we really believe that we can change the world with our actions. And I agree, tho I havent read it, a lot of people hold Atlas, Shrugged to be the better book..but I'm always interested in the minority opinion. And I, too, admire her clarity of thought. She is definitely an interesting author. Now if only I cud finish one of her books properly. :D

Tangled up in blue... said...

Dee, I think Dominique is more real than Roark. I find her very straightforward but fascinating nonetheless.

Anushka, I havent read enuff by her to agree with that. But I think the age at which her writing cud have taken hold of my imagination has passed me by. I spent those years reading everything by Douglas Adams that I cud lay my hands on so now I just find Rand a better than average author but Adams! Now there's a genius! :)

Arse Poetica. said...

Ayn Rand just tried to write a defense of capitalism. And while it sounds grandiose, it fails after a point.

Pankaj said...

when i got to the part "she must destroy him because she loved him so deeply", i knew i couldn't take it any more. I never read it past the halfway mark. i found all the characters rather exaggerated, which was annoying.

Tangled up in blue... said...

Arse Poetica, I understand that Rand said the same. She said she wanted to prove that capitalism is the most natural exalted state of being becoz of man's natural, innate selfishness. Thats what Dawkins says, too. He says altruistic individuals are not favoured by natural selection and they die out.

Tangled up in blue... said...

Pankaj, I agree. The prose is rather purple that way. Everyone sounds more like a symbol than a person. Perhaps thats what they are. Representations of a certain ideal rather than humans beings of flesh and blood. She never meant to write about real people.

Shankar said...

I was to read these books long ago but I never found the time. One of these days, I hope I do.

Tangled up in blue... said...

Shankar, personally I dont think you'll be missing much even if you dont read them. Frankly we're way past the age when someone needs to justify to us exactly why capitalism and selfishness are necessary and natural. :D

She makes me think. said...

Right, we've already learnt that in different ways!

Tangled up in blue... said...

SMMT, uh huh, yeah!

Akshay said...

I find Fountainhead better than Atlas Shrugged. Anyone who's read them both twice will agree. Fountainhead has characters which we can see in everyday life all around us. Unfortunately, most of the world is full of Tooheys and Keatings. The book remains amongst the most inspirational books I have ever read. It speaks of an idealism which although Utopian, is what drives us to live and think and perform all the time. I love the line KK wrote about. Another favourite is Wynand's 'I do' anecdote.

Ketan said...

Knowing how well read you are, I won't give you 'tips' on how to read it to completion! ;)

But to someone who reads it for the first time, I would say that they should skim real fast through the first thirty or so pages, because they are very dry and a drain on the mental energy. But when I had gone past that once, there was no stopping!

And you cannot be blamed at all that you could not complete it. It is one-fifth to one-fourth the size of Katzung ('Atlas shrugged' is one-third! ;) ). Moreover, as you have rightly guessed, it does not speak of real or realistic people.

It would be inaccurate to say that The Fountainhead is a justification for capitalism (though that could be said of Atlas Shrugged). As would be obvious, Roark never even once worked for money. He was a very sharp judge of people, though that might have not been apparent in the way Roark reveals so little about himself verbally.

To be honest, I also wonder what would have Roark thought about me! But I also feel Roark indeed used to think about people - but his initial thoughts used to be a screening test of sorts - how much to hold certain persons valuable. And those who were screened out were recipients of his utter indifference. Otherwise, why would he have loved Dominique Francon so much?

It is true that Ayn Rand in her two celebrated novels did not write much about how the people in real world were (except for the negative elements), but about those she wished she could see in real life. Though, not immediately apparent, her writing would qualify as romanticism - as she had sought to depict the highest, the most perfect. You could gain greater clarity by reading the preface of the 25th edition of The Fountainhead in a long tweet by me here (click)....

Ketan said...

...Yes, you're right that her characters are not humans, but tend to stand for individual ideas. Reading the book I felt as if it were not persons, but the ideas speaking to me.

The characters that I had liked the best were Dominique Francon (FH) and Fransisco D'Anconia (AS). As I've mentioned previously, I am surprised how despite writing in such plain language, almost no two people have coincident interpretations of her characters!

The reason, I feel, Dominique wished to destroy Roark was because she was afraid that if not her, then the 'World' would eventually destroy him. But she had held the world in such contempt that she would have been pained to see something so ugly (as the world) destroy something supremely beautiful (as Roark). But (obviously) she considered herself to be better enough than the World to be a proper destroyer of Roark to prevent his defiling. [This tendency is representative of destroying our deepest desires under pressure of the guilt that society is able to induce for being passionate of something and utterly selfish by extension - reminiscent of what Rukmini had done, if you remember, in 'Residua'. Here of course, Dominique's deepest desire was Roark, who she seeks to destroy instead of the desire itself, because being a 'romantic' novel, as you know one's desires cannot be destroyed! :D ] But the perfection of her sense of justice lies in the fact that for wreaking this torture on Roark, she punishes herself by marrying the person she had held in highest contempt (Peter Keating) and submitting herself completely to him! This sounds silly, but that is why I say that The Fountainhead is most fundamentally unadulterated romanticism! And that is why I always used to wonder why you would not like FH, because I find in the characters of your stories, traces of this idealism and a self-destructive streak to serve their ideal of justice. Anyway however, Roark is steadfast in his approach towards life and tells Dominique that she would be prepared for him the day she realizes that the world cannot destroy him [because he is not dependent on the 'world' for nourishment of his soul].

Okay, I won't type any more here about FH, lest I sound like an apologist, which I know I have become! :D

Take care.

Ketan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tangled up in blue... said...

Ketan, your comment is longer than my post man! :P The reason that I never finished The Fountainhead was less to do with its size and more to do about how I wud lose interest in following it thru after a while, for no fault of Ayn Rand, of course, its just that there's some books I never finished.

But my opinion differs on one point..people assumed that capitalism was selfish and socialism altruistic and Rand by changing how selfishness was defined, made it more acceptable, desirable even and thats how it correlated in her books. Not overtly at all.

And I think in her desire to 'destroy' Roark, Dominique acts like a spoilt little kid, just like she smashed the marble statue..becoz it was perfect and beautiful and she cudnt bear to share that with the mediocre people of the world. She destroys the very things she professes to love and admire, see?

About the rest, I cannot comment. I havent read it.

And of course, Roark thinks about people. He would be an unobservant fool not to. He just never lets his judgment of a person affect his own world view or plan of action. Which is why people feel he is cold and distant.

Tangled up in blue... said...

*My opinion differs from yours in one point

Tangled up in blue... said...

Akki, so long its been! And you read The Shadow Lines! Isnt it awesome? :)

And I totally agree about the world being filled with Tooheys and Keatings!

And also about the idealism that drives us to attempt to live perfectly in this imperfect world..I think thats why I believe that there's a particular age when we're more susceptible to those ideas..as we grow older and more jaded, the appeal reduces I suppose.