Thursday, February 03, 2005

Ayn Rand at 100

There are a bunch of books that every thinking high school kid needs to read while he or she is playing hookey. Among them are Siddartha, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, 1984, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, The Ugly American, Fahrenheit 451, The Catcher in the Rye, and Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. These books are not to be read for their literary merit, nor for their brilliant or deep philosophical arguments. Rather, these books are to be read to inspire. That is why they need to be read by the youth, while they are still youth.

There are movies that do this too. I would count Dead Poet's Society, or perhaps Pump Up the Volume, as two.

Today would be the 100th birthday of Ayn Rand, the author the last book on the list. Reading her works when you are old must sound like someone is screaming at you for 10 hours straight. She comes on hard and straight forward, most likely in an annoying way. But for me and generations before me, and hopefully generations to come, her work had the ability to inspire. Who didn't want to be an architect after reading The Fountainhead. How many people still ask the question "Who is John Galt?". Who didn't want to buck the system, be an individual, create something beautiful, and live their own lives? Whether you like her or not, this is what her books do, and for that alone she will live on in the hearts of millions and the one who gave us a passion.

6 comments:

Josie said...

I think I was 17 or 18 before I read Rand but I really thought she was the sh-t for a long time. Didn't a bunch of her followers commit suicide way back when? I'd agree with your list but I'd start reading a few of them to my kids way before high school. I think you can only "get" Catcher in the Rye when you have pimples and too many hormones and you think everybody is staring at you all the time. Never read The Ugly American, though. I'll look it up. I'd add something by Jung-anything really. And some comic books. Maybe sandman.

Karl said...

Now that I think about it, The Ugly American might be a bit dated. It made me want to fix American foreign policy and change the world. I guess I read Fear of Flying at around the same age, but I think I might have been less impressed wither her than you. Perhaps as a guy, I didn't need to feel the sexual liberation of a woman, though again,perhaps it was conforting to know that women felt that sexually liberated. I suspect that then message of that book too might be dated. I think we grew up in more innocent times.

Personally I grew up without comics, so maybe that explains something, but someone needs to fill me in on what I missed.

30 something said...

pump up the volume rocks

Karl said...

Josie, I do take it you ment Jong, not Jung. Is Jung good HS reading?

Josie said...

I meant Jung-maybe man and his symbols or something. I didn't get into him until I was 20 or so and I remember thinking I wished I had been introduced to him earler. I guess I think of his stuff as great high school reading because it's abstract and symbolic and he can sometimes even be beautiful. People in their late teens should think about archetypes. :) you are too well read, Karl. Actually, nevermind, that's not possible. Never read Jong although sexual liberation would make high school guys feel really lucky. Jong is a she, right? I've always preferred male authors. I feel like they do less talking around things and get to the point. They also rarely, if ever, whine-whiny authors are the absolute worst. There's one I forgot-Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. Read Sandman. Neil Gaiman. I guess I'd call it goth. Great introduction to comic books.

Karl said...

Sorry about the Jung-Jong confusion. My bad. It is funny you mention archetypes. "30 Something" and I have been talking about Jung and his archetypes a lot lately.