This is the intro to a blog series entirely dedicated to discussing, analyzing and reviewing books spanning from various genres and categories that have either been released within recent time or have been around awhile but aren’t as known about or read.
Author, screenwriter and philosopher Ayn Rand just may be considered one of the most in-depth, wisest voices to come into American literature within the past century. Being an avid bookworm, it only seemed natural for me to take in upon myself and read her renowned novel, "The Fountainhead," the summer following my first year of college.
To maintain the thoughts, ideas and opinions of the individual mind are just as powerful and important than that of the collective perspective. This philosophy is emphasized a lot in Rand’s work and in the case of "The Fountainhead," it gets to the point where the protagonist is standing up for what he believes in, despite the consequences of his decision.
Taking place from the 1920s to the 1940s in New York City, the protagonist, Howard Roark, is an aspiring architect who wants to create and design original architectural designs. Living in a society where copying designs from ancient times is the norm, this causes him to stick out like a thumb from society and is looked down on for that.
Throughout the course of the novel, Howard is kicked out of architecture school, loses a lot of jobs and is publicly humiliated. Anything that can easily tear a person down is thrown his way, but Howard still stands strong and firm with his beliefs.
"The Fountainhead" is a piece of philosophy but even more so, it’s a novel that has been inspiring readers everywhere. Even though it was published in 1943, in some ways its themes and values can be applied to society today. While individualism is much more appreciated in today’s time than ever before, there are still certain existing circumstances and situations where the collective thought can easily overrule individualism. "The Fountainhead" is an approximately 700-page reminder to stay true to yourself and the values you stand for.
"Anthem," Rand’s shortest book she ever wrote which was first published in England in 1938, is another story dedicated to the theme of individualism versus collectivism- but to an extreme. Taking place in a future society where collectivism literally rules while the usage of the words “I” and “ego” are an automatic death sentence, one man, known for the most part by the name of Equality 7-2521, is a bit different from his “brothers.” Through a series of journal-style entries where “we” takes the place of where “I” should be, Equality 7-2521 records his observations and ideas that don’t fit in to society’s way of life, coming to terms with having an individual mind and the unfamiliar happening of falling in love.
Unlike Rand’s other novels, it’s a science fiction book but even still, it’s evident that she doesn’t stray far from the themes covered in "The Fountainhead." Despite its abstract setting in an automaton-like society, "Anthem" is unquestionably a good read on just how valuable individualism is.
It’s nice when you come across books where they are not only excellent as far as the writing quality goes but are inspiring to the reader as well. Rand’s books do just that. In fact, while I was reading "The Fountainhead," I couldn’t help but think to myself, Too bad I didn’t read anything like this in high school.
I’ve gone through the entire school system here in Newark and what appeared to be a continual recurrence in my English classes at and was reading and analyzing books where either someone dies or gets raped (or both). Reading depressing material such as John Steinbeck’s "Of Mice and Men" and Maya Angelou’s "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" got old really fast and I know for a fact that not a lot of my classmates enjoyed reading these books either. If anything, the only assigned reading I actually enjoyed while in high school was Amy Tan’s "The Joy Luck Club." At least that book had a good outcome in the end.
Reading and discussing the classics is essential at that level of education and I believe Rand’s work can even the scale as far as finding a balance between “feel good” and depressing material goes. Her philosophy has been highly embraced by many who’ve read her work and is guaranteed not to disappoint. She stayed very true to her philosophy in her own life, for as it says on the “About the Author” page in "Anthem," she became a writer not for the sake of mankind but for her own happiness in creating people she could respect.