Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Don't Think of Yourself Today

Annoy the late authoress of The Virtue of Selfishness on the 100th anniversary of her birth, by reading Barbara Branden's biography: The Passion of Ayn Rand (which would be a much better novel, were it fiction, than Atlas Shrugged).

Or, see the excellent movie made from it. Particularly note the scene when Barbara Branden phones Rand's apartment, to talk to her (Barbara's) husband--who is having an affair with Rand--and is told by Helen Mirren's Rand: "Why do you always have to think of yourself?"

Thanks to Jane Galt we can read an interview where Barbara Branden offers a fascinating insight into the subject of her biography:

Q: Why did you agree to the affair?

Barbara: For a host of very complex reasons which involved my psychology and life-experiences and convictions. But I can say that there were two fundamental reasons why I agreed. I felt considerable guilt toward Nathaniel, because I did not feel the sexual-romantic love for him that I believed I ought to.

In that respect I believed I was not the wife he should have had. I thought that if he could find fulfillment with Ayn in the areas in which I had failed him, I could not deny him that fulfillment.

Further, I loved Ayn deeply, and I had been aware, from the first evening I met her, that she had suffered terribly in her romantic life. Over the years, I had come to see this with still greater clarity as she talked with me about Leo, her first love who did not return her passion, as I came to see that in her relationship with Frank she was and had to be the aggressor.

At social occasions, I would see Ayn surrounded by fascinated men who were eager to speak with her, but who, it was apparent, did not see her as a woman but only as a mind. Given her view of romance, her view of what love should be, this had to be terribly painful to her. And then writing Atlas, projecting so vividly what she thought romantic love could and should be, made the lack of it in her own life an even greater source of anguish.

And so I thought: How can I refuse her the experience she has always longed for and never had?

Of course, it did not turn out to be the experience she wanted, as it could not be.

Q: Why not?

Barbara: For many reasons. Nathan was a boy; he was twenty-three years old. It was not possible for so young a man — especially a man torn by his love for his wife — to give her what she wanted. He was not John Galt. He could not be. Ayn would surely have known that had she not been blinded by her own unfulfilled needs and blinded to the fact that she was smashing the lives of the three people she loved most. And above all, she was smashing her own life. I criticize her for her blindness — and I also feel great compassion for her.

Q: Do you think she viewed the men in her life as almost Platonic abstractions, as if she didn't really see the person there a lot of times?

Barbara: Most definitely. She talked about Frank and about Nathaniel as if they were the heroes in her novels, men of the same stature as those she wrote about. It was evident that she needed to convince herself of this, to convince herself that she could not and did not love two men who were less than her heroes.

Finally, thanks to Arnold Kling for alerting the FLUBA Committee on Philosopher Novelists to the happy occassion.

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