Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead
by Ayn Rand

So a few acquaintances had been rather enthusiastic about Ayn Rand and there seems or at least seemed to be a reemergent interest in Ayn Rand (Ayn Rand Institute, suggestion of Ayn Rand'ien thought in The Incredibles), so I decided to reread an Ayn Rand book and see what the hubbub was about.

I'm in the middle of this right now and had some thoughts. I'll write more once I'm done.

The first part, Peter Keating, hooked me. My impression: intelligent author, intelligent characters... okay, this is pretty interesting.

The second part, Ellsworth M. Toohey, however, gets pretty tiring. It drips with condescension of socialists. Ellsworth Toohey becomes an extreme caricature, from his upbringing to anything he says. Reading the front flap, Ayn Rand experienced Communism in Russia first-hand and then moved to the US, vowing never to go back, so I can understand the reasoning for why she felt so strongly anti-socialist; however, it's too bad it's reflected so obviously in the novel, because I feel like I'm reading propaganda in intellectual novel form.

An aside, I don't quite buy how anyone could read this book and use it as basis for arguing anything politically here in the United States. It seems that the point of Fountainhead is to attack socialism and specifically Communist Russia around the 1930's, which is a key point, because almost nothing in the US is run remotely close to that system. Even the left big-goverment ideas are so drastically different than Russia, that I don't buy Rand'ism used as an argument for less government. What is particularly ironic is that one of the themes in Fountainhead is similar to ones in that of the Futurist art movement. That is, ideas from the past are not applicable to the present and should not be used. So to be using Rand as a "proof-point" for how things should be run today seems rather contradictory.

As much as I criticize, I do believe in some of the ideas she presents, just not to the extreme she does: 1) The importance of reason and rationality 2) Creativity and innovation is hindered by beauracracy 3) That people should pursue the things they love to the best of their abilities.

One more thing that I'll note about this book. Rand writes Roark's character as if he is a perfect man whose genius was suppressed by other people. I shudder at the thought of those who read the book and falsely delude themselves in thinking they are that genius.

--12/1/05

Finally finished this book... It's definitely a worthwhile read, mainly for stating the things I mentioned above. But Rand could have definitely done with a better editor. A lot of the time, it was just like, okay, I understand your point, you're frickn rambling now.

Besides that, I don't think I have much else to say.

-- 10/31/09
An NYTimes article on Heller's biography, Ayn Rand and The World She Made, which also discusses Ayn Rand herself.

The Ten Faces of Innovation

The Ten Faces of innovation
By Tom Kelley

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Yes, it gets a bit "Hallelujah innovation saves!" in parts (like praising Starbucks for their suggested cds? c'mon) But Kelley really gives a very nice framework for which to think about new ideas and for ways of making it into a reality.

Kelley co-founded a fairly well-known product design consulting company, Ideo, so he's got street-cred, which is quite evident on reading it. Of course, the book focuses on innovation in the work-place, but I have found it equally applicable when talking about new ideas to friends and family.

Anyways, I'm lending my copy to family and friends. I liked it that much.

[Spotted on Amazon. Bought it to help think about my career]

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Blast

Apparently, I missed Murakami read at MIT. MIT Writer Series Darn.