Ayn Rand and the World She Made

Ayn Rand and the World She Made

2.7 43
by Anne C. Heller
     
 

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A New York Times Notable Book
A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

Ayn Rand’s books have attracted three generations of readers, shaped the Libertarian movement, influenced White House economic policies throughout the Reagan years and beyond, and inspired the Tea Party

Overview

A New York Times Notable Book
A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

Ayn Rand’s books have attracted three generations of readers, shaped the Libertarian movement, influenced White House economic policies throughout the Reagan years and beyond, and inspired the Tea Party movement. Yet twenty-eight years after her death, readers know very little about her life.
 
In this seminal biography, Anne C. Heller traces the controversial author’s life from her childhood in Bolshevik Russia to her years as a Hollywood screenwriter, the publication of her blockbuster novels, and the rise and fall of the cult that worshipped her in the 1950s and 1960s. Based on original research in Russia and scores of interviews with Rand’s acquaintances and former acolytes, Ayn Rand and the World She Made is a comprehensive and eye-opening portrait of one of the most significant and improbable figures of the twentieth century.

Editorial Reviews

Adam Kirsch
…would-be Galts ought to hear the story Anne C. Heller has to tell in her dramatic and very timely biography, Ayn Rand and the World She Made…Heller maintains an appropriately critical perspective on her subject—she writes that she is "a strong admirer, albeit one with many questions and reservations"—while allowing the reader to understand the power of Rand's conviction and her odd charisma.
—The New York Times Book Review
Janet Maslin
Ms. Heller has delivered a thoughtful, flesh-and-blood portrait of an extremely complicated and self-contradictory woman, coupling this character study with literary analysis and plumbing the quirkier depths of Rand's prodigious imagination.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum was born to Jewish parents in 1905 Russia. Ayn Rand left Russia in 1926 for America and founded her anticollectivist philosophy, Objectivism, a philosophy of free market capitalism and the pursuit of self-interest as a moral good. Depressive, pill-taking, chain-smoking and manipulative, Rand's life was defined by a longtime Sunset Boulevard–like affair with Nathaniel Branden, who went on to start the self-esteem movement. At the same time, the combustible Rand was married to a passive man with matinee-idol looks. Magazine editor and journalist Heller competently describes Rand's feuds with William F. Buckley and with her sister, who had remained in the U.S.S.R., and the more courtly relationship Rand had with publisher Bennett Cerf. This objective account of the Objectivist Rand will interest her still large and devoted readership. Photos. (Nov. 3)
Library Journal
There is a scene in Heller's biography where the controversial writer Rand and her husband delight in the fact that they can select from the more expensive items on a cafeteria menu after selling the movie rights of The Fountainhead. The scene illustrates Heller's ability to capture the essence of her subject. Rand, never a fan of the poor masses, was elated to remove herself from the mob. Although Heller was denied access to the Ayn Rand Institute's archives, because she is not an advocate for Rand's ideas, she still performs beautifully. Heller conducted over 50 interviews, including three long interviews with Rand's former lover, Nathaniel Branden. She traces Rand's childhood in Russia; her arrival in America; her unconventional marriage to actor Frank O'Connor; her work as a playwright and novelist; the development of objectivism, Rand's philosophy that embraces capitalist individualism and rejects altruism; and her long-standing extramarital affair. VERDICT An impartial, well-documented, and sweeping biography for fans and scholars of Rand; with a bibliography and 100-plus pages of notes.—Stacy Russo, Chapman Univ. Libs., Orange, CA
Kirkus Reviews
The long career and cluttered personal life of the writer who said she owed no philosophical debts to anyone but Aristotle. In her debut, magazine journalist and editor Heller calls herself a "strong admirer" of Ayn Rand (1905-1982), who was born in Russia as Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum. "Ayn" (rhymes with "mine") was her father's nickname for her; no one knows the source of "Rand." Heller's admiration is most evident in her diction-throughout, she employs terms like "breathtaking" and "farsighted and brave"-but because she is not purely partisan, she was denied access to the Ayn Rand archives. Still, the author's research is formidable-her endnotes cover more than 100 pages-and she ably highlights the hues of Rand's dark side(s). The founder of the philosophy of Objectivism and author of perennial bestsellers The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957) could be petty, vindictive, disingenuous, deceptive and profoundly needy. She frequently quoted her characters as if they were real, and she maintained a secret sexual relationship with the much younger Nathaniel Branden, who was her designated financial and intellectual heir until he betrayed her for a younger woman. Heller spends a large portion of the narrative following the arc of the Branden relationship (he was married, as well), and its complexities and intensities ultimately became pathetic and wearisome. Heller examines Rand's Russian girlhood (she was a brilliant loner), her emigration and arrival in New York City, her sojourns in Hollywood-where she worked on screenplays and met future husband, actor Frank O'Connor-her struggles to write her massive novels and her battles with the Left. However, the author neverconvincingly explains Rand's powerful personal magnetism. A treatment sometimes vitiated by the author's affection for her subject, but the most thorough we're likely to see until Rand's papers become more accessible.
From the Publisher
“Splendid. . . . A cleanly and compellingly written biography of one of the strangest, most controversial and most widely read writers of the 20th century.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A thoughtful, flesh-and-blood portrait of an extremely complicated and self-contradictory woman, coupling this character study with literary analysis and plumbing the quirkier depths of Rand’s prodigious imagination.” —The New York Times

“Heller does a remarkable job with a subject who was almost cripplingly complex—a real woman starring in her own propaganda film.” —New York magazine
 
“[An] outstanding biography that reveals much about a figure who to this point has been chronicled only by biased disciples.” —Washington Monthly 
 
“Dramatic and very timely.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“Offer[s] ammunition for fans and skeptics alike.” —The Washington Post
 
“A thoroughly researched, immensely readable portrait of a sui generis thinker who was fiercely committed to her ideals yet whose life contained fascinating contradictions.” —The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy
 
“The champion of individuality who insisted on obedience and conformity from her followers (including Alan Greenspan), Rand emerges from Heller’s superbly vivid, enlightening, and affecting biography in all her paradoxical power.” —Booklist (starred review)
 
“Engrossing and unsparing, an excellent introductory course on Rand written with a shrewd eye.” —New York Post
 
“The exploits of Ayn Rand—the Sarah Palin of philosophical fiction—are made more gripping by Anne Heller’s refusal to treat her subject as a joke and to accept her as the force she remains in politics (tea partiers) and to each successive generation of selfish undergrads.” —Brad Gooch, author of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor and frequent contributor to The Daily Beast
 
“A comprehensive study, in novelistic detail, of Rand’s personal life.” —Time

“One imagines that Rand would have approved of much of what Heller has written: the balanced tone of her book, its reasonableness, its respect for what a struggling Russian refugee accomplished and achieved. And yet having finished the biography, one can almost hear the impossible Rand railing against Heller’s failure to award her the place she always believed she deserved in the pantheon of the most glorious, solitary, and self-made literary giants.” —Bookforum
 
“A thorough recounting of [Rand’s] life and the forces that shaped her philosophy. . . . Fascinating.” —Dallas Morning News
 
“Provides important and meaningful insight into the evolution of Rand’s world view.” —Newsweek
 
“[A] work of historical scholarship that seek[s] to illuminate Rand’s complexities rather than simply to support or condemn her.” —Harper’s Magazine
 
“Heller takes a dispassionate view of Rand and, in this detailed portrait, seeks to reveal her as a whole person rather than the cardboard cutout swathed in legend created by the great lady herself.” —Bookreporter.com
 
“Skillful. . . . [A] detailed and engaging portrait of Rand’s interior life.” —The New Republic
 
“The picture of Rand that emerges from Ms. Heller’s book is all the more damning because the biographer is obviously fair-minded and, indeed, something of an admirer of her subject.” —The New Criterion
 
“Worthwhile and engrossing.” —City-Journal
 
“[An] excellent biography. . . . A vivid yet objective portrait of this gifted, brilliant, ultimately monstrous author. . . . Brings to life not only Rand but her circle and their milieu, making the book readable if only for its glimpse into a not-so-distant past where serious literature was widely influential, the television new, the railroad a common mode of travel. It’s strangely quaint to read about a world without computers or cell telephones, a world where typists were a must and people wore hats as a matter of course. Even more extraordinary is [Heller’s] rendition of this wildly divided woman, who could create some of our most unique literature yet remain unable to make that most fundamental of connections: unconditional love for another.” —PopMatters.com

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385513999
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/27/2009
Pages:
592
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.64(h) x 1.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

chapter 1

ONE

BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

1905–1917

y

If a life can have a theme song, and I believe every worthwhile one has, mine is a religion, an obsession, or a mania or all of these expressed in one word: individualism. I was born with that obsession and have never seen and do not know now a cause more worthy, more misunderstood, more seemingly hopeless and more tragically needed. Call it fate or irony, but I was born, of all countries on earth, in the one least suitable for a fanatic of individualism, Russia.

—“Autobiographical, Sketch,” 1936

When the fierce and extraordinary Ayn Rand was fifty-two years old, about to become world famous, and more than thirty years removed from her birthplace in Russia, she summed up the meaning of her elaborate, invented, cerebral world this way: “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” It was a world in which no dictator, no deity, and no well-meaning sense of duty would ever take away the moral right of the gifted individual—Ayn Rand—to live according to her own high-wattage lights.

This was not the world she was born into. Ayn Rand was born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, a Russian Jew, on February, 2, 1905, in St. Petersburg, then the capital city of the most anti-Semitic and politically divided nation on the European continent. Later, she would say that she loathed everything Russian, and while this was not entirely true—she retained her appetite for Russian classical music and Russian sweets until the end of her life—she hated the passivity, brutality, and primitive religiosity of the Russia of her youth.

She had good reason for this. Her birth came barely three weeks after the brief but bloody uprising known as the 1905 Revolution, where, on a bright January Sunday morning, twelve thousand of Czar Nicholas II’s cavalrymen opened fire on thirty thousand factory workers, their wives and children, labor organizers, and students who had walked to the Winter Palace to petition for better working conditions and a role in the czar’s all-powerful government. The protest was led by a Russian Orthodox priest named Father Gapon, and many marchers were said to be praying as they died. The slaughter gave rise to days of rioting throughout the city and set the stage for the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, which would end not in the quick and brutal suppression of the rebellion’s leaders, as this one did, but in a revolutionary coup that would shake the world and mold Ayn Rand’s worldview.

Rand’s parents, who in 1905 were thirty-four and twenty-five and had been married for just nine months, could hear the gunfire from the windows of their new apartment above a pharmacy on Zabalkanskii Prospekt—the street on which, later that evening, the popular writer Maxim Gorky would hold a meeting of the city’s liberal intellectuals and announce, “The Russian Revolution has begun.” Rand’s father, born Zelman Wolf Zakharovich Rosenbaum but known outside the family by the non-Jewish variant of his name, Zinovy, was a pharmaceutical chemist and the manager of the shop downstairs. Her mother, a homely but self- consciously stylish woman named Khana Berkovna Kaplan, known as Anna, had been trained as a dentist but had stopped practicing after her marriage and pregnancy.

By the time Ayn Rand was born, Zabalkanskii Prospekt and the streets around it were calm again. It was an illusory calm: all over Russia and the vast Russian territories to the south and east, massive labor strikes, anti-czarist peasant insurrections, and anti-Jewish violence were erupting. This would continue, in waves, until 1914, when World War I briefly united the nation against the Germans, and would grow yet more explosive from 1915 to 1919, when the country was war torn and starving. Meanwhile, Marxist political organizations, their leaders in and out of exile in Siberia and Europe, gained a following.

In these years, it was dangerous to be a Jew. As the economy deteriorated and the czar grew more repressive, the brunt of popular anger often fell upon Russia’s five million Jews. At Czar Nicholas II’s court, as elsewhere in Europe, Jews had long been identified with the supposedly pagan notions of a money economy, urbanization, industrialization, and capitalism. Given traditional Russian fear of modernity and fierce anti-Semitism, Jews were ready-made scapegoats onto whom the czar, the landowners, and the police could easily shift workers’ and peasants’ resentment for their poverty and powerlessness.

For Jews outside the capital city, this period brought the worst anti- Semitic violence since the Middle Ages. In the fall of 1905 alone, when Rand was not quite a year old, there were 690 anti-Jewish pogroms and three thousand Jewish murders. In one pogrom in Odessa, in the Crimea, where Rand and her family would relocate in 1918, eight hundred Jews were killed and one hundred thousand were made homeless. The czar’s police were said to have supplied the largely illiterate Russian Orthodox rioters with arms and vodka.

St. Petersburg was relatively safe from pogroms, which was one reason the Rosenbaums had migrated there. But it had its own complicated forms of official anti-Semitism. By 1914, the statutes circumscribing Jewish activities ran to nearly one thousand pages, and anything that wasn’t explicitly permitted was a crime. For decades, Jews who didn’t possess a trade or profession useful to the czar were barred from St. Petersburg; in most cases, unqualified Jews couldn’t even visit for a night. By law, Jews made up no more than 2 percent of the city’s population, and residency papers had to be renewed each year. Jews often changed their names to avoid detection. They and their homes were subject to police searches at all times. Rand’s father, who was born in the poor and pogrom-ridden Russian Pale of Settlement—a vast checkerboard of Jewish ghettos encompassing much of Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland—went variously by the names Zelman, Zalman, and Zinovy. He seems to have become a pharmacist, at least in part, because this was one of the professions that permitted Jews to enter the city relatively freely. But the laws were fickle and crafted to give the czar maximum flexibility, and arrest and/or exile were a constant danger.

It was in this volatile and often frightening atmosphere that Rand grew up. She was the eldest of three daughters of this upwardly mobile pharmacist and his religiously observant, socially ambitious wife; Anna would later appear in her daughter’s novels as a series of superficial or spiteful characters. When Rand was two and a half, her sister Natasha was born; when she was five, her youngest and favorite sister Eleanora, called Nora, entered the family.

By the time Nora was born, in 1910, Zinovy had advanced to become the manager of a larger, more centrally located pharmacy. The Zabalkanskii drugstore, along with one a few streets away, in which the young chemist had worked before his marriage, were owned by Anna Rosenbaum’s sister, Dobrulia Kaplan, and her husband, Iezekiil Konheim; the new store, called Aleksandrovskaia, belonged to an affluent and professionally distinguished German Lutheran merchant named Aleksandr Klinge. Klinge’s shop faced Znamenskaya Square on the Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s resplendent main thoroughfare, built extra wide by Peter the Great to accommodate his cavalry and canons against the insurrections of the eighteenth century. Zinovy, now newly established among the Jewish bourgeoisie, moved his wife and daughters into a large, comfortable apartment on the second floor, adjoining the pharmacy. Another one of Anna’s sisters and her husband, a prosperous medical doctor named Isaac Guzarchik, settled with their two daughters on the floor above. There the family lived until they fled the starving city for the Crimea in the wake of the October 1917 Revolution.

Intelligent, self-directed, and solitary from an early age, Rand must have been a difficult child to raise in the first decade of the twentieth century. In spite of the era’s violence and turmoil, the ambience was Victorian: the fashions were for frills, family loyalty, and the feminine arts, all of which went utterly against her grain. Some of her earliest memories were of being unreasonably treated in such matters by her mother, who was the dominating personality in the household and even at times “a tyrant.” In one memory, during the family’s move to the Nevsky Prospekt apartment, Rand and her younger sisters were sent to stay with a neighboring aunt and uncle, perhaps the Konheims. When they returned to Rand’s new home, she asked her mother for a midi blouse like the ones she’d seen her cousins wearing. Anna Rosenbaum refused. She didn’t approve of midi blouses or other fashionable garments for children, Rand recalled fifty years later. Anna was serving tea at the time, and—perhaps as an experiment— Rand asked for a cup of tea. Again her mother refused; children didn’t drink tea. Rand refrained from arguing, although even then the budding logician might have won the argument on points. Instead, she asked herself, Why won’t they let me have what I want? and made a resolution: Someday I will have it. She was four and a half or five years old, although all her life she thought that she had been three. The elaborate and controversial philosophical system she went on to create in her forties and fifties was, at its heart, an answer to this question and a memorialization of this project. Its most famous expression was a phrase that became the title of her second nonfiction book, The Virtue of Selfishness, in 1962.

Rand’s first memory is worth describing here. The future author of Atlas Shrugged, a novel whose pulse is set by the rhythms of a great American railroad, recalled sitting at a window by her father’s side, aged two and a half, gazing at Russia’s first electric streetcars lighting the boulevard below. Her father was explaining the way the streetcars worked, she told a friend in 1960, and she was pleased that she could understand his explanation. Although she did not know it then, the American company Westinghouse had built the streetcar line, in a gesture to the city’s workers from the embattled czar. Such seeming coincidences—this one suggesting that even as a young child she showed an affinity for the bright beacon of American capitalism—abound in Rand’s life, and later became the threads from which she and her followers would spin her legend.

While the czar’s regime grew more unpopular, and the Marxist Mensheviks and Bolsheviks competed for the allegiance of the nation’s workers, the Rosenbaums prospered. In 1912, Rand’s father became the co-owner of Klinge’s pharmacy, a thriving business that employed not only Klinge and Zinovi, but also six assistant pharmacists, three apprentices, and a number of clerks. In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, Klinge transferred full ownership of the drugstore to Zinovi, presumably because, as the Russian troops advanced against the German army to the west, anyone bearing a German name was even more at risk than a Jew in the streets and government offices of St. Petersburg. As Zinovi’s income grew, he bought the deed to the building that housed both the store and the family apartment. Anna hired a cook, a maid, a nurse for her daughters, and even a Belgian governess to help the three girls improve their French before they entered school, French being the common language of the Russian educated classes. The girls also took music and drawing lessons.

Rand respected her father and strongly disliked her mother, whom, oddly, she called by the Russian variant of her patronymic, Borisovna. From the beginning, she and Anna Rosenbaum did not get along. The daughter viewed her mother as capricious, nagging, and a social climber, and she was painfully convinced that Anna disapproved of her. Anna considered her eldest daughter to be “difficult,” Rand recalled. It’s easy to imagine that she was. Although formal photographs from the time show a beautifully dressed, long-haired little girl with an arresting composure and huge, dark, intelligent eyes, her face is square and her features are slightly pudgy; when animated, they assume the stubborn, hawkish look of her adulthood. She had few friends and little inclination to make new ones, and she was physically inert in an era of passionate belief in physical exercise. Her mother nagged at her to be nicer to her cousins and more outgoing and athletic (“Make motions, Alice, make motions!” Anna would cry) and was exasperated by her penchant for becoming violently enthusiastic about the things she liked—certain European children’s stories and songs, for example—and immovably indifferent, even hostile, to the things she didn’t. But Anna also articulated many of the values that Rand would later become famous for expressing. In a letter from the 1930s, for example, Anna wrote to Rand, “Every man is an architect of his own fortune” and “Every person is the maker of his own happiness.” Anna liked the idea of America and wanted to visit; she even named the family cats after American states and cities.

Anna came from a more privileged background than Zinovy did. She seems to have been born and raised in St. Petersburg, which was a marked advantage in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and this gave her an air of sophistication and social polish that her husband lacked. Anna’s father, Rand’s maternal grandfather, was a prosperous St. Petersburg tailor named Berko (or Boris) Itskovitch Kaplan who owned a factory that made military uniforms for the czar’s guards, an occupation that would have afforded the family some protection in times of trouble. Anna’s mother, Rand’s grandmother, named Rozalia Pavlovna Kaplan, was a pharmacist, just as Zinovy and Anna’s sister Dobrulia’s husband were. All lived within a few streets of one another, including the Konheims, the Guzarchiks, and two of Anna’s brothers, Josel and Moisha, called Mikhail. Since many members of Anna’s extended family also lived nearby, and at least a few of Zinovy’s eight brothers and sisters eventually joined him in St. Petersburg, Rand grew up surrounded by a sizable Jewish clan.

Anna was also more broadly, and proudly, educated than her husband was. She read and spoke English, French, and German, and until the Belgian governess arrived she taught Rand and Natasha to read and write in French. Though Rand made good use of these advantages as she grew older, she viewed her mother as hypocritical and shallow, an opinion not entirely borne out by the evidence. She once characterized Anna as an aspiring member of the St. Petersburg intelligentsia whose main interest in life was giving parties, and she suspected that Anna enjoyed books and plays less than she enjoyed the appearance of talking about them at her frequent gatherings of family and friends. Anna subscribed to foreign magazines, including children’s magazines, which Rand read and was strongly influenced by as she began to write her own early stories. Still, until the 1917 Revolution changed everything, Anna seems to have been an artistic social climber (though a remarkably intelligent and resourceful one, as we shall see) who wanted her daughters to rise in the city’s Jewish social hierarchy—a project for which Ayn Rand was particularly unsuited.

What People are saying about this

Ayn Rand and the World She Made
ISBN 9780385513999
Reviews and Quotes

Review Famous for her credo of individualism and unbridled capitalism, novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand never talked about her life as Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, an awkward and offbeat Russian Jewish girl of startling intelligence. Yet Heller believes that Rand's adamant self-regard and vehement protest against any form of collectivism or social conscience are rooted in her family's suffering in early-twentieth-century Russia, where Jews were violently persecuted and personal freedom was abolished. Heller is the first to fully investigate and vigorously chronicle Rand's willful life and phenomenal and controversial achievements, from her sense of destiny (by age 11 she had already written four novels) to her arrival in America at age 21 in 1926, her work in Hollywood, and her reign in New York as a cult figurehead. Heller also offers arresting analysis of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand's critically condemned yet perpetually popular and enormously influential novels of erotic melodrama and self-aggrandizing ideology. But the heart of the book is the wrenching story of Rand's marriage to long-suffering Frank O'Connor and her affair with the much younger man who packaged and peddled her beliefs as Objectivism. The champion of individuality who insisted on obedience and conformity from her followers (including Alan Greenspan), Rand emerges from Heller's superbly vivid, enlightening, and affecting biography in all her paradoxical power.
Booklist, starred review

In the calamitous aftermath of the latter years of the Age of Greenspan, what could be more welcome-and timely-than Anne C. Heller's stunning biography of Ayn Rand. Using a plethora of newly unearthed research and fresh insight, Heller's graceful and highly readable narrative once again brings Rand to life and reminds us all why she remains one of the best-selling and highly influential authors of all time.
William D. Cohan, bestselling author of House of Cards

Anne C. Heller has written a riveting, massively researched biography of the self styled 'radical for capitalism' Ayn Rand. Heller documents how Rand's novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged became virtual bibles for the followers of Objectivism, Rand's controversial philosophy, and she vividly dramatizes the passionate battles that ensued within Rand's cult. This is a fascinating study of a fascinating and implacable woman; it's a major work. Heller has done an extraordinary job.
Patricia Bosworth, author of Diane Arbus: A Biography

"Anne C. Heller has given us a great gift: an engaging, important biography of Ayn Rand, a quietly ubiquitous yet little-understood architect of the way we live now." Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

Starting now, anyone curious about the extraordinary self-created woman who became the complex, contradictory, and utterly fascinating Ayn Rand will have to begin with Anne C. Heller's brilliant biography. Reading this book will be the only way to comprehend the totality of the woman whose swashbuckling life was an epic that could rival any screen play or novel she ever wrote, any political theory or philosophy she ever espoused or created.
Deirdre Bair, author of Samuel Beckett: A Biography, winner of the National Book Award

"An intriguing look at an important woman. This extensively researched biography reveals Rand's fierce intelligence and forceful will to seduce and influence some of the 20th century's leading decision makers."
Janet Wallach, author of Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell

"A thoroughly absorbing account of the passion, ferocity, ambition, and humanity --. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Review "Famous for her credo of individualism and unbridled capitalism, novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand never talked about her life as Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, an "awkward and offbeat" Russian Jewish girl of "startling intelligence." Yet Heller believes that Rand's adamant self-regard and vehement protest against any form of collectivism or social conscience are rooted in her family's suffering in early-twentieth-century Russia, where Jews were violently persecuted and personal freedom was abolished. Heller is the first to fully investigate and vigorously chronicle Rand's willful life and phenomenal and controversial achievements, from her sense of destiny (by age 11 she had already written four novels) to her arrival in America at age 21 in 1926, her work in Hollywood, and her reign in New York as a cult figurehead. Heller also offers arresting analysis of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand's critically condemned yet perpetually popular and enormously influential novels of erotic melodrama and self-aggrandizing ideology. But the heart of the book is the wrenching story of Rand's marriage to long-suffering Frank O'Connor and her affair with the much younger man who packaged and peddled her beliefs as Objectivism. The champion of individuality who insisted on obedience and conformity from her followers (including Alan Greenspan), Rand emerges from Heller's superbly vivid, enlightening, and affecting biography in all her paradoxical power."
-Booklist, starred review

"In the calamitous aftermath of the latter years of the Age of Greenspan, what could be more welcome-and timely-than Anne C. Heller's stunning biography of Ayn Rand. Using a plethora of newly unearthed research and fresh insight, Heller's graceful and highly readable narrative once again brings Rand to life and reminds us all why she remains one of the best-selling and highly influential authors of all time."
-William D. Cohan, bestselling author of House of Cards

"Anne C. Heller has written a riveting, massively researched biography of the self styled 'radical for capitalism' Ayn Rand. Heller documents how Rand's novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged became virtual bibles for the followers of Objectivism, Rand's controversial philosophy, and she vividly dramatizes the passionate battles that ensued within Rand's cult. This is a fascinating study of a fascinating and implacable woman; it's a major work. Heller has done an extraordinary job."
-Patricia Bosworth, author of Diane Arbus: A Biography

"Anne C. Heller has given us a great gift: an engaging, important biography of Ayn Rand, a quietly ubiquitous yet little-understood architect of the way we live now." -Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

"Starting now, anyone curious about the extraordinary self-created woman who became the complex, contradictory, and utterly fascinating Ayn Rand will have to begin with Anne C. Heller's brilliant biography. Reading this book will be the only way to comprehend the totality of the woman whose swashbuckling life was an epic that could rival any screen play or novel she ever wrote, any political theory or philosophy she ever espoused or created."
-Deirdre Bair, author of Samuel Beckett: A Biography, winner of the National Book Award

"An intriguing look at an important woman. This extensively researched biography reveals Rand's fierce intelligence and forceful will to seduce and influence some of the 20th century's leading decision makers."
-Janet Wallach, author of Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell

"A thoroughly absorbing account of the passion, ferocity, ambition, and humanity of Ayn Rand-an extraordinary tale, deftly narrated."
-Alexander Waugh, author of The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War

"The author's research is formidable…and she ably highlights the hues of Rand's dark side(s)."
-Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

Anne C. Heller has written for such publications as Lear’s, Mademoiselle, TriQuarterly, and Esquire. She is the former fiction editor of Esquire and Redbook, and a former executive editor at Condé Nast Publications. She lives in Manhattan.

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Ayn Rand and the World She Made 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
lfphd More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent. Rather than dwell on the complicapted nuances of Rand's philosophy alone, she delves deeply, and fairly, into Rand the person. I have long believed that the message can never be completely divorced from the messenger. Consequently, the message can never be fully understood without delving deeply into the psyche of the messenger who authored it. No matter how you may have felt about Ayn Rand's ideas and philosophy, your views will be forever effected by what you now learn about the woman herself. She was brilliant. She was dangerous. She claimed to be an Atheitst; but can you really call any person an Atheist when they consider themselves to be God? She was not alone, many of her follows treated her as if she was a deity. She was certainly at the center of an intellectual cult, demonstrating that a high IQ is no insurance against insanity. Many of these followeres seemed to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. The author, much to her credit, gives it all to you without her own spin getting in the way. She repots the facts and only occasionally raises her eyebrows. It is wonderfull to read a book about a great 20th century ego, without your own ego getting in the way. This book never becomes a duel between Rand and Heller. If you are interest in Rand, or even if you are not, buy this book. It will wake you up both emotionally and intellectually. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time.
Alfred_Lurstenanger More than 1 year ago
Where can I begin? The book Chapter 1-8 is a very nice telling and build-up of Ayn Rand and her lifes work, struggles, and yes, Genius. I was in total awe. But then, chaper 8 - the end, is a trip down to a gutter of hear say, and a giddy ramble of old worn out gossip, for only one purpose. You see, I was suspicious, after reading the Preface when the author admitted the fact she was not a fan of Ayn Rand nor her ideas. Immediately I thought "Why write a 400+ page documentary then?". I should have skipped to the acknowledgments where she expressly thanks Patricia O'Toole who's said to have received a fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Int. Center for Scholars in Washington (which alone says it all), then the two most scorned people who won and lost the most through Ayn, still with an ax to grind 25 years after the woman died.. Nice try, but the woman achieved her own greatness. Heller will only achieve notoriety among a few progressive friends and suckers with this book, and will -still- have to thank Ayn Rand for that when it's all said and done. I think the book is a childish, pinko attempt at discrediting the IDEA they fear the most.. Individualism and a smart, truly free thinking, and productive society.
Cryptniko More than 1 year ago
This person mentions altruism 24 times in the book. Most of the times to attack Ayn Rand. How this book is described as balanced I dont see. Its mostly attacks and negativity about Rand.
DavidJacobsen More than 1 year ago
It is clear from practically the first sentence that Heller respected neither Rand as a person, nor her philosophy. That would be fine, assuming she just presented facts about Rand's life and left the subjectivity to the reader. Heller did not. This book contains gem after gem of editorial whim that would probably make the book unreadable for a Rand Fan. Fortunately for me I am only interested in the roots of the philosophy, rather than Rand herself, so I was able to trudge through the book by skipping the frequent asides. On the bright side, if you agree with the author's decided political slant, then you'll probably enjoy this. Heller is too intent on expressing her own opinions to write a good biography. Besides, she's a less than thrilling linear writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Finally an objective (not objectivist!) biography of one of the 20th century's most important personalities. Heller weaves a compelling and credible narrative. This is a phenomenal read, one I would recommend to anyone and everyone!
Laura11LW More than 1 year ago
This is nothing but a bunch of Saul Alinsky blathering. Ayn Rand a tyrant?? Puhlease it would behove Heller to look up the word in the dictionary, if you disagree with 2+2=4 and A is A, this is against reality and reason, if you are against the very principles of what Rand is for then yes of course you are against her and are sol, it is diametrically opposed to her, why would she accept the opposition, stupid. Every time an individual who states they loves freedom, and do not want to be forced into the mediocrity of collectivist nihilism all the left can  do is call them some asinine name that is contrary to what they are.  Rand's opposition consist of idiots and/or communists period.
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Paul-Zebulon More than 1 year ago
If you're a serious fan of Ayn Rand's writings, you won't be able to put down this exhaustively researched, decently written, but ultimately depressing biography. I was once again reminded that seeing one's heros in all their glory, is not all that glorious. I know objectively, (as a former Objectivist) that I shouldn't expect a writer's life to live up to her characters, but in this case... Ms. Rand acted as if she and her characters were one, and I so hoped that this were true. Alas. If you're one of the legion who's read a book or two of hers, and you're not as invested emotionally in her life choices being as consistent as some of us might have hoped, do pick up a copy. You'll enjoy learning from whence she came. If you're neither a fan, nor a casual reader... I'd skip it. Her life is really only interesting in context.
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