The Journals of Ayn Randby Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff
Rarely has a writer and thinker of the stature of Ayn Rand afforded us access to her most intimate thoughts and feelings. From Journals of Ayn Rand, we gain an invaluable new understanding and appreciation of the woman, the artist, and the philosopher, and of the enduring legacy she has left us.Rand comes vibrantly to life as an untried screenwriter in Hollywood, creating stories that reflect her youthful vision of the world. We see her painful memories of communist Russia and her struggles to convey them in We the Living. Most fascinating is the intricate, step-by-step process through which she created the plots and characters of her two masterworks, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and the years of painstaking research that imbued the novels with their powerful authenticity. Complete with reflections on her legendary screenplay concerning the making of the atomic bomb and tantalizing descriptions of projects cut short by her death, Journals of Ayn Rand illuminates the mind and heart of an extraordinary woman as no biography or memoir ever could. On these vivid pages, Ayn Rand lives.
Sympathetic readers will enjoy sketches of unfinished projects, philosophical fragments, essays and testimony about communists in Hollywood, and extensive notes for her two major novels. Harriman's (Philosophy/Claremont Graduate School) sycophantic but helpful comments guide the reader through the unpublished material of an unwavering proponent of individualism and capitalism who is not afraid to condemn altruism or dismiss democratic authority with scorn. Indeed, the ease with which she labels most people "parasites" suggests that Rand was born too soon: Her self-confident dismissals of all who disagree would have made her a phenom on Crossfire or talk radio. Others will be struck by what is absent here: For Rand there are no open questions. She explicitly started "with a set of ideas" and then studied "to support them." An instinctual antipathy to collectivism born of a childhood spent under communist rule established the substance of the writer's worldview, and her subsequent intellectual activity involved communicating convictions rather than exploring them. Fiction provided an outlet for this ideological single-mindedness, allowing her version of reality to be presented through fantasy worlds shorn of anything inconsistent with her beliefs. To demonstrate how individualism and collectivism work "in real life" and acceptance of a flawed concept such as charity results when we depart "from facts," Rand wrote novels representing, she said, "the kind of world I want." Even when recognizing that her idealization of the defendant in an actual criminal trial was probably inaccurate, she claimed that it "does not make any difference," for even if he was not as she perceived him, "he could be, and that's enough."
This volume reveals not only how strong conclusions can flow from trumping fact with fiction, but also why Rand seemed to be living on another planet.
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Meet the Author
Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905. At age six she taught herself to read and two years later discovered her first fictional hero in a French magazine for children, thus capturing the heroic vision which sustained her throughout her life. At the age of nine she decided to make fiction writing her career. Thoroughly opposed to the mysticism and collectivism of Russian culture, she thought of herself as a European writer, especially after encountering Victor Hugo, the writer she most admired.
During her high school years, she was eyewitness to both the Kerensky Revolution, which she supported, and—in 1917—the Bolshevik Revolution, which she denounced from the outset. In order to escape the fighting, her family went to the Crimea, where she finished high school. The final Communist victory brought the confiscation of her father's pharmacy and periods of near-starvation. When introduced to American history in her last year of high school, she immediately took America as her model of what a nation of free men could be.
When her family returned from the Crimea, she entered the University of Petrograd to study philosophy and history. Graduating in 1924, she experienced the disintegration of free inquiry and the takeover of the university by communist thugs. Amidst the increasingly gray life, her one great pleasure was Western films and plays. Long an admirer of cinema, she entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in 1924 to study screenwriting.
In late 1925 she obtained permission to leave Soviet Russia for a visit to relatives in the United States. Although she told Soviet authorities that her visit would be short, she was determined never to return to Russia. She arrived in New York City in February 1926. She spent the next six months with her relatives in Chicago, obtained an extension to her visa, and then left for Hollywood to pursue a career as a screenwriter.
On Ayn Rand's second day in Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille saw her standing at the gate of his studio, offered her a ride to the set of his movie The King of Kings, and gave her a job, first as an extra, then as a script reader. During the next week at the studio, she met an actor, Frank O'Connor, whom she married in 1929; they were married until his death fifty years later.
After struggling for several years at various nonwriting jobs, including one in the wardrobe department at the RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., she sold her first screenplay, "Red Pawn," to Universal Pictures in 1932 and saw her first stage play, Night of January 16th, produced in Hollywood and then on Broadway. Her first novel, We the Living, was completed in 1934 but was rejected by numerous publishers, until The Macmillan Company in the United States and Cassells and Company in England published the book in 1936. The most autobiographical of her novels, it was based on her years under Soviet tyranny.
She began writing The Fountainhead in 1935. In the character of the architect Howard Roark, she presented for the first time the kind of hero whose depiction was the chief goal of her writing: the ideal man, man as "he could be and ought to be." The Fountainhead was rejected by twelve publishers but finally accepted by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. When published in 1943, it made history by becoming a best seller through word-of-mouth two years later, and gained for its author lasting recognition as a champion of individualism.
Ayn Rand returned to Hollywood in late 1943 to write the screenplay for The Fountainhead, but wartime restrictions delayed production until 1948. Working part time as a screenwriter for Hal Wallis Productions, she began her major novel, Atlas Shrugged, in 1946. In 1951 she moved back to New York City and devoted herself full time to the completion of Atlas Shrugged.
Published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged was her greatest achievement and last work of fiction. In this novel she dramatized her unique philosophy in an intellectual mystery story that integrated ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics and sex. Although she considered herself primarily a fiction writer, she realized that in order to create heroic fictional characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles which make such individuals possible.
Thereafter, Ayn Rand wrote and lectured on her philosophy—Objectivism, which she characterized as "a philosophy for living on earth.". She published and edited her own periodicals from 1962 to 1976, her essays providing much of the material for six books on Objectivism and its application to the culture. Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982, in her New York City apartment.
Every book by Ayn Rand published in her lifetime is still in print, and hundreds of thousands of copies are sold each year, so far totalling more than twenty million. Several new volumes have been published posthumously. Her vision of man and her philosophy for living on earth have changed the lives of thousands of readers and launched a philosophic movement with a growing impact on American culture.
Leonard Peikoff is universally recognized as the pre-eminent Rand scholar writing today. He worked closely with Ayn Rand for 30 years and was designated by her as her intellectual heir and heir to her estate. He has taught philosophy at Hunter College, Long Island University, and New York University, and hosted the national radio talk show "Philosophy: Who Needs It."
- Date of Birth:
- February 2, 1905
- Date of Death:
- March 6, 1982
- Place of Birth:
- St. Petersburg, Russia
- Place of Death:
- New York, New York
- Graduated with highest honors in history from the University of Petrograd, 1924
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