Ayn Rant

In Amy Benfer’s exploration of why adolescent females love Ayn Rand she wryly observes that for a certain kind of girl, the “Ayn Rand phase” is a rite of passage, that the extremism of Rand’s collectivist villains against her gloriously individual Howard Roark antiheros is quite easily re-interpreted by bright emo teenagers as “the tyranny imposed on the smart, misunderstood girl by the rest of the know-nothings she is forced to contend with in high school”. I’m not gonna lie, when I read The Fountainhead as a teenager, I was pretty keen on it. I do still think it’s an interesting read for anyone who can bear its haranguing and smugness, just to see how violently you react to it. (And whether that violence is in embrace or repulsion.) Anyway, I like to think I eventually grew up and got the hell over myself but if the anecdotes in this article are true, it appears Ayn Rand unfortunately remained a joyless bitch her whole life. Extracts:

In taped interviews with Barbara Branden that would later appear in Branden’s book The Passion of Ayn Rand, Rand recalls feeling an acute protectiveness for anything she held dear. “This is my value, and anyone who shares it has to be extraordinary. I was extremely jealous – it was literal jealousy – of anyone who would pretend to like something I liked, if I didn’t like that person. They have no right to admire it, they’re unworthy of it.”

In another especially poignant anecdote, Rand recalls admiring another child in her class from afar. Curious as to what made the girl as compelling to her as she was, [Rand] approached her and asked her what the most important thing in her life was. The girl answered: “My mother.” “That killed the ideal for me thoroughly,” Rand recalled as an adult. “My emotional reaction was like an elevator crashing – enormous disappointment and contempt. I had thought she was a serious girl and that she was after serious things, but she was just conventional, ordinary, a mediocrity. She didn’t mean anything as a person.”

In 1955, Rand, then in her forties, insisted that she take Nathaniel Branden, twenty-five years her junior, as her lover. She expected both O’Connor [Rand’s husband] and Branden’s wife, Barbara, to realize that it was the only “rational” outcome to their relationship. (According to Barbara, Rand’s exact words were: “Whatever the two of you may be feeling, I know your intelligence, I know you recognize the rationality of what we feel for each other and that you hold no value higher than reason.”) Thus ensued a hellish fourteen-year period, which ended when Nathaniel, after a brief break from Rand, decided that despite his intellectual respect for his mentor, then sixty-one, his sexual needs were better met by a young model named Patrecia…To Rand, for whom sexual love was a direct result of intellectual respect, this was heresy. “If you have an ounce of morality left in you, an ounce of psychological health, you’ll be impotent for the next twenty years!” she screamed at her former lover, in front of his wife, her husband, and Allan Blumenthal, a psychiatrist who had been asked to come down to mediate the situation. “And if you achieve any potency, you’ll know it’s a sign of still worse moral degradation!”