I recently joined a Facebook group called ‘Plugging the Gulf oil leak with the works of Ayn Rand.’
This was a bold decision on my part, as I love books and the thought of destroying them, even if I thought the oil leak could actually be stopped in this way, makes me a little dyspneic. [I probably should be blogging about the oil disaster instead of this, but I’m finding it difficult to think about right now – it actually causes my heart to ache. ]
But the decision to click ‘Like’ on this group was simple once the realization hit me: I’m not alone!
Now, the main thing you need to understand is that I not only love books, but I know good literature. I minored in Russian studies at university and wrote my final thesis on ‘Anna Karenina’. I have over 2,000 books in my own personal collection, mostly classics. I have been reading since my mother taught me at the age of three, after finding me sitting on my bed with a stack of books in my lap, sobbing, and when asked why, I wailed – heartbroken – “When am I going to be able to reee-addd???”
For years and years, I’d heard of this elusive, exclusive book, “The Fountainhead.” Reading it was somehow considered a badge of honour among intellectuals. It was apparently huge, and the impression that I developed was that it was a sort of Everest for literati.
Now, I have a weird thing when it comes to books. I rarely seek out books to read. I have this self-created superstition that books, like people, come into your life when you need them, and so when I need something to read, I browse and let the books find me. But that being said, I do have a mental list of ‘should-reads’ – books to keep an eye out for should they cross my path. ‘The Fountainhead’ became one of them.
Never has a book on my list been so long in coming. Years and years went by. I mean, I spend hours upon hours browsing book shops – I’m talking chain stores, second-hand shops, even the book racks at the drug stores. Never did I see even a single copy anywhere of this book. So you can imagine now the hype that had built up in my head. I began to imagine that the book was so wonderful that stores were unable to keep it in stock; people were refusing to part with their copies, so they never turned up in the used bookstores.
Well, finally one did.
Okay, just so I don’t sound like a complete asshole, let me make the following concessions. To give credit where it’s due, Ayn Rand is at least a published author, which I am not. Yay, Ayn! (Of course, so was O.J. Simpson, but whatever…) And I admit, my judgment may not be the highest marker of quality – after all, my favourite characters in literature are Humbert Humbert and Holden Caulfield (which should tell you both how warped and what a cliché I am, respectively). And I’ve certainly read worse. At least the story was fairly straightforward, it made a certain amount of sense, the font was very nice…
But did it live up to the hype? It did not.
It was too long, too boring and unmemorable. In fact, the only things I remember clearly now, after several years, are: [SPOILER ALERT] Howard Roark’s red hair, the scene where the chick (whose name I forget) breaks her fireplace hearth and instigates the workman-rape-fantasy scene, and something about pretty buildings.
I’m sure there was some symbolism or deeper meaning in the rhetoric there somewhere, but frankly, why would you want to bother to look for it? Well, I suppose if you really had nothing else better to do, you might appreciate the challenge. But frankly, I’d rather read Thomas Hardy’s grocery list than spend another minute with ‘The Fountainhead.’
That’s all I’m going to rant about the book itself, since I could probably go on for days – and then potentially be inspired to begin re-reading the damn thing just so I could insult it better. Because the real point to this post is that I’M NOT ALONE.
All this time, I’d been hiding my shame, displaying my tattered copy of ‘The Fountainhead’ on my shelves for the world to see. I even wrote my name on the flyleaf to show I’d read it. I even – even – began to sort of look down upon anyone who hadn’t read it, like those before me had made me feel before I had read it myself. SHAME ON ME!
But now I see, through the miracle that is Facebook, that it’s okay to feel smarter than the pedants who boast that they enjoyed the book. I will hide no more!
More than 42,000 people agree with me. If Facebook says it’s true, it must be.