Friday, July 01, 2011

The Fountainhead (1943) - Ayn Rand

Plot: On the surface, it is a story of one man, Howard Roark, and his struggles as an architect in the face of a successful rival, Peter Keating, and a newspaper columnist, Ellsworth Toohey. But the book addresses a number of universal themes: the strength of the individual, the tug between good and evil, the threat of collectivism.

Main Characters: Howard Roark, Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey, Dominique Francon, Gail Wynand

Pros: Interesting, bigger-than-life characters, sparse, clear prose, Kinky sex, some memorable and/or witty lines, satirical humor, attack on socialism (including Communism).

Cons: Peter Keating character given too much ink, Some Characters unbelievable and/or act illogically (cf: Dominique,the heroine), lack of Character development, too many repetitive scenes, novel too long for such a simple plot.

Not much I can add about the "Fountainhead". Judging by the Amazon reviews people love the novel or hate it. I was somewhat in-between. I found her philosophy interesting but shallow and didn't really mind the speeches. Nor given that it was a "romance" did the unrealistic nature of the characters bother me that much. The problem wasn't the lack of realism but the lack of consistency and the logic of many of their actions. The heroine Dominique for example, starts out as 'smart and level-headed' then becomes 'stupid & crazy' then 'smart but crazy' and finally ends up back at 'smart and level-headed. She's the main female character yet seems the most implausible. Roark meanwhile does things (like helping Keating) which make no real sense. And his change from a one-syllable Bartleby at the start to silver-tonged philosophizer is somewhat unbelievable.

The book really needed an editor. The first part, describing the rise of Keating and the Roark's initial failure is way too long. The book doesn't became interesting until the villain Toohey and Gail Wynand become the focus.

Some odd things about the novel:
  • There are no children
  • There are no loving parents in the novel. Most characters either have one live parent (that they dislike) or no parents at all.
  • Dominique is described as having a "vicious" and/or "cold" mouth about 25 times.
  • Roark has "orange" hair.
  • Wynand likes Roark so much he goes off with him on his yacht alone for 3 months - and leaves beautiful Dominique at home.
  • Characters don't merely draw or write but "violently slash lines on the drawing" or "savagely write". I didn't realize journalism and architecture was so violent until I read Rand.
  • Rand's contempt for the average person and religion is quite noticeable.
  • The smart characters are constantly being disappointed that another smart character needs it spelled out for them. "I thought you were smarter than that".
  • Conversely, Rand is constantly writing that "words were unnecessary between them, they both understood...."
Conclusion: Very enjoyable in spots and not as bad as expected. Rating **1/2

1 comment:

rohit said...

Must be an enjoyable read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.