Friday, September 27, 2013

Ayn Rand really missed her chicken

I'm wading through a pile of Ayn Rand-related books I got from the New York Public Library - thank you, collectivists. Rand is a major character - or rather the specter of Rand - in the play I'm working on and I feel like I need to make sure I make no mistakes about her lest I am hounded by a pack of Rand-obsessed Objectivists.

I'd already read two biographies of Rand this summer and now I've read her boytoy Nathaniel Branden's "Judgment Day" and Branden's ex-wife Barbara's biography/memoir of Rand "The Passion of Ayn Rand" (later made into a movie starring Helen Mirren as Rand.) And I also have two collections of Rand-related essays. One, which I haven't read yet, called "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" has essays by Rand, Nathaniel Branden and Alan Greenspan, and a Rand-only collection "The Romantic Manefesto" which I have just read. Or to be honest, skimmed, because it proved to be every bit as tiresome and repetitious as any chapter of "Atlas Shrugged."

But wow, she really missed her chicken. As I've blogged about previously, according to the Heller biography, Rand's mother gave away Rand's favorite toy, a "mechanical wind-up chicken" to an orphanage when Rand was five. That incident shows up, barely changed in Atlas Shrugged, except this time Rand has an answer for her mother:
...the case of a woman with a fractured jaw: she had been slapped in the face by a total stranger, who had heard her ordering her five-year-old son to give his best toy to the children of neighbors.
It's striking how little Rand had to do with children as an adult. Of all the memoirs and biographies of Rand I've read, I don't remember a single instance of her having anything to do with a child, ever. I don't remember any member of her "collective" social circle - which was almost the only socializing she did outside of publishers - having children. And none of Rand's supermen in Atlas Shrugged had children, including Rearden, who was married for nine loveless years to Lillian. Loveless, but they still had sex out of mutual duty.

Anyway, so I'm skimming through one of the many rants by Rand against "Naturalists" of literature - she hated them at least as much as collectivists - when what to my wondering eyes should appear, in the essay "Art and Moral Treason" - Rand is going on about all the wrong ways that children were being raised in This Day and Age - which she must have learned about through magazine articles:
If parents attempt to inculcate a moral ideal of the kind contained in such admonitions as: "Don't be selfish - give your best toys away to the children next door!" or if parents go "progressive" and teach a child to be guided by his whims - the damage to the child's moral character may be irreparable.
Or maybe that child will become obsessed with the incident and attribute it to altruism, and grow up to become convinced that there is an epidemic of parents exhorting their children to hand over their best toys to the children next door.