Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Fountainhead

I've been pounding down mid 20th century literature of late and thoroughly enjoying it.

A month or so ago I finished Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead - a philosophically thought-provoking novel that was one of those books that, on a kindle, crept from being quite short in my mind to being somewhat of an epic - my 'percentage completed' bar was escalating at a painfully slow pace despite all efforts. However, after some internal battles, I resigned myself to the marathon and began to enjoy the offerings.

It presents what has since been classified as Objectivism - you can read for yourself what it's all about - and it certainly challenges society's so-called norms.

But I'm not in the business of publicly philosophising so I'm just going to throw some quotes from the book that stayed in my mind a little longer than others.

If you anticipate being in a ponderous mood for a good few weeks, give this book a go.

Next write up will cover On The Road by Jack Kerouac, which I finally got around to reading and just finished.

The Fountainhead - quotes

"If a writer wrote merely for his time, I would have to break my pen and throw it away. (actually originally Victor Hugo)

"My basic test for any story is: 'Would I want to meet these characters and observe these events in real life? Is this story an experience worth living through for its own sake? Is the pleasure of contemplating these characters an end in itself?"

"A great building is not the private invention of some genius or other. It is merely a condensation of the spirit of a people."

"When facing society, the man most concerned, the man who is to do the most and contribute the most, has the least say. It's taken for granted that he has no voice and the reasons he could offer are rejected in advance as prejudiced - since no speech is ever considered, but only the speaker. It's so much easier to pass judgement on a man than on an idea. Though how in hell one passes judgement on a man without considering the content of his brain is more than I'll ever understand."

"I mean the one that claims the pig is the symbol of love for humanity - the creature that accepts anything. As a matter of fact, the person who loves everybody and feels at home everywhere is the true hater of mankind. He expects nothing of men, so no form of depravity can outrage him."

"Those who speak of love most promiscuously are the ones who've never felt it. They make some sort of feeble stew out of sympathy, compassion, contempt and general indifference, and they call it love. Once you've felt what it means to love as you and I know it - the total passion for the total height - you're incapable of anything less."

""What achievement is there for a critic in praising a good play? None whatever. The critic is then nothing but a kind of glorified messenger boy between author and public. What's there in that for me? I'm sick of it. I have a right to wish to impress my own personality upon people. Otherwise I shall become frustrated - and I do not believe in frustration. But if a critic is able to put over a perfectly worthless play - ah; you do perceive the difference! Therefore, I shall make a hit out of - what's the name of your play Ike?" "No skin off your ass," said Ike. "I beg your pardon?" "That's the title." "Oh, I see. Therefore, I shall make a hit out of No Skin Off Your Ass."

"Most people build as they live - as a matter of routine and senseless accident. But a few understand that building is a great symbol. We live in our minds, and existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and form. For the man who understands this, a house he owns is a statement of his life. If he doesn't build, when he has means, it's because his life has not been what he wanted."

"Before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences. The work, not the people. Your own action, not any possible object of your charity. I'll be glad if people who need it find a better manner of living in a house I designed. But that's not the motive of my work. Nor my reason. Nor my reward."

"That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true?' They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce?"

"The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement."

"No work is ever done collectively, by a majority decision. Every creative job is achieved under the guidance of a single individual thought. An architect requires a great many men to erect his building. But he does not ask them to vote on his design. They work together by free agreement and each is free in his proper function. An architect uses steel, glass, concrete, produced by others. But the materials remain just so much steel, glass and concrete until he touches them. What he does with them is his individual product and his individual property. This is the only pattern for proper co-operation among men."

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