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Fountainhead

1943 novel by Ayn Rand

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Taking one's self too seriously

  • May 1, 2003
  • by
Rating:
-3
The successful philosophical or political novel is a rarity. Of the former, Sartre's "Nausea" is a modern masterpiece. Of the latter, I would nominate Zola's "Germinal" and Steinbeck's "In Dubious Battle" as leading contenders. Of course, "War and Peace" and "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" present philosophical ideas, but neither is a novel in the traditional sense. The secret of success in these endeavors is to to present the ideas through the media of sympathetic characters and a compelling narrative. "No sense in useless tub-thumping," said Zola. Ayn Rand should have heeded that advice. Her characters are mere types, employed repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) as mouthpieces for specific points of view.

There are three telling omissions in "The Fountainhead": the first is that, although this is an epic tale, covering several decades in the lives of many characters, there are no babies born, no children reared. I'm afraid a philosophy of selfishness has to go the way of dirty diapers when Baby arrives. The second omission is humor. There are no laughs here. Egoism is a serious business. The third omission, perhaps arising from the first two, is emotional warmth. Ironically, Rand's essentially Humanist (that is, atheistic and anthropocentric) view lacks humanity. Her heroine can only achieve sexual fulfilment through being forcibly raped, her hero's heart and soul are centered on bricks and mortar. This novel will oblige you to think, but will not move you to laugh or cry.

"The Fountainhead" is well written and thought provoking, but in addition to the points I mentioned above, I was left wondering what the problems were supposed to be in relation to the architecture of the time. This was the age of Art Deco and of Frank Lloyd Wright, surely a golden age in American architecture. And is the era of the the Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression and Roosevelt's New Deal really the best advertisement for laissez faire economics?

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More Fountainhead reviews
review by . November 10, 2008
This novel predates Atlas Shrugged, and sometimes reads like a prequel telling the backstory of John Galt's life before he went on strike in Atlas. In its focus on individual characters, it sharpens the picture of pain and painful consequences to significant choices that drive the character's in Rand's objectivist world, so in some ways is more interesting and readable than Atlas Shrugged. It is more traditionally novelistic and less explicitly philosophical.
review by . July 18, 2009
Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead," is perhaps one of the most well known books ever written.  Along those lines, Ayn Rand has also written "Atlas Shrugged."  They're mostly the only two books you need to read in order to grap Ayn Rand's philosophy (Though "Anthem" and "We the Living" certainly do help as well).  I want to precede this review by saying we're not going to talk much about Objectivism here.  I want to talk about The Fountainhead.  …
review by . June 11, 2010
What was your emotional reaction as you read? Why?   Inspiring, in that the ideas and characters were all so alive.     Who would you recommend this reading to and why?   Absolutely!  The Fountainhead is so inviting to read as well as it offers far developed ideas.     Consider the story/plot.   The Fountainhead follows a true artist-architect Howard Roark-through his brilliant creations, true love, and his reaction with the rest …
review by . July 15, 2010
   This book really made me think about things in ways I'd never considered.  It challenged all of my belief systems and went against everything I had been taught.  I have to say I enjoyed it.       The idea that a man should live for himself and not for anyone else.  That seeking anyone's approval is worthless, only your own opinion should matter.  That ego and selfishness are good things and should be encouraged.  That your own …
Quick Tip by . October 05, 2010
Frightening. For a somewhat more serious discussion of quality, check out Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance. At least he's not a greed-head like Rand.
Quick Tip by . October 05, 2010
My most favorite book EVER. Do we want quality or do we want mediocrity?
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
Great story of what it means to be a person of integrity. I would say as a story, this is better than Atlas Shrugged.
Quick Tip by . July 16, 2010
One of my personal favorites, "The Fountainhead," managed to drag up emotions that not many others could. Triumph and defeat, when described in the work, became personal successes and losses. It takes a special book to do that.
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
the individuality/creativity theme is pretty overdone, and it's hard to relate to the main characters
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
One of my favorite books. Really eye opening, and makes you reconsider some things you take for granted.
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Wiki

The Fountainhead is a 1943 novel by Ayn Rand. It was Rand's first major literary success and its royalties and movie rights brought her fame and financial security. The book's title is a reference to Rand's statement that "man's ego is the fountainhead of human progress."

The Fountainhead's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. The book follows his battle to practice modern architecture, which he believes to be superior, despite an establishment centered on tradition-worship. How others in the novel relate to Roark demonstrates Rand's various archetypes of human character, all of which are variants between Roark, the author's ideal man of independent-mindedness and integrity, and what she described as the "second-handers." The complex relationships between Roark and the various kinds of individuals who assist or hinder his progress, or both, allows the novel to be at once a romantic drama and a philosophical work.

The manuscript was rejected by twelve publishers before a young editor, Archibald Ogden, at the Bobbs-Merrill Company publishing house wired to the head office, "If this is not the book for you, then I am not the editor for you." Despite generally negative early reviews from the contemporary media, the book gained a following by word of mouth and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The...

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Details

ISBN-13: 978-0451191151
Author: Ayn Rand
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Signet
Date Published: August 01, 1996
Polls with this book
1984 (British first edition)

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