A biographer sings Rand’s praises—only she could have done better
Ayn Rand and the World She Made
by Anne C. Heller
Nan A. Talese
$35.00 List Price
One of my high school summer jobs involved washing test tubes and pretending to be an apprentice research assistant in a biochemistry lab at a hospital in Manhattan. My coworkers, the actual researchers, had followed their boss, the senior scientist, from a midwestern university. All women, all blond, they seemed to share some arcane knowledge beyond the scientific and to be bound by some common thread beyond their professional and collegial connection.
One outward manifestation of this mysterious bond was that each wore a heavy ring engraved with a dollar sign. They patiently explained to me that this meant they were Objectivists, followers of Ayn Rand. I wasn’t ever sure what this entailed, exactly, except that her philosophy advised people to keep whatever money they earned and posited that society would crumble if everyone did what was good for others instead of what was best for themselves. I still remember the contemptuous sneers with which my new friends pronounced the word altruism. All my life I’d been taught to share and be helpful, so I had some trouble figuring out how these obviously decent, friendly, hardworking women could espouse beliefs that seemed so heartless and selfish. I had an easier time with the two novels they pressed into my hands. Both were written by their idol; both were steamy page-turners in which the characters were either having rough, passionate sex or delivering equally impassioned speeches expressing their ideas about life.
Since then, I haven’t thought much about Rand, except when I watched a compelling 1999 movie, The Passion of Ayn
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