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 These letters by novelist (The Fountainhead, not reviewed, etc.), political thinker, and all-around, self-described ``intellectual egotist'' Rand (190582) prove oddly revealing of their peculiar, indomitable author. Berliner, the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, has done an admirable job of assembling and editing Rand's letters (though her correspondents' replies are mostly absent); his commentary seems quite judicious, as well. These letters maintain a uniformly strident tone. Whether advancing her career through flattery and opportunism by writing to Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Lloyd Wright, and other notables, or advancing an ersatz philosophy--``Objectivism''--constructed out of anti-communist bromides and specious ratiocination, Rand crafts bracing prose. Most letters concern business in New York and Hollywood, the struggle against ``collectivism,'' and the maintenance of a growing group of fans. Rand often appears almost comically heartless. ``Altruism is the curse of the world,'' she aphorizes early on. Of aesthetic matters she seems insensible. Would-be writers receive banal exhortations to focus on plot and character, and reflections on her novels make them sound more one-dimensional than they are. A steady undercurrent of real pathos flows through this book, however: Rand describes the necessity to exercise self-censorship when writing letters (since lost) to her family, who were suffering tragically under dictatorship in her native Russia. If Rand developed her own authoritarianism, she did so in protective reaction to Stalinism. In her old age, she turns down an opportunity to write on the theme ``the childhood day I will always remember,'' because, she writes, ``what I regard as significant are certain trends and intellectual developments in my childhood, but not single days or events.'' Such chilling passages suggest that the terror which robbed her of her childhood and her family blighted her sensibility as well. Objectivists will find much reinforcement in this volume; more objective readers may find it truly depressing.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-525-93946-6
Page count: 720pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995


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