Interviews with intimates of the controversial writer, conducted and collected by oral historian and Ayn Rand Archives researcher McConnell.
More than 50 years after its publication, Atlas Shrugged (1957) remains a perennial bestseller, and Rand (1905–1982) continues to be both reviled and revered for her stance on the virtues of selfishness. Espousing a philosophy called Objectivism, she elevated rationality above all else, and argued that merit in the form of success for capitalists and great artists rendered them the rightful rulers of those she dismissed as parasitical for living off others’ accomplishments. This message is conveniently overlooked by many of her admirers interviewed here, although some acknowledge having fierce disagreements with her. Most cite her support of individualism in the face of conformity and convention as truly inspirational. McConnell includes a wide range of subjects, from Rand’s sister to early Hollywood connections, lawyers, economists, artists, celebrities and even her dentist. (Well-knowns include, among others, Mike Wallace, Mickey Spillane and Raquel Welch.) Accounts were factually corrected as needed and arranged in chronological eras for easy access. The author has an agenda, though: rectifying the prevailing impression of this towering intellect as a severe, humorless control freak. Readers are continually informed of Rand’s warmth, generosity, humor, openness to discourse and childlike delight in schlocky novels and music. We learn that she loved her cats, was terrific with children and collected stamps. The cumulative weight of the voices is convincing, however. Rand possessed a personality and charisma that charmed, fascinated and compelled attention, even adoration, and she impacted many lives. As her influence grows rather then wanes, it’s intriguing to investigate why her message resonates so powerfully.
Best suited for browsing, or as a companion to recent biographies, like Anne C. Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made (2009).