It is particularly insidious when an author
concocts a theoretical system made of
unrefined bullshit but which has currency
with oligarchs as their founding myth.
Ayn Rand came from Russia and changed
her name to the one we know, probably
to make her ideas more palatable. We already
know that while she promoted rugged
individualist titans of industry and their trains
(a predilection of hers), she
sucked on the welfare teet when she was
old and feeble.
But beyond her stupid ideas and her
simplistic, aw-shucks stories about
despised rent-seeking scumbag
oligarchs, it seem that she provides the soft
shoulder for plutocrats to cry on.
They, including Alan Greenspan
(who set in motion most of the
disaster we see today in markets
and on main street), show such
fondness for her, without quite
being book critics.
But, among writers and critics, Ayn
is the runt of the litter. This time,
she gets her comeuppance from
a southern belle, Flannery O'Connor.
One of the highlights of this literary
ritual burning (at the stake) was the mention of
Mickey Spillane as being leagues
better than Rand. I was a big fan of
Spillane as a young boy. a Tough, no-
nonsense hard-drinking private dick
who always solves the case and gets the
Anyway, it's tasty when a lady of
letters takes a big swipe at the
biggest literary Aynus of the 20th
checkit: open culture
Flannery O’Connor: Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Ayn Rand (1960)
June 18th, 2014
In a letter dated May 31, 1960, Flannery O’Connor, the author best known for her classic story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (listen to her read the story here) penned a letter to her friend, the playwright Maryat Lee. It begins rather abruptly, likely because it’s responding to something Maryat said in a previous letter:
I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.
The letter, which you can read online or find in the book The Habit of Being, then turns to other matters.
O’Connor’s critical appraisal of Ayn Rand’s books is pretty straightforward. But here’s one factoid worth knowing. Mickey Spillane (referenced in O’Connor’s letter) was a hugely popular mystery writer, who sold some 225 million books during his lifetime. According to his Washington Post obit, “his specialty was tight-fisted, sadistic revenge stories, often featuring his alcoholic gumshoe Mike Hammer and a cast of evildoers.” Critics, appalled by the sex and violence in his books, dismissed his writing. But Ayn Rand defended him. In public, she said that Spillane was underrated. In her book The Romantic Manifesto, Rand put Spillane in some unexpected company when she wrote: “[Victor] Hugo gives me the feeling of entering a cathedral–Dostoevsky gives me the feeling of entering a chamber of horrors, but with a powerful guide–Spillane gives me the feeling of listening to a military band in a public park–Tolstoy gives me the feeling of an unsanitary backyard which I do not care to enter.” All of which goes to show that Ayn Rand’s literary taste was no better than her literature.