Balansert om The Fountainhead

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Balansert om The Fountainhead

Innlegg Marius Møllersen 25 Jul 2012, 23:56

Jeg kom tilfeldigvis over denne på Amazon, som stemmer bra med mitt eget inntrykk. Den eneste viktige innsigelsen jeg har er vel at Toohey virket nokså plausibel på meg:

Brilliant, very flawed work by brilliant, very flawed woman

Funny how most of the reviews are either unqualified adulation from Rand worshipers or slams from Rand haters. IMO, "The Fountainhead" is neither a prophetic work of great genius nor a piece of evil tripe. It is a brilliant work, perhaps even with flashes of genius -- but as flawed as its author.
I think Rand had the potential to be a great novelist, which she largely ruined when she decided she was the world's greatest philosopher since Aristotle. Any dogma is the enemy of art. If you read Rand's three major novels -- "We the Living", "The Fountainhead", and "Atlas Shrugged" -- you can see her dogma becoming more and more rigid, and her characters less and less human. "The Fountainhead" is a novel you can still appreciate even if you don't agree with the philosophy (and I think the philosophy has some excellent points, just taken to an absurd extreme).

Unlike some reviewers here, I don't find Howard Roark to be completely inhuman. He does feel pain -- not only the pain of his own struggle but of his mentor Henry Cameron and his friend Steve Mallory, the sculptor. It's just that, as Rand says, the pain "only goes down to a certain point" because it can't touch the core of his independent soul. But consider this passage when Dominique tells Roark she has married Peter Keating: "It would have been easy, if she had seen a man distorting his mouth to bite off sound, closing his fists and twisting them in defense against himself. But it was not easy, because she did not see him doing this, yet knew that this was being done, without the relief of a physical gesture." Clearly this is a man who feels and suffers. He can feel sympathy as well: for Gail Wynand, even for Peter Keating.

At that stage, Rand herself was still capable of sympathy for less-than-perfect characters. Guy Francon, Dominique's father, is an opportunist -- but ultimately still more a good than a bad guy. His relationship with his daughter, sparsely depicted, is nonetheless very "real" and touching. Even Keating, the ultimate "second-hander" and in many ways a despicable man, is to some extent sympathetic and is shown as having some good in him. His failed romance with his true love, Katie, is very poignant -- and the scene near the end where he meets her years after dumping her, when she has "gotten over" him and lost her humanity, is truly heartbreaking. (Though her loss of humanity and selfhood is a little too complete.)

Gail Wynand is a fascinating, tragic character throughout -- and in a way, his relationship with Dominique is more interesting than the Howard/Dominique romance. The story of his childhood and his rise in the newspaper industry is absorbing and very well-written.

Some reviewers mention stilted dialogue. I don't agree. Yes, there are long passages where the characters preach/philosophize instead of talking, and become nothing but vehicles for Rand's ideas. But apart from that, the dialogue is mostly dynamic, crisp, and quite believable (e.g. the first meeting between Wynand and Dominique).

Rand also has a terrific descriptive style. Take this passage describing the aftermath of rain: "The pavements glistened, there were dark blotches on the walls of buildings, and since it did not come from the sky, it looked as if the city were bathed in cold sweat. The air was heavy with untimely darkness, disquieting like premature old age, and there were yellow puddles of light in the windows."

And there are wonderful, memorable lines; one of my favorites is, "All love is exception-making."

Now the flaws. The character of Dominique, particularly in the first half of the book, is not very plausible. I don't "get" her masochism, the wallowing in her degradation at Roark's hands in their first encounter. (And yes, it was definitely rape -- Dominique herself repeatedly describes it as such.) Her motives for trying to destroy Roark's career when she has already realized she loves him never feel "real," no matter how Rand tries to rationalize them. I enjoy twisted love-hate relationships as much as the next gal (one of my favorite books is "Wuthering Heights") but this is twisted beyond plausibility. (Dominique becomes much more believable in the second half of the book, though; the scene where she finally comes back to Roark is great.)

Ellsworth Toohey with his grandiose plans for world power is even more implausible. And the idea that the dumbing down of culture is some sort of deliberate plot to pass off mediocre works as great ones in order to debase cultural standards ... puh-leeze.

Rand has an annoying tendency to restate every idea a dozen times and hammer the reader over the head with it. Eventually you just want to shout, "All right, Ayn -- I got the point!"

As for the philosophy -- yes, the occasional super-individualist like Howard Roark is great. A lot of great geniuses, including apparently Leonardo da Vinci, didn't have the "people" gene. But if everyone behaved like that ... I'm not sure it would be such a great world to live in. No matter how much Rand might pretend otherwise, her worship of the great man does have a flip side of contempt for the mass of humanity. See Wynand's comment to Dominique, "One can't love man without hating most of the creatures who pretend to bear his name." That's scary. So is Rand's palpable disgust for the imperfections of unheroic human (and particularly female) flesh.

A readable, thought-provoking book, but hardly a guide to life. Read it -- but with a critical mind.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R2GG6NFC0O ... 83155&tag=
Marius Møllersen
 
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