A Partial Appreciation of Ayn Rand
By David Henderson
I’ve read a lot of criticisms of Ayn Rand’s personality and I’ve written some of them myself. I’m not taking any of them back: I think my criticisms and many others are well-founded.
But I was talking to a friend the other day about two special aspects of Ayn Rand’s personality that I think have been under appreciated or even not known. I think the two are related.
In her book Ayn Rand and the World She Made, Anne C. Heller tells a positive story about Ayn Rand as a conversationalist:
Rand met other Random House authors and some of [Bennett] Cerf’s [Cerf was the famous co-founder of Random House] wide circle of acquaintances. Years later, he remembered the mischievous pleasure he, like [Hiram] Haydn [Haydn was an editor at Random House], took in introducing her to liberal friends. “What I loved to do was trot her out for people who sneered at me for publishing her. Ayn would invariably charm them. For example, Clifton Radioman”—one of her models for Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead–”sat up with her until about three in the morning one time.” George Axelrod, the man who wrote The Seven Year Itch—”he’s always being [psycho]analyzed,” Cerf noted—at the end of a long, long evening disappeared with Ayn into another room. We couldn’t get George to go home. We were at Ayn’s for dinner. Later that night he said, ‘She knows me better after five hours than my analyst does after five years.'”
The related characteristic of Ayn Rand—and I can’t remember where I read this, but I’m positive I did—is that when she was talking to someone, that someone was the only person in the room. That shows a lot of respect and integrity about the conversation. I’ve been at cocktail parties where the person I’m talking to—even if it’s a friend—is constantly looking around the room as if looking for a better conversational offer. Rand wasn’t that way, at least if I remember the story correctly.
I’ve posted about Heller’s book a few times before. Here’s one.