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The Fountainhead September 25, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Books.
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I read this book on the recommendation of six or seven different people, each of whom said, “That was the best book I ever read.”  (OK – everyone except Jonathan W., who said it was the second best book he’s ever read, behind Atlas Shrugged, another of Ayn Rand’s novels.)

This book is the exposition of the “perfect man” of objectivism, Rand’s philosophy that holds that man’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress.  Much of the book is centered on Howard Roark, an architect who selfishly works at his craft to please himself and who refuses to compromise.  It is difficult not to like him.  Many of the other characters in the book lead “second-hand lives,” since they have no identity of their own – just that imposed on them by the ideals of society around them.  By contrast, Roark (and other characters like him) lives his life to the fullest because – according to Rand – he lives for himself.

I did not understand the relationship between Dominique (the “perfect woman”) and Gail Wynand (a man who could’ve been).  I did not understand the self-flaggelation motif, especially with regard to Dominique – if she was truly selfish, why the self-destruction?

Aside from that, this is a great book.  It is definitely a book of ideas and it’s fairly long (~700 pages).  It is worth reading, if for no other reason than you will love Roark and readily identify people in your own life who parallel Peter Keating, Gail Wynand, and Ellsworth Toohey.

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