Synopses & Reviews
Ayn Rand is best known as the author of the perennially bestselling novels The Fountainhead
and Atlas Shrugged
. Altogether, more than 12 million copies of the two novels have been sold in the United States. The books have attracted three generations of readers, shaped the foundation of the Libertarian movement, and influenced White House economic policies throughout the Reagan years and beyond. A passionate advocate of laissez-faire capitalism and individual rights, Rand remains a powerful force in the political perceptions of Americans today. Yet twenty-five years after her death, her readers know little about her life.
In this seminal biography, Anne C. Heller traces the controversial authors life from her childhood in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution to her years as a screenwriter in Hollywood, the publication of her blockbuster novels, and the rise and fall of the cult that formed around her in the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout, Heller reveals previously unknown facts about Rands history and looks at Rand with new research and a fresh perspective.
Based on original research in Russia, dozens of interviews with Rands acquaintances and former acolytes, and previously unexamined archives of tapes and letters, AYN RAND AND THE WORLD SHE MADE is a comprehensive and eye-opening portrait of one of the most significant and improbable figures of the twentieth century.
From the Hardcover edition.
A New York Times
A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
Ayn Rand’s books have attracted three generations of readers, shaped the Libertarian movement, influenced White House economic policies throughout the Reagan years and beyond, and inspired the Tea Party movement. Yet twenty-eight years after her death, readers know very little about her life.
In this seminal biography, Anne C. Heller traces the controversial author’s life from her childhood in Bolshevik Russia to her years as a Hollywood screenwriter, the publication of her blockbuster novels, and the rise and fall of the cult that worshipped her in the 1950s and 1960s. Based on original research in Russia and scores of interviews with Rand’s acquaintances and former acolytes, Ayn Rand and the World She Made is a comprehensive and eye-opening portrait of one of the most significant and improbable figures of the twentieth century.
In this seminal biography, Heller traces the controversial author's life, from her childhood in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution to her years as a screenwriter in Hollywood, the publication of her blockbuster novels, and the rise and fall of the cult that formed around her in the 1950s and 1960s.
A passionate advocate of laissez-faire capitalism and individual rights, Rand remains a powerful force in the political perceptions of Americans today. This seminal biography examines the life and roots of the controversial author of "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged."
About the Author
Anne C. Heller has written for such publications as Lear’s, Mademoiselle, TriQuarterly, and Esquire. She is the former fiction editor of Esquire and Redbook, and a former executive editor at Condé Nast Publications. She lives in Manhattan.
Reading Group Guide
The introduction, discussion questions, and suggested further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Anne C. Heller’s brilliant biography, Ayn Rand and the World She Made.
1. What are the most important insights and surprising revelations in Ayn Rand and the World She Made
2. In what ways does Heller’s biography deepen our understanding of Rand’s major works? What are the most important connections between Rand’s personal life and her writing that emerge from the biography?
3. What are Ayn Rand’s most admirable qualities? What aspects of her temperament and behavior are most difficult?
4. In the “About the Author” section of Atlas Shrugged, which Heller uses as an epigraph to chapter thirteen, Rand writes, “My personal life is a postscript to my novels. It consists of the sentence: ‘And I mean it.’ I have always lived by the philosophy I present in my books—it has worked for me, as it has worked for my characters. The concretes differ, the abstractions are the same” (p. 291). In what ways did Rand live by—or fail to live by—the philosophy she presents in her books? To what extent did it work for her?
5. Why were Rand’s novels so beloved by millions of readers and so often reviled by reviewers? How did Rand react to both the adulation of her readers and the scorn of her critics?
6. In what ways do Rand’s ideas show up in today’s political and ideological debates? What prominent contemporary figures are still guided by Rand’s philosophy?
7. In Atlas Shrugged, Francisco says to Dagny, “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of [your premises] is wrong” (p. 193). Was Rand herself free from contradictions? In what instances does her behavior seem to contradict her philosophical premises?
8. Heller quotes an old friend of Rand’s who said, “She could be immensely empathetic if she saw things in you that were like her. But if she didn’t see herself in some aspect of you, she didn’t empathize at all. You weren’t real to her” (p. 337). This is almost a clinical definition of narcissism. Was Rand a narcissist? On what occasions does she exhibit a striking lack of empathy?
9. On what grounds did Rand argue that altruism and empathy were misguided and actually harmful rather than helpful? Are her arguments convincing? What aspects of her personal history contributed to her belief that selfishness was a virtue?
10. Rand preached the absolute value of individual freedom and yet she demanded total intellectual conformity from her followers. How can this discrepancy best be explained?
11. How might Rand view the current political situation in America? What would she think of the Obama presidency?
12. What are the most troubling aspects of Rand’s relationship with Nathaniel Branden? Why did so many of Rand’s friendships end so explosively?
13. Rand’s ideal man was Howard Roark, the protagonist of The Fountainhead—morally and creatively uncompromising, sexually dominant, and intellectually superior. Why would she have married Frank O’Connor, who seemed to possess none of these qualities?
14. What effect is Ayn Rand and the World She Made likely to have on Rand’s legacy and on how her work is regarded?
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