Ayn Rand Liked A Green Card…and Branden

Also in the Atlantic Monthly this month, but not online (go check), a cartoonist named Edward Sorel does a page and a half Little-Annie-Fanny rendition of Ayn Rand’s life. Great! She married Frank O’Connor, she bopped Nathaniel Branden, then she died.

Of course, this simple rendition doesn’t even have the depth and subtlety of Branden’s Judgment Day, for crying out loud. There’s something wrong with reducing a full and long life into nine panels. Oh, what the hell, let’s Fisk it:

  1. Panel 1, Russian emigre, changes name to Ayn Rand. Check.
  2. Panel 2, She marries Frank O’Connor for a green card? I’ve heard they were in love, but that’s a little complicated for one panel of a cartoon.
  3. Panel 3, The Fountainhead published and movie rights bought. That’s right, but what’s the idea jabbing at Jack Warner, head of the studio who bought the movie rights? Aren’t you slamming Ayn Rand here?
  4. Panel 4, Nathaniel and Barbara Branden wed. This accounts for 11% of Ayn Rand’s life and accomplishments? Wait a minute…here it comes….
  5. Panel 5, The Start of the Affair. Ayn and Nathan, rutting in a bed….
  6. Panel 6, The Affair Part II. Branden feels guilty, and Ayn is a shrew.
  7. Panel 7, Atlas Shrugged published, “A cult is born.”
  8. Panel 8, The End of the Affair. Branden has an affair with someone under 65, and Ayn excommunicates him.
  9. Panel 9, Ayn Dies. Alan Greenspan is there, and look how he’s effed everything up now.

So a full third of Ayn Rand’s contribution to literature and philosophy is that she bopped a second-rate self-esteem motivational speaker? I disbelieve and make a sign of warding here. It’s true, she erred, badly, with the whole Branden thing, but that’s hardly the sum of rational egoism or the messages within her novels and nonfiction.

Don’t get me wrong, I too have been cast from the reasoned land of capital-O Objectivism for thinking Ayn was less than perfect and that maybe Branden made some contributions to the objectivist cause, but to limit her life to nine panels, and her entire obra to an ill-advised affair and other cynical motives is to ignore the content of her work. Of course, maybe that’s the goal of modern criticism, or maybe modern critics just can’t make it through ~2000 pages of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

But I have. Twice, each. Nyah nyah.

So go watch Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life for the story beyond the cartoon. Beyond, perhaps, the cartoonist’s comprehension.

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