Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Rand & Berkely

I have no idea why in retrospect, but I read an article on Ayn Rand by NRO's Andrew Stuttaford in today's NY Sun. I found this part pretty amusing:

Her sagas deal in moral absolutes, her protagonists are the whitest of knights or the blackest of villains, caricatures of good or evil lacking the shadings of gray that make literature, and life, so interesting. Yet "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead," at least, have a wild, lunatic verve that sweeps all before them. Like Busby Berkeley, the Chrysler Building, or a Caddy with fins, they are aesthetic disasters, very American aesthetic disasters, which somehow emerge as something rather grand.

I agree with the premise, but not the conclusion that Rand's prose somehow transubstantiates into something grand (as Busby's choreography did). It's just crap. I can see the point: the hackneyed, hyper-formalized style in which Rand writes does resemble the melodramas of the 30s......y'know, I hate the melodramas of the 30s. Total crap. They're good subjects for papers and essays, because there's no subtlety or complexity to get in the way of the operation of ideology, but I think that explains adequately why the only people that seem to like those films are comparative literature students and the like.

I could imagine a counter to that: there's something charming about how the makers of those films didn't have any idea they were doing little other than transmitting ideology. I could see that, I guess; naivete is sometimes charming. That counter also has the virtue of differentiating Rand, since she knew exactly what she was doing and was correspondingly charmless.