©2009 Anne C. Heller; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"This objective account of the Objectivist Rand will interest her still large and devoted readership." (Publishers Weekly)
In short, this is not merely a history of Rand, but also a lovely portrayal of the "high level" history of the 30's through the 60's. Roosevelt, New Deal, Anti-semitism, Conservatives, were all nightmares for Rand.
Of particular interest to me, was her relationship with Isabel Patterson, author of "God in the Machine." Of course, at the end of the day Rand would have nothing to do with mysticism of ANY sort, which eventually broke the decades long friendship.
Ont to the book itself. It is well written with an engaging style. Heller, is an ecellent historian and put years of research into this effort. I judge her treatment and presentation as fair and balanced. She presents the greatness and genius of Rand along with her deep psychological wounds, which from my understanding dogged her over her entire life. Nevertheless it is an inspiring book in both the positive and negative sense. Positively inspiring because Heller clearly paints an individual who knew who she was -- i.e. her "values" -- and who overcame amazing odds and actually accomplished what SHE set out to do -- to become an independent writer. Negatively inspiring, in that it serves as a lesson for us all that even geniuses need to always be aware they are not believing their own BS.
Ironically, being that "evasion" in Objectivist circles is similar to "unpardonable sin", Rand herself was not immune to psychological dysfunction. Towards the end, all she retained around her were people who jumped when she said frog, and this in both my and the author's opinion was her achilles heel. People, especially geniuses, should not purposely choose a cadre of sycophants as their primary support group. We all need to be challenged, especially the more "forceful" the personality.
Regarding the narrator, Bernadette Dunne, I think she is now my favorite. Her voice is clear and crisp, and she does not merely "read" but is talented at capturing the emotional context of the author's meaning.
There have been about a dozen or so books on the life and thought of this incredible woman including personal memoirs from her intimate associates and a biography or two. Anne Heller's new book is easily the most comprehensive and (pardon the pun) objective history of an amazing life. Her life story is as controversial and inspiring as her books and it's all to be found in this powerful and mesmerizing work. Heller's vivid and colorful writing lends itself perfectly to the audio book format and all the drama is there in Bernadette Dunne's wonderful narration. Ayn Rand was a wonderful writer and prodigious thinker who showed enormous courage and determination in the service of an insatiable ambition. Her ideas and the philosophical system she created have lost none of their importance or relevancy. Anyone interested in Rand will find this work enormously interesting and entertaining; one of the few books you never want to end.
I wanted to read a comprehensive, candid biography of Ayn Rand so looked at several. When you face a controversial personality like Ayn Rand's there are a few things to consider: I did not want to read a negative critique of Objectivism masquerading as a biography. I did not want to read a hatchet job of the author by someone who doesn't understand her ideas. Neither did I want to read a paean to Rand nor a whitewash of all her negative characteristics. I settled on Anne C. Heller's book because it sounded as though Heller had read Rand's books and enjoyed their ideas but that she had not drunk Objectivist flavored Cool Aid.
On completing the book, it seems to me that Heller admires Rand's ideals while maintaining the objective view that one cannot expect ideals to translate empirically exactly as outlined. I was most interested in Rand's method of plotting and writing her work. Heller does her best to address these issues by quoting from many of Rand's journals, character sketches and outlines for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and to some extent for We The Living. Although all my questions were not answered, I did get a basic understanding of how the author worked and how she maintained her specific theme focus through two works of unwieldy length.
The most interesting part of the books, though, were Rand's personal interactions and relationships. Her absolute rejection of any idea that is not in complete agreement with her own does not come across in her many television interviews during which she is polite if mildly sarcastic when she encounters challenges. In public it seemed to me she was more often attacked than attacking. In her personal life very much the opposite was apparently true. She had no problem dropping people from her society for simply questioning the absolute certainty of her opinions. As I became more and more interested in the book it was quite easy via Google, YouTube, and my public library to verify Ms. Heller's conclusions.
I enjoyed the book immensely. I found that it addressed the dichotomy at the root of modern conservative thought which prevents conservatives from making any progress toward their own agendas, while attempts to slow the implementation of liberal agendas serve only to strengthen and even empower their counterparts. These problems perhaps started with the rational and objective insights issued to conservatives by Ayn Rand in her seminal works.
I found this to be very interesting. I have been a fan of Atlas Shrugged and was intrigued to learn about the woman who wrote it. Although I don't believe the same things she did, I found Ayn Rand fascinating. She was a fanatic about her views and I believe Atlas Shrugged and her other novels could only have been written by such a relentless person.
I was born and raised in NY. When i was 19 or so, the girl i was dating was an Ayn Rand follower so naturally i had to read all of Rands books I even subscribed to the Objectivist Newsletter. Having said that this audiobook was gripping and held my attention throughout. I can definately see how people believed her following to be cult like. After listeneing to this book the person I felt sorry for most was Rand's husband Frank O'Connor. I would have liked to have lnown him
What happens when we subscribe to a fantasy world so rigid, so airtight, that the real world can never meet our expectations? I'm not a fan of Ayn Rand, but I found "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" fascinating. Author Heller gives us an even-handed portrait, showing both Rand's admirable qualities, and her deep character flaws. This is one of those rare audiobooks I wished would never end.
The novice reader may not know Ayn Rand's philosophy, although the author does attempt to explain her philosophy within Rand's biography. Perhaps first acquiring "The World of Atlas Shrugged" (available on audible.com) will make Rand's philosophy more understandable. If you are familiar with the concept of "Objectivism," you will enjoy listening to how Ayn Rand's personal life led her to her ideology that many Libertarians and economic advisors (Allan Greenspan) have admired. The narration is well-read, but the overall story is actually more dramatically presented in Barbara Brandton's book "The Passion of Ayn Rand" (not available in audible). However, I've enjoyed listening to this biography on several occasions and I've learned something new each time, but be aware that a little background on Rand will be helpful.
the audio version brings more life to the story because of the marvelous narration and characterization of Ayn Rand's voice
the skillful manner in which the faults in Ayn Rand's philosophy are exposed, as the author's reasons as to how Rand's childhood experiences formed her philosophy of rationalism.
Her voice is reminiscent of that of actress Kate Mulgrew (of Captain Janeway fame). Her husky deep female voice, and the unique emotional quality of her narration, is perfect to tell the story of this famous woman. And perfect also in capturing her Russian accent.
I couldn't stop listening. It was compelling, both the writing and narration
My first husband was a devotee of Ayn Rand's philosophy and we spent long hours talking about how make it our life philosophy. My husband was completely devoted to these ideas. This occurred at the height of her popularity. I will never forget her impact on our lives. I read all her books. Nevertheless, I had problems accepting certain aspects of her rational beliefs. I will never forget those times and her impact on our lives. This biography is fascinating in the way it presents a very human Ayn Rand and how her charisma convinced so many to worship her.
I teach Business, Economics, and English at a university in Tokyo. My interests are in politics, economics, and philosophy. I hold a BA in English Literature, and an MA in Political Science.
Having read all of Ayn Rand's books I found this biography fascinating. I had to go back and read some of the novel's texts, and it gave me a new perspective.
The author shows great respect for her subject, while at the same time illustrating some very disturbing flaws in her personality. There are some interesting one line comments that are left hanging that need more explanation, but are given short shrift. If you are a reader of Ayn Rand this may open your eyes to some things. If you do not know who she is and have not read her books, you may walk away a bit confused. I would recommend it for people who have read at least The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. If you haven't read at least one of those two books, then this is not a good introduction to Ayn Rand.
IT Manager and life long learner
Paints the story of a brilliant yet flawed intellectual devoted to spreading the word on objectivism and free market capitalism I her passionate defense of the individual. Heller gives interesting insight into the ideas and late night discussions that gave voice to the characters of Rand's novels and the battle against repression and altruism they fight. Thought provoking reviews of Rand's novels and essays come along for the ride as well. The book pulls no punches in the brutal portrayal of Rand as a ego centric control freak who saw no one but her cult like following inner clique as even having a chance of being worthy of existence. She left relationships and marriages in wreckage in her wake as she epitomized the self centered life she glorified.
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