Ayn Rand for Beginners (For Beginners)

aynrand-header.jpgBut if you’re one of those people who wonders what all the fuss is about but is disinclined to invest the time necessary to read one of Rand’s door-stop sized novels, an easier way to start would be by reading this comic book primer.

 

 

112 pgs., B&W; 14.99

(W: Andrew Bernstein; A: Owen Brozman)

Ayn Rand is one of those public figures who seem to provoke extreme reactions: drop her name into a casual conversation and your listener may respond with adulation or condemnation, but seldom with indifference. Except, of course, if the individual in question is unfamiliar with Ayn Rand, her books and her philosophy. That’s becoming less and less likely due in part to the efforts of the Ayn Rand Institute located in Irvine, CA, who distributes copies of Rand’s novels for free to high school teachers (according to their web site they have shipped over 1 million free copies to teachers in the U.S. and Canada) and sponsors essay contests on Rand’s thought and works.

Click for a larger image.But if you’re one of those people who wonders what all the fuss is about but is disinclined to invest the time necessary to read one of Rand’s door-stop sized novels (Atlas Shrugged weighs in at 1096 pages, while The Fountainhead occupies a mere 720) an easier way to start would be by reading Ayn Rand for Beginners. It provides a brief biography of Rand, a CliffsNotes®-style summary and analysis of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, an explication and analysis of Objectivism, and a description of the Objectivist Movement today. By the end you should have a basic understanding of Rand’s life story and an idea what Objectivism is about, and know whether you are interested in pursuing either subject further.

I should say up front that I don’t currently embrace Objectivism as a philosophy: I had my fling in high school, as do many of us, but have since moved on. Nonetheless I found Ayn Rand for Beginners to be informative and entertaining: it does a good job laying out the philosophy and the biographical details are useful as well. Andrew Bernstein’s text is clearly written and assumes no prior knowledge of the subject, while Owen Brozman’s art provides a second take on the ideas presented in the text. In fact his noir-ish illustrations of scenes from Rand’s novels work so well that they make me hope there may be a graphic novel forthcoming.

You don’t have to buy in to Objectivism to get some benefit from considering its tenets: if nothing else it may help you spot dysfunctional moments in our current economic and social system. Case in point: a June 27 article in the New York Times describing how the method for distributing cancer research funds systematically favors run-of-the-mill projects while passing over innovative ideas which could lead to real breakthroughs. Since federal funding is pretty much a necessity for a career in scientific research the parallels with the career of Howard Roark (architect hero of The Fountainhead) are fairly clear. In fact, that would be a good essay topic for an AP English exam.

Ayn Rand for Beginners will be available beginning August 11, 2009. Further information is available from http://www.steerforth.com/books/display.pperl?isbn=9781934389379 and you pre-order a discounted copy from the For Beginners web site at http://www.forbeginnersbooks.com/store.htm%20or%20from%20amazon.com. | Sarah Boslaugh

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