Reviews - What do customers think about The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics?
The Weird Obsession With Ayn Rand Dec 18, 2007
Damn, this is a weird book! If I weren't sure the author would never do drugs, I would strongly suspect he clearly was doing meth, big time!
A non-Objectivist, or more specifically, a person not thoroughly familiar with Objectivism and much of its lousy history, will definitely not find this book understandable, enjoyable (or even readable).
Even as a former self-proclaimed Objectivist, I only found what was fascinating about the book was simply watching the author strain and stress through the permutations of his own huge obsessions, driven
(1) to show tediously and technically what a valiant (pun intended) and demonstrably "good Objectivist" he is before the eyes of Leonard Peikoff (Rand's intellectual heir, so to speak) and the rest of the official Objectivist administration, but as well
(2) to calibrate every turn and twist (minor and major, but mostly minor) of circumstance after circumstance, piece of evidence after piece of evidence, and hearsay here and hearsay there of the larger story that is really known only between the Brandens and Ayn Rand (if she were alive today) into a kind of -- (to him) -- logic machine, but one with a unique structure immediately cognizable to all formal Objectivists, and
(3) to thus "prove -- rachet by rachet -- and once and for all, how utterly fair, utterly lovely, and wholly innocent Ayn Rand was in her affair with Nathaniel Branden while simultaneously "proving" how totally evil were Barbara and Nathaniel Branden in their relationship to Rand, reaffirming once more the choral-like, black-and-white moral "tradition" that is known as Objectivism.
Reading this book was like reading a technician's heavy and thick service and maintenance manual -- on ethics and love, if such a simile is at all comprehensible.
Do you like counting different types of screws, washers, and nails, measuring each one according to quarters of inches, and then storing them into a box that certifies the actual number and actual size? That was this approach on this book and the metallic taste the book conjures up with its dull prose as you read.
God! You have to have been a fanatic to write a book like this, and you do sure need some of the energy of a fanatic just to finish the book cover to cover!
As a side note, I've read Barbara Branden's "Passion of Ayn Rand," and I've read both of Nathaniel Branden's autobiographies (shades of Anais Nin's "House of Incest"), all when they first appeared in print. Mr. Valliant, in turn, sure can turn on the "proof" machine and make a case for the Brandens being total liars, especially Barbara in her biography of Rand. Nathaniel, well, Nathaniel really didn't need all that much "proving" to reveal he was a two-timing Romeo! Valiant gives it to him good, but a lot of the evidence against him was excessive!
(But how can you really measure what's "excessive" in the middle of a full-blown obsession?)
Nonetheless, I can tell you I can still love Barbara's well-written biography of Rand just as she can still love Thomas Wolfe's romantic novels even though Ayn Rand disapproved of him as a novelist for her to appreciate. It's easy because -- Valliant's prose never even comes near the status of art.
After all that Mr. Valliant wrote, Ayn Rand, in the end, sure does seem "proven" to have been sincere, fair, and "objective" in trying to understand her lying, two-timing, worthless boyfriend. No doubt about that! But for 14 years!???!!!
It took Rand 14 years (!) to confirm her lover was an effin liar?????? Does this make sense to anyone? Hello?
I felt so very sad for Ayn Rand once I reached this chapter in Valliant's book.
I once myself felt bad for having wasted my love-life -- twice, six years with one man (a self-proclaimed Objectivist) and six years with another (a cynical opportunist), both of whom were equally manipulative and lying unloving men, but Rand, with all her intellect and so-called (philosophical) knowledge of human nature -- (see Greg Nyquist's book on Rand's conception of human nature ("Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature") -- went a full two years more (than me) still clinging to an illusion of the right man for the right reasons!
It pretty nearly broke my heart to have all this "proof" of Rand's earnestness before me with such sad consequences!
Nonetheless, Rand's (often not extolled) ethereal sweetness is in full evidence in this section.
All of Rand's brilliance couldn't stop her from wasting so much of her energies, affections, and precious attention on a project to be loved (by the right man for the right reasons)! Fourteen (wasted) years is way too long, folks! (No wonder Rand went into a huge depression afterwards! No wonder her rage at being so disappointed!)
Have any of you gals out there ever sat that long with a honey-tongued two-timer with half of Rand's brain-power? No, I didn't think so.
By book's end, I felt the book unintentionally but powerfully ironically demonstrated what pathetic limitations there are in emphasizing intellect over matters of the heart, both for Rand as well as for Mr. Valliant. A dull service and maintenance manual has been written by Mr. Valliant on the subject of love and ethics with an (unintentional) edifying moral tale or theme to tell and relate: Love is Blind.
That's the book, and it's just plain weird.
I still ask myself this unanswered question: Frank Sinatra sang "All The Way," but Rand -- did she really listen?
About time Oct 6, 2007
Like many supporters of Objectivism, who for various reasons are too busy leading their normal lives to delve into the background and politics, I had often wondered about the Branden issue. I just assumed that the current "custodians" of the philosophy probably had good reason to just ignore it - in all probability, that it wasn't worthy of response. But that curiosity remained.
This book was a very worthwhile purchase. It is fresh and reaffirms the clear spirited view I have always had of Objectivism. It's heavy going though, and not something that will hold the attention of one not indignant, as I am and Ayn Rand was, at injustice.
I should add also that it will not convince any of the critics. This is not because it is in any way factually innaccurate, illogical, or lacking in substance. It's only becasue the author wears his righteuos indignation on his sleeve from page one, and as a *style*, that's not going to be as persuasive to a neutral observer as a more clinical writing style might.
A few good points, but mostly silly Aug 19, 2007
After Ayn Rand died in 1982, her ex-followers Nathaniel and Barbara Branden wrote tell-all memoirs of their years with her. Their portrait of Rand - as an eccentric and authoritarian - has pretty much carried the day. Now, James Valliant tells us that Rand wasn't any of that.
Of course, the Brandens books are a bit self-serving and probably one-sided in their presentation of Rand. If Valliant had wanted to point out the various flaws in their accounts (which isn't that hard to do), he might have written an interesting article. Instead, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics is an exercise in how to write a tendentious account of people you don't like. Did Barbara Branden tell us that Rand wasn't a very happy person? Well, she says that when Rand was younger, she was happy on a certain occasion. So a generalization has to take into account every waking moment in a person's life? This is pretty much Valliant's modus operandi.
Even the one thing that might have made this book interesting - the publication in Rand's diaries - turns into an exercise in hagiography. Valliant can't just quote what Rand says. No, he has to add pages and pages of commentary telling you how wonderful Rand was and what great insights she had into everything (except, interestingly enough, how Nathaniel Branden was running a cult). If you ever wondered if Objectivism was and is a cult, Valliant has now made, inadvertently, an iron-clad case.
At the end of the day, I don't see any reason to doubt the basic image of Rand described by the Brandens, a description which has been supported by almost everyone else who knew her.
Getting It Wrong Jun 16, 2007
I received this book as a gift from a friend, and read it while I was a "captive audience" in my hospital room. What struck me most about this book is that it is the mirror image of the William F. Buckley, Jr. book, "Getting It Right."
Along with the venerable Mr. Buckley's tome, this book is an obsessive crusade to wage once again long-since stale vendettas over Ayn Rand's *personal* legacy. Whereas Buckley painted himself into a corner with his ridiculous theme that the conservative movement was "rescued" from "fringe lunatics" like Ayn Rand and the John Birch Society (Rand would have called this "package dealing"), Valliant puts forth a valiant effort to demonstrate, once and for all, that Ayn Rand was a saint beyond moral reproach, and implies throughout that Dr. Leonard Peikoff was objectivism's most important advocate during Rand's lifetime.
What a bunch of hooey! Even though both the Brandens' memoirs could at times be self-indulgent, Valliant's mischaraterizations of them could only be described as a smear job.
This is muckraking quackery of the worst sort. It is sad to watch grown adults sweat blood trying to convince the world that a woman dead now for 25 years was either an infallible saint or a wickedly manipulative devil. This book has the "feel" that Mr. Valliant was "put up" to this unenviable task of playing Grand Inquisitor to the Brandens. Although I haven't any proof, this book seems to have the fingerprints of one Dr. Leonard Peikoff -- an incessant recycler and retreader of Ayn Rand's legacy, whose ability to squeeze every last penny from the ephemera bequeathed him by Rand would impress even Yoko Ono -- all over it.
If you live in the real world -- and not within the Ayn Rand or Buckley cults -- don't waste your time on this fanatical tract.
Essential Reading Feb 24, 2007
Essential Reading for anyone who has been exposed to either, or both, of the Brandon's vicious Ayn Rand biographies.