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Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 12:26amSanction this postReply
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I loved The Passion of Ayn Rand--so well-written, so insightful.  You were the perfect person to write this book.  I don't know who else could've done it.  I think it's a very important contribution, to have such a great biography of such an important thinker.

I should start making some more negative comments on this posting board.  Everyone's going to start thinking I love everything.




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Post 1

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 12:31amSanction this postReply
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Dear Barbara:
     Not only is this a wonderful book, not only does your tone serve as a humanizing force for the proper understanding of Ayn Rand, but you also showed exceptional generosity in listing many of us in a section at its end who had made our own attempts to develop Rand's ideas and to give them some solid exposure within the forums of mainstream philosophical and related scholarship.
      If I may recall a personal moment that will highlight in very concrete terms your generous nature, when I was roundly ridiculed for a question I asked Nathan at a Los Angeles lecture he gave in late 1962 (or was it 1963?), not entirely without some justification, you kindly took me aside when we were leaving the hall to show me some understanding and to allay my own embarrassment. Thank you--it meant very much to me.





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Post 2

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 1:05amSanction this postReply
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I hope to show in her story that she was something infinitely more fascinating and infinitely more valuable than either goddess or sinner. She was a human being.

Barbara,

This one statement, for me, epitomizes the critical importance of your book.  

There is a moment I will never forget, in a Boston theater, when my world came crashing down.  I was 26, and had at that point read most of Rand's fiction.  I hadn't known much about her personally, so I went to see A Sense of Life.  When the affair with Nathaniel was revealed, the sense of disgust I felt toward Rand was one that would stay with me for quite a few years.  How dare she tell me to live by a certain code, and not live up to her own ideals?  I could not bring myself to abandon her philosophy, because it was the only one that had ever made concrete sense to me -- but to me, she had 'fallen from grace.'

Then I discovered your book, and in being allowed a look at Rand in a broader context -- in seeing her as a child, a woman, a thinker, and creator -- I was able to gain a more complete understanding of her as a human being.  In seeing her imperfections on a deeper level, alongside her brilliance, I realized that the human struggle is not one that can be escaped, even by the greatest of thinkers.  Not only did this enable me to separate the woman from the philosophy, and appreciate her in a new light, but it instilled in me the ideal that we must always try to see ourselves objectively, and not be deluded by who we 'think' we are.  We don't need to be perfect, but we need to be honest with ourselves.  It can mean the critical difference between happiness and despair.

Thank you, Barbara.  All of those lessons proved to be a powerful force in helping me to craft the person I am now.

Warmest regards,
Jennifer    




Post 3

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 2:03amSanction this postReply
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Barbara,

To me, your words have always rung true.

The fact that you've written what you have tells me all I need to know about you - and the fact that your detractors have so plainly maligned your motives tells me all I need to know about them...

I add my voice to the chorus of thanks :-)

MH





Post 4

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 3:56amSanction this postReply
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Barbara,

I read Nathaniel's book "My Years With Ayn Rand" before your one. From his book I got the impression that Ayn Rand was a very unhinged and irrational person.

However, "the Passion" revealed to me that this was a distorted view. From your perspective Ayn Rand's behaviour actually made sense and therefore rings true to me - you put the whole incident into context.

At the end of the day - she was not perfect, but your book gave a vivid impression of her intellectual genius and her personal vulnerabilities.

It will go down in history as the best biography of Rand ever written!

Thank you for writing it.  




Post 5

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 4:52amSanction this postReply
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Barbara,

Have you considered releasing your book as an unabridged audio book?  I see a number of Ayn Rand's books at http://www.audible.com for sale.


Luke Setzer




Post 6

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 4:53amSanction this postReply
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I think that your way of dealing with this difficult manner is perfect and speaks volumes about your objectivity and respect for truth.



Post 7

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 6:17amSanction this postReply
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Barbara,

I stand by what I said in my first post to you on SOLO: Thank you for your wonderful book!

Regards,

Ethan




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Post 8

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 6:21amSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Barbara, for a moving article, and a pathbreaking book.




Post 9

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 7:22amSanction this postReply
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Immediately prior to reading this article, I'd coincidentally just re-watched The Passion of Ayn Rand DVD which I ordered a few months ago.  I really feel it's an excellent film; I echo the sentiments of others here in that this story was necessary for me to come to terms with my understanding and conception of Ayn Rand.  Thanks Barbara for bringing it to life.  Now I need to read the book!



Post 10

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 8:16amSanction this postReply
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When I read your first biography, the essay in Who Is Ayn Rand?, I found it inspiring and read it many times. And yet, almost from the beginning, I was saying to myself, ďThis canít be the exact truth, itís just an idealized portraitĒ--which did not bother me! Surmising what I thought must be Ayn Randís true nature, I continued to read the essay from time to time, because I fully identified with living oneís life as a kind of artwork, and believed there was a certain validity to the portrait.

 

So nothing I read in Passion really surprised me (I had learned of the affair with NB long ago, and yes that had surprised the hell out of me at the time); in fact, it turned out that my surmises had been accurate. I just enjoyed your book as one of the best, and best-written, biographies I had ever encountered. (Though I had several differences with your interpretations of events, where I came out on Aynís side.)

 

I think I already know what kinds of arguments the Valliant book will use, and I would disagree with them. But I will of course read the book before judging it. After all, it has some new writing by Ayn Rand, who can do no wrong!

 

 

(Edited by Rodney Rawlings on 2/13, 8:17am)




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Post 11

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 9:55amSanction this postReply
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Dear Barbara,

That was a fine statement, and fully consistent with the tone and content of your wonderful book.

As the author of one of the first reviews of your biography, I can only echo what others have said above, and repeat what I said in that review. The Passion of Ayn Rand is a remarkable work -- most remarkable of all for its objectivity: considering the emotional scars you bore from that period, it would have been so easy for you to have penned a vindictive hatchet job. That you did not -- that you were instead able to rise above the hurt, maintain perspective, and give enthusiastic witness to Ayn Rand's many extraordinary virtues of character and achievements, while depicting her failings and weaknesses with empathy and subtle understanding -- that, Barbara, is itself a great achievement, a triumph of character.

By contrast, I am no fan of the Showtime film drawn from your book's title. I say "title" because, quite unlike your book, I found it to be a cheap tabloid treatment of The Affair alone, not remotely of the Ayn Rand presented in your biography. The film offered nothing of Ayn Rand's background, nothing of the nature of her struggle and the scale of her triumph, nothing that indicated the scope of her intellectual discoveries and literary achievements, nothing that persuasively conveyed her personal brilliance and intellectual stature (the reasons so many were drawn into her circle), and -- even regarding the affair itself -- nothing that revealed its complexities and conflicts of motives. It was a cheap, sensationalized People magazine -- or National Enquirer -- treatment of only the worst aspect of Rand's life (and yours, and Nathaniel's, and Frank O'Connor's), not redeemed by a single insight. In short, it was everything that you so nobly avoided in The Passion of Ayn Rand.

No book (or person) is perfect, and there are things about your book that I might criticize. But those caveats pale before what you achieved, and what all other biographical treatments of Rand's life so far have not. You put Rand's life into its full context, something that neither fawning hagiographers nor malicious guttersnipes can do. That's why The Passion of Ayn Rand will stand the test of time, as these partisan efforts won't.

So, nearly two decades after my initial review, let me once again congratulate you for your book, and enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who has not yet read it.



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Post 12

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 10:07amSanction this postReply
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I have to second Robert Bidinotto's view of the film. I have not yet seen all of it; and the reason I stopped watching it is because I perceived it exactly as Robert does.

Contrary to Helen Mirren's best intentions, the film does diminish Ayn Rand. Perhaps Barbara Branden cannot be objective about this: it must be a heady experience to have one's book made into a movie.




Post 13

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 10:09amSanction this postReply
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No legacy is so rich as honesty. - William Shakespeare

Barbara, yours will be a rich legacy.

George




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Post 14

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 10:23amSanction this postReply
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Thanks so much to all of you. Your comments make me very happy.

Daniel, I for one don't need negative comments. Feel free to keep sounding as if you love everything -- especially my work.

Tibor, if it meant much to you that I took you aside to allay your embarrassment when you were chastised, you will understand that it means much to me that you remember the incident. This has happened to me many times over the years -- that people recall that I was not the ogre I sometimes think I was -- and it never fails to deeply move me.

Jennifer: "I realized†that the human struggle†is not one†that can be escaped, even by the greatest of thinkers." That's precisely what I wanted my readers to understand, and therefore not to condemn Ayn Rand for not always winning the struggle.

Matthew, thank you so much for your understanding. I've known for a long time that I had it.

Marcus: "Your book gave a vivid impression of her intellectual genius and her personal vulnerabilities." Your comments, and the others, make me feel that I was very successful. You are all naming the issues most important to me about my book

Luther, the book is issued as an unabridged audio book, by Books on Tape. The reader does an excellent job. When Books on Tape first approached me, I said I'd like to do the reading; they very politely informed me that they preferred to use a professional. And when I listened to the reading, I understood that I could never have done as well; it did require a professional.

James, many thanks -- of course.

Ethan, you are most welcome.

Chris, I always feel understood by you. Thank you.


Rodney. "best written?". That's perhaps my favorite compliment.

You people are really too tough on me. Have a little compassion!

Barbara





Post 15

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 10:26amSanction this postReply
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What are these "nobody's perfect" and "she was only human" lines that keep coming up whenever there's a discussion of Ayn Rand's allegedly immoral acts? That a religious sentiment not an Objectivist one. It's the sentiment of those who put morality in another dimension, not of those who follow the morality of life on earth.




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Post 16

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 10:36amSanction this postReply
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Shane, I for one didn't say "she's only human," nor would I ever use such a phrase, which turns the word "human" into an insult.

But I do believe that "nobody's perfect." As I'm an Objectivist, my grounds for that conclusion are not any religious or Platonic standard of perfection, but empirical observation.

Alas.



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Post 17

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 10:51amSanction this postReply
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But I do believe that "nobody's perfect." As I'm an Objectivist, my grounds for that conclusion are not any religious or Platonic standard of perfection, but empirical observation
Precisely what do you mean by "nobody's perfect"? Do you mean that no one can follow the "ideal Objectivist morality" due to say, lack of capacity to be like Hank Rearden (here's your Platonic standard), or do you mean that everyone will inevitably slip up now and again and do something immoral (i.e., they lack free will). Or something else entirely? Though I don't see any alternatives to these myself.




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Post 18

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 11:09amSanction this postReply
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Robert, nearly twenty years after your original review -- thank you again. Yours was the first review I saw, and I was thrilled with it.

I'll never forget your phone call to me. We didn't know each other, but I felt that I was talking to an old friend -- because what you proceeded to do was to name the particular lines and phrases and ideas in Passion that you liked the most, and you chose precisely those things that I liked the most, that I was most proud of. It was a wonderful experience to feel so visible, and I remain grateful for it.

I understand your objections to the movie. As you know, I didn't write it. What I saw being filmed -- I was on the set throughout the filming -- was in many ways butchered in the final cut. However, I was pleased with nature of the film's consequences in a number of respects. . Many, many people wrote or spoke to me to say that the movie was their first encounter with Ayn Rand, that they were fascinated, and that they were running to get her book and mine.That was what I had hoped would happen. I still receive such mail to this day.

Rodney, you are correct, it is indeed a heady experience to have one's book made into a movie -- especially when it stars Helen Mirren. But I think I can be reasonably objective about it. It's somewhat like having a backward child: one recognizes his deficiencies, but one loves him nevertheless.

George, thank you.

Shayne, it's not possible to go through life without making mistakes. That's part of how we learn. And since the range of Rand's experiences was wider and deeper than most, some of her mistakes were jumbo size. But her virtues and her achievements were also giant sized.

Barbara



Post 19

Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 11:15amSanction this postReply
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Barbara wrote:
Luther, the book is issued as an unabridged audio book, by Books on Tape. The reader does an excellent job. When Books on Tape first approached me, I said I'd like to do the reading; they very politely informed me that they preferred to use a professional. And when I listened to the reading, I understood that I could never have done as well; it did require a professional.
I did a Google search and evidently that tape set has become hard to locate.  I did find an entry at https://custhub.rfbd.org/prddetail.asp for blind and dyslexic people to obtain it.  I also found half the series available at Amazon for $125.  I think I will pester my friends at Audible to see if they can get the rights to publish it on the Web for download.


Luke Setzer




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