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Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 2:22amSanction this postReply
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Casey—I haven't read the book, & I shall withhold final judgement until I have. But some preliminary observations are in order.

1) I look in vain for evidence of the "Cult of the Brandens" that you talk about, at least as far as Barbara is concerned. It's true that Barbara has a devoted following, especially here, but I'm not aware of that being any kind of crime. Barbara is revered because she was the first to have the courage to tell the truth, because she told it so well, & for her often-sublime wisdom. She is not revered in the blind, unquestioning manner a cult-leader is.

2) I don't know of anyone here who would seek to have the book banned or burned, or who would refuse to read it on principle. That is *precisely* the approach Peikoff took to Barbara's book, & a little honesty in acknowledging his past authoritarian dishonesty in this matter wouldn't go amiss. He had to be dragged kicking & screaming into admitting The Affair. His side-kick, the dreadful Schwartz, took a different approach, saying, in effect, so what if it's true? What matters is what you *want* to believe about an historic figure! Is that primacy of consciousness/whim-worshipping subjectivism or what?! A little honesty about *that* would be in order also.

3) There are two or three psychotic individuals who got banned from SOLO for posting gutter-level stuff about the Brandens. Those self-same psychotics are now heralding this book as "Ayn Rand's Revenge," "The End of the Brandens," etc.. They've published a travesty of a review of it by one of them, a woman who's as mad as a meat-axe. When I see such demonstrably dysfunctional, incestuous neurotics gleefully applauding the book, I'm naturally suspicious. And *you* ought to be embarrassed!

4) No doubt, in this or that detail, the Brandens' biographies were mistaken. That's unavoidable. No doubt, in this or that detail, *this* book will be mistaken also. Big deal. It will be judged on its Big Picture integrity, or lack thereof. Barbara's has it in spades. I reserve judgement about Mr Valliant's.

Linz



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Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 6:54amSanction this postReply
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(Sigh). "Hold your horses" is the wrong metaphor. A more appropriate one is that we're beating a dead horse here. In fact, we beat it to death, with over 90 posts, here:
 
http://www.solohq.com/Forum/NewsDiscussions/0480.shtml
 
I see no need to rehash this all again. Valliant's book will say what it will say, we will judge it as we will judge it, and that will be that.
 
There's one matter Casey brings up that I find problematic, however: his defense of the publication of Rand's private diary entries and/or letters against charges that it constitutes an invasion of her privacy. To this, he says:
 
Rand left no special instructions in her will or anywhere else about not publishing this material. She just gave it to Leonard Peikoff. She could have destroyed it, or, like her own character Henry Cameron in "The Fountainhead," she could have asked Peikoff to destroy it.

She did not.

On the other hand, Chris Sciabarra, who has seen the uncorrected galleys of this book, has written:

 

Reading Rand's personal journal entries makes me feel a bit uneasy.  As valuable as they are to me from an historical perspective, I suspect there might be an earthquake in Valhalla caused by the spinning of Ayn Rand's body.  As Valliant himself admits, Rand would never have wanted this material made public.    [ http://www.solohq.com/Forum/NewsDiscussions/0480_3.shtml#70 ]

If Valliant, the author of this book, stated that he believes Rand would have objected to the publication of this material, yet he published it anyway, that's all that needs to be said as to whether the book constitutes an invasion of her privacy.

 
 




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Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 7:21amSanction this postReply
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I think about the first 8 paragraphs of this were good and enough.  They argue against cultism and censorship.  The rest is an ill-tempered, ad homonym attack on the Brandens.  Why?



Post 3

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 8:51amSanction this postReply
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Fahy already has a review on Amazon.com.  Amazingly he gave it 5 stars!  He states that:
The author describes, fully at last, the life of a great thinker and writer with unexpected power simply through the process of debunking her most grievous betrayers and influential critics, Nathaniel and Barbara Branden.
Later he says:
These fascinating notes [unpublished journal entries], which comprise psychological ideas that would, arguably and ironically, fuel Nathaniel Branden's career long after their split ...
I guess Nathaniel Branden stole his ideas from Rand.  I did not know that!  I wonder which ones.

Well, Fahy does say that the author is "a good friend of mine" and that he (Fahy) published part of the book on his website, so I guess I can't expect him to be ... objective.

Thanks,
Glenn




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Post 4

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 9:27amSanction this postReply
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Authors sell information, ideas and stories. Publishers sell bound paper and rights.

A publisher will sell his soul if he can sell more paper. ALL publishers.

So blowing controversy out of scale is part of the marketing, folks. It is not like arguing real ideas or anything. It will blow over after the sales run.

Anyway, Casey, I will be one who will buy the damn book. I sure hope your author is as good at authoring as you are at hype.

Thanks for the free advertising for Barbara and Nathaniel too.

Am I smelling cigar smoke around here?...

Michael

Edit - Brazilian publishers favor Montechristo. What brand is that? Can't seem to place it...

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 4/06, 9:38am)




Post 5

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 9:52amSanction this postReply
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It is not cigar smoke but the sweet smell of the first official Solo book burning event, starting with "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics."

Support Solo by buying books using this link to Amazon




Post 6

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 10:35amSanction this postReply
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Kat, if we did that we would have to change SOLOs name to ARI.

John



Post 7

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 7:08amSanction this postReply
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I know of the book of which you speak and am planning to read it, but I don't know the rest of the story.  References to "the woman as mad as a meat-axe" and the couple of  "psychotics" would be helpful.  Also, since this is post "0", I'm not sure, being new, who Casey is or to what post you are evidently responding. More later.




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Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 11:05amSanction this postReply
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A short note on "cults".  I have found that: 1) it is difficult to define cult in such a way as to clearly differentiate it from "a group of people with strongly held beliefs about the good character of a person and/or the truth of a set of propositions"  (I hope it is understood why the addition of "without rational grounds" or some such doesn't help) and 2) the existence of a cult, in any particular instance, depends more than anything on the mental behavior -- the psycho-epistemology, if you will -- of the believer rather than the perported "leader" of the "cult" and his/her expectations with regard to the believer.



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Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 4:41pmSanction this postReply
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Apart from the fact that Ayn Rand did not publish this material herself, there is no other evidence that Ayn Rand did not want this to ever be published. Valliant only admits that Rand did not anticipate its publication. Given the publication of the Brandens' books it can only be assumed that Rand would have used whatever material and information she had to defend herself. Rand's estate has every right to do that for her.



Post 10

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 5:05pmSanction this postReply
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Casey, could you please provide some evidence of the "Brandens' book-burning crusade" as it pertains to this book? You make a pretty serious accusation here. Please offer some citings and quotations to back it up.

Alec 




Post 11

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 5:38pmSanction this postReply
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I can personally vouch for the fact that Jim did not consult with Peikoff or anyone else associated with ARI about the content of his book—at all, ever. As proof of this, when Dr. Peikoff did make Rand's papers available to him, Peikoff told Jim that his first reaction to the very idea of the project was, and I quote, "Am I gonna have to pick a fight with Valliant now?" And, it was reading those original essays alone that convinced Peikoff to make Rand's notes available. Period.

He contradicts himself.  Peikoff obviously knew of the planned content of the book, which is why he made Rand's notes available.  Period.  This person has zero credibility with me.  I posted that when the book came out that I would bring up Peikoff's flaws at the meeting, not that I'd storm out, and I'm male.  I read a review of the book by some Randroid that I wanted to post here, but Lindsay informed me that they'd already been banned for spreading false rumors about the Brandens, which I find easy to believe from their crew.  I made my preliminary judgment based on the review, and I'll make full judgment after reading the book.




Post 12

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 8:47pmSanction this postReply
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Computer software problems keep me from appearing as I normally do here. I will straighten them out before the next millenium.
Meanwhile, I must start off by saying I haven't read the Valiant book yet, and I agree that it is unfair to judge it before doing so. However, I know Barbara Branden about as well as people get to know other people. For this reason, I will approach the book with a mild curiosity which is really so mild that I wouldn't read it at all unless I knew I would be asked about it. You see, there are many facts about Barbara's life that I might not know. I know all about her character.
Simple stated, Barbara Branden makes mistakes as we all do, but she is the most honest person I have ever met. If I am wrong about this, I am wrong about everything, and I have stopped entertaining that idea a long time ago.



Post 13

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 9:26pmSanction this postReply
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Quoth Robert Bidinotto:

-----
If Valliant, the author of this book, stated that he believes Rand would have objected to the publication of this material, yet he published it anyway, that's all that needs to be said as to whether the book constitutes an invasion of her privacy.
----

Not really.

First of all, in case anyone's forgotten, Ayn Rand is, um ... dead. If her metaphysics is correct, then she no longer exists. If she no longer exists, she has no privacy to invade. What she "would" have done is irrelevant. By not destroying the material or dictating its specific disposition in her will, she left any decisions pertaining to its disposition to her estate.

Some of the same people who held that Terri Schiavo was just a body without a mind, and therefore not a person with rights, and who were willing to accept as binding fact the testimony of her husband as to her previously verbally stated wishes, are suddenly arguing on behalf of the alleged rights of a person 22 years in the grave -- versus the decisions made by an estate clearly empowered by her unforced, unquestionable, written directive to dispose of her work.

Tom Knapp

P.S. This is not to be taken as an endorsement of Vallaint's book. I haven't read it yet, and don't expect it to adversely affect my opinion of the Brandens, whom I hold in great esteem. For that matter, I've for the most part eschewed the various "Selected Excerpts From Doodles Scrawled on Napkins and Found in Ayn Rand's Old Purses" volumes that have come out in recent years, precisely because reading them would _feel_ unseemly (just like going through her purse while she was alive would). But alleging some moral requirement to respect an unstated preference or some impossible "right of privacy" versus her clear delegation is a different story altogether.



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Post 14

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 10:33pmSanction this postReply
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Scott,

I think you've got the chronology wrong, here. Casey can correct me if I'm wrong, but if I read his article correctly, the first few (?) chapters were written without the journals and published on the website, then the idea was presented to Peikoff who said "Am I gonna have to pick a fight with Valliant" after which Peikoff read the chapters and gave Valliant the journals. If I haven't got it right please set me straight.

Further, Casey doesn't say that Peikoff never knew about the content of the book, he says, as you quote, "Jim did not consult with Peikoff or anyone else associated with ARI about the content of his book -- at all, ever."  I take this to mean that the book was not "reviewed" or "tweaked" as to content by Peikoff. With your obvious disdain for anyone associated with ARI (I think it's called "guilt by association"), you may be inclined to say, ironically, "yeah, sure."  Have it your way if you like, but here might be a good place to re-emphasize that the facts are the facts independent of your consciousness and that absent omniscience the only report we have to go on is Casey's which I see no objective reason to disbelieve.




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Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 11:12pmSanction this postReply
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Tom,

I'm clear about how you feel -- unseemly -- about the Journals, Letters, etc. culled from Rand's unpublished "Doodles scrawled on napkins" (hardly an accurate description, but perhaps you know of some volumes of which I am unaware; I'd loveto know about them if you do), but I remain unclear about why you feel as you do.  It is common practice to publish the unpublished Journals and Letters of famous authors, generals, et al.  These volumes often offer fascinating insights into the wider context of a persons other works, or their methods.  Almost always they are more "complete" -- and tedious -- than the two relatively short  volumes of Journals and Letters published so far.  And they give the authors own view of the events in their life -- a view that is at least, even if contrived, first hand.

In my view, what we have is a legend -- largely the result of the Branden's memoirs and a novel by Kaye Nolte Smith -- which has created an image of Ayn Rand that paints her, without any direct rebuttal from her own words, or until recently by ARI, as a psychologically wounded compensator who manipulated the people in her inner circle into agreeing with her every utterance and who demanded agreement at the risk of "ex communication" and who, in addition, ruined Frank's life.  Because these voices are the loudest, and until recently the only, ones raised to give their version of the events of Rand's life,  their account has become the accepted one.

Now we have a chance to read first hand the other side of the story, and I suggest, unless we believe that Rand was a complete neurotic and rationalizer (in case, what the hell are we doing here?) that we leave the door open to the possibility that the image as so far presented may be at least a little bit the result of some degree of neurosis and rationalizing as well.




Post 16

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 1:03amSanction this postReply
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What happened to Casey? He made a serious accusation -- that there is an "ugly" "book-burning" "crusade" launched by the Brandens against this book, pre-pub -- and has provided zero evidence for it. Was it all just for the sake of hype?

If that's the case, then he's proven himself to be nothing but an unscrupulous door-to-door salesman, who should've had the decency to make this post a paid advertisement.

So, Casey, you there? Or is this yet another bad harbinger of what's to come? 

Alec




Post 17

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 1:20amSanction this postReply
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Quoth "Takeyes Fornanswer" --

-----
I'm clear about how you feel -- unseemly -- about the Journals, Letters, etc. culled from Rand's unpublished "Doodles scrawled on napkins" (hardly an accurate description, but perhaps you know of some volumes of which I am unaware; I'd loveto know about them if you do)
-----

Offhand, I was thinking of _Ayn Rand's Marginalia_ (Second Renaissance, 1998).

-----
but I remain unclear about why you feel as you do. It is common practice to publish the unpublished Journals and Letters of famous authors, generals, et al. These volumes often offer fascinating insights into the wider context of a persons other works, or their methods.
-----

I understand the potential value of such volumes, and I don't object to their publication. I was simply referring to my own sense, when reading volumes of that type -- posthumous and neither edited nor specifically authorized by their putative author -- of unseemliness.

I can describe, in rough terms, why I feel that way. Basically, it seems to me that it's a direct destruction of a writer's chosen self-portrayal to his or her audience. Unless the published material is stolen (i.e. as long as it's published with the permission of the author or the author's duly empowered heir) there's certainly no ethical violation involved ... but as a matter of taste, it strikes me as similar to propping a dead body in a car and then sitting behind it and using cables to make it look like that body is driving the car.

I'd much rather have a third party exegesis than something more or less masquerading as a first party work when it's actually an edited crazy quilt of first party snippets which are probably more reflective of the editor's vision than the putative author's vision.

But that may just be me. I'm not trying to articulate a principle here, just stating my preferences.

I also do not, as you seem to think, object to the publication of the Valliant book, or fear that it will disclose anything I'd rather not see disclosed. I empathize with the Brandens in their accounts of events, but it doesn't follow from that that I conclude Rand was a "complete neurotic and rationalizer" or that I won't empathize with Rand in Valliant's portrayal of _her_ account as well.

This post was edited considerably before I put it up. The original included some material on Rand's views of internal reason/emotion conflicts and my own opinion as to how those conflicts might affect a multi-person argument or relationship. However, on examining what I wrote, I am convinced that it needs some work.

Suffice it to say that I don't believe it to be universally true that one or more parties to even the most hurtful argument must necessarily be guilty of either evil or intentional evasion.

Tom Knapp
(Edited by Thomas L. Knapp
on 4/07, 1:22am)




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Post 18

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 1:41amSanction this postReply
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Alec,

Don't blame Casey. He's just doing his job - which is to sell as much bound paper as possible. That is what publishers do. Authors sell books. Publishers sell bound paper. Arguing with publishers is futile. The issue ain't ever the thing. The tease (or hype) is - it makes people buy more of their bound paper.

Also, I don't know if there is any connection, but suddenly there is this eye-taker dude (what a moniker! LOL) popping all over the SOLO site plugging the book. Four posts so far just on this thread alone...

(I can really smell the cigar smoke...) Where oh where can we find any decent creativity anymore? Lost art maybe...

Michael




Post 19

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:42amSanction this postReply
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It ain't the cigar smoke being smelled - it's the burnt rubber...



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