Thursday, August 02, 2012

Jennifer Burns's Sober, Well-Researched Take on Rand

As I'm not an Ayn Rand fan, after reading both some of her essays and Atlas Shrugged, I looked about for someone who could both make her appeal more understandable and provide some historical context to her radical ideas and situate them in the politics of their day. Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right was an immensely helpful book. Well-written and researched, extremely balanced, this book gives both biographical narrative, as well as an intellectual history that is compelling and not particularly well-known. I find Rand much more interesting as a personality than as a writer or thinker. You probably won't walk away a Randian (I certainly didn't), but you might find an understanding of her eager audience, what motivated them, and why she was so divisive, inspiring both reverent devotion and venomous criticism.

Jennifer Burns deserves kudos for being even-handed, and for diligently, fairly, and respectfully reading her sources, and weaving them into a strong narrative of mid-twentieth century intellectual history.

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