James Valliant on Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, and the "Age Issue"

Neil Parille's picture
Submitted by Neil Parille on Tue, 2008-10-07 22:58

An additional misrepresentation in James Valliant’s The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics (“PARC”) concerns the question of whether Rand could accept that her age was a barrier to a resumption of the affair in 1968. As Valliant tells us, Rand was sincere about Nathaniel Branden’s concern about the “age issue” and gave him a number of “outs” about it. According to Valliant, Branden refused, at most giving “’non-verbal’ signals” to Rand “which . . . he does not specify.” (PARC, p. 140.)

In the pages cited by Valliant, the words “non-verbal” and “signal” do not appear. On page 372 (not cited by Valliant) of Judgment Day (“JD”), Branden says that he gave Rand “contradictory signals”:

If Ayn is "insane," I told myself, I have contributed to it. By giving contradictory signals. By not letting her know the limits of my feelings for her at the start of our affair. By not holding her to the original agreement of "one or two years at the most." By feeding her grandiosity from the day we met.

In this paragraph, Branden does specify the "contradictory signals" he gave Rand. Judgment Day isn't searchable on Amazon, but MYWAR is. The word "non-verbal" doesn't appear in the book. Perhaps it is best to quote what Branden says in full, and underline the sections that Valliant quotes in his book (the italics are in the original Judgment Day).


“Tell me what’s wrong. If I ask, you say you love me, and sometimes you act like a man in love, but there’s no consistency to anything you do. If our romance is over, say so.” When I made the most tentative moves in that direction, she would immediately respond with an explosion of wrath her would last for hours.

During calmer times she would say, “Is it my age? I could accept that.

No, you couldn’t. I tried to tell you more than once, and even the hint sent you through the roof. How can I say to you, “Yes, you’re too old for me. I can’t go to bed with you anymore”? “It’s more exact to say that I would like the chance to build a life with someone who is a contemporary and with whom I could have a complete relationship.”

“Where will you find a contemporary who is my equal?”

You have no equals at any age.” Is love only a contest of philosophical grandeur? (JD, p. 371; PARC, p. 140.)

Contrary to the impression created by Valliant, Nathaniel Branden thought he made it sufficiently clear to Rand that her age was a barrier to a continued relationship. Valliant quotes Barbara Branden, “Ms. Branden even tells us that she asked Branden at the time of the break what he did not take advantage, over the years, of the ‘outs’ Ayn offered you about the issue of her age.” (PARC, p. 140.) However, read in context, Barbara Branden seems to agree with Nathaniel Branden that Rand’s protestations that age was a legitimate barrier to a continued sexual relationship were not sincere. (PAR, pp. 340-41.)

In a later chapter, Valliant makes much of the claim that Rand allegedly writes in her journal that she would not object to Branden ending their relationship because of her age. (PARC, pp. 194-98.) A review of these passages indicates that they are substantially more ambiguous than Valliant makes them out to be. In any event, when Branden did send Rand a letter explaining in detail how the difference in age made it impossible for him to continue with a sexual relationship, Rand spent significant time in her journal discussing it (PARC, pp. 311-49) and, of course, denounced the letter viciously in “To Whom It May Concern.”

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Valliant's Character

Neil Parille's picture

I'm not impugning his character.

I believe that Mr. Valliant's repeated errors in citation and other matters profoundly undermine his book.


gregster's picture

That would be "dirty randry" if spoken with an Indian accent?

Dirty landry

Leonid's picture

Will you people ever get tired to expose the dirty landry half-century old? Don't you think that even Rand deserves a bit of privacy? All this discussion is simply disgusting!


Kasper's picture

As Valliant tells us, Rand was sincere about Nathaniel Branden’s concern about the “age issue” and gave him a number of “outs” about it. According to Valliant, Branden refused, at most giving “’non-verbal’ signals” to Rand “which . . . he does not specify.” (PARC, p. 140.)

At some point it must be said: Neil you ought to really get a life. How does some small detail over a dead womans issue still warrent your attention. Get a job, get a dog, get a girl friend.

What difference does any of this make?

atlascott's picture

Rather than catching Valliant in a lie red handed, this gives the impression that it is rather a quibble and perhaps an issue of the particular words Valliant chose for his book.

Even taken together with other such issues of similar individual persuasiveness, it does not do much for you in impugning Mr. Valliant's character or disputing his conclusions.

Scott DeSalvo

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