Void in the Objectivist press

William Scott Scherk's picture
Submitted by William Scott Scherk on Sat, 2009-11-07 17:08

Asking myself which current orthodox Objectivist periodicals and journals publish book reviews, I realized I didn't know the names of current orthodox Objectivist periodicals beyond The Objective Standard. Besides the Objectivist Center's The New Individualist, and Tracinski's The Intellectual Activist, what other first rank Rand-oriented outlets exist?

I set aside the more scholarly journals, of which I only know Reason Papers and the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

Looking over the raft of reviews of the new Rand books, I thought to dig up the likely places where some biggie reviews would appear. Then I realized there likely wouldn't be any reviews, since there hadn't been reviews of either Branden book or of Valliant's case against the Brandens. There is actually a void where one might expect to find critical response.

Perhaps the orthodoxy will yet lumber up from its slumbers and give a considered reaction to Heller and Burns. The ARI site does feature book reviews taken from the Objective Standard -- although the editors who green-lighted a review of "The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants" may not be likely to draft someone to tackle Burns and Heller.

Maybe a proper Objectivist voice will get a chance to otherwise shape the discourse with timely, Rand-lionizing responses in mass-market outlets (an ARI honcho review in Wall Street Journal?), but it seems an aversion to engagement is traditional with the Objectivist press. Why such a void in support of PARC, why a dead silence on the controversial tomes that have come down the pike?

Certainly Barbara Branden's book was officially viewed as void in itself, and so ignored as an arbitrary occlusion by the central authorities, even if widely reviewed in the mass market. Oddly, Valliant's book was also shut out, accorded zero recognition even from publications where one should expect the most support. No comment.

Why then this apparent disengagement from the larger marketplace of opinion in relation to Branden, Valliant, Heller and Burns? Where is a hardcore Randian response that rises above the background noise of 'diminishers' or hatefully ignorant Rand-bashing in the mainstream? While there have been some excellent bash-backs in comments to the crappy Slate and GQ reviewers, nothing strongly Objectivist has yet appeared above the waterline. Maybe the official response is a riff on Mao: Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom.

There's a caution appearing in ARI's wee newsletter Impact, with Jeff Britting writing on behalf of the Archives (he had just listed Jennifer Burns' volume among forthcoming works assisted by the Archives):

As a consequence of the Archives’ openness to serious scholars, some books will be published that have a negative assessment of Ayn Rand or Objectivism. Nevertheless, the Archives furthers the Ayn Rand Institute’s goals even when the resulting publications are not sympathetic to our cause. The history of the Archives has shown that it fosters interest in Ayn Rand and Objectivism by means ofa “benevolent spiral”: every Archives-based work that is published alerts other scholars to Ayn Rand’s contributions to their field and to the existence ofthe Archives. This results in increased interest in Ayn Rand and the Archives, which results in further publications and an ever-widening audience.

Burns and Heller top out Amazon's list of some 46 books of which Ayn Rand is the subject.

Perhaps the void in Objectivist publications (none dare review certain titles on Rand) makes no difference at all.


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The Objective Standard's Ari Armstrong on Heller

William Scott Scherk's picture

Ari Armstrong is a writer for Objective Standard. He has begun a review of Heller's book at his blog.

Reading Anne Heller on Rand

That Ayn Rand was a great woman is disputed only by those who wish to destroy her legacy and discard her ideas without the bother of having to refute them. That Rand made some mistakes in her personal life is disputed by no one. Yet Rand led the sort of life that, had she novelized it rather than lived it, her critics would have blasted as unrealistically heroic. She lived through the Russian Revolution, escaped to America, became a world-renowned author in a foreign language, and dramatically impacted the political discourse of the nation. Hers is a life whose facts read as the stuff of legend.

Obviously Rand's greatest personal error was to get into a sexual relationship with the brilliant charlatan Nathaniel Branden, who, with his wife (of the time) Barbara, viciously deceived Rand over a number of years, as recounted by Rand herself in journal entries published in The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. What is particularly perplexing to me is why Rand agreed to this affair, given that in fiction she endorsed monogamy. In Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart has a romantic relationship with three men over the course of her life, and never do these overlap. While Hank Rearden has an affair with Dagny while he is married, he cuts off sexual relations with his wife when the affair begins, and he acknowledges he should have divorced his wife long before that. In The Fountainhead, Dominique Francon breaks monogamy only so long as she remains a flawed character. Notably, the great heroes of the novels, John Galt and Howard Roark, wait for their women over a span of years. I do not understand Rand's affair, I wish her husband had stood up against it, and obviously it turned out horribly for Rand.

Notably, the first two major biographical works on Rand were by the Brandens, and the popular understanding of her remains colored by their smears.

[ . . . ]

Readers with pertinent information are encouraged to send it to me via email. Perhaps my approach, though disorganized, may at least reveal some important revelations and problems in the book.

More at Ariarmstrong.com


Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

Robert Campbell's picture

I know this wasn't WSS's main concern, but the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies does plan to carry reviews of the Burns and Heller books.

Robert Campbell

Waiting for Instructions

Robert Campbell's picture

I don't think there will be a coherent response to the Burns and Heller books from the Ayn Rand Institute or other Orthodox Objectivist circles.

On Ed Cline's blog, one gets the distinct impression that reactions have been temporarily suspended, until instructions can be received from headquarters.

I think they are going to end up waiting a long, long time, for instructions that never arrive.

Robert Campbell

Book Burning?

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Perigo has repeated his assertion that some at Objectivist Living favor book burning.


Which books?

A few from OL, including me, have favored banning Mr. Perigo from being an invited speaker at TAS events. So there is something to his talk about speaker banning.

Robert Campbell

For once ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... I agree with Scherk. But then, I always have, on this matter. Leave the book-burning and speaker-banning to mystics, altruists and statists (such as P-Lying), I say.

An ARIan has latterly, privately, tried to dissuade me from engaging the enemy (and that's only the enemy within!) thus:

Arguing with nihilists and altruists does not change them-- it is purposeless. One must get the word out to active-headed free spirits-- radicals! Not Republicans and not hippies. There is no value in directing sweet reason toward poor, mentally retarded hordes. Reason does not reach them. They *choose* to be mentally retarded.
A dear friend of mine said to me today, "Let us make our lives the size of our souls."
If I can be completely serious for a moment, I see your great soul-- but arguing with reptiles is beneath that great soul. Integrity= Thought *and* Action; Mind *and* Body; Principle *and* Practice.
Let us make our lives the size of our souls.

See, I thought ours was a contest of ideas. Bring on the contest,. I say! I'm all for no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners engagement.

ARI doesn't acknowledge PARC even though most ARI folk applaud it because according to The Binswanger Doctrine, to acknowledge PARC is to acknowledge The Brandens, and The Brandens, as well all know, don't exist now and never did.

Neither, of course, did George Reisman.


An Orthodox Review?

Neil Parille's picture


I've been compiling a list of reviews, etc.


ARIans are doing reviews of reviews (Ed Cline) and occasional comments about Burns and Heller's supposed misunderstandings of Objectivism (Armstrong).

Why doesn't some ARIan tell us whether Burns and Heller are right or wrong about the factual claims in the books?

-Neil Parille

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