I was sorry he missed

I do not trust biographers. But I do not trust biographers for the same reason I do not trust less talented men. At best, they can hypocritically marvel, or claim that “Even Einstein was a boob outside physics.” But, like all the rascals who lived before them on earth, these hooligans desperately search for flaws in their betters, and slip in a dirty word when they speak or write. And then they come drooling, with their tongue hanging out in eager anticipation, to ask, “But, isn’t that true? Isn’t that true? If I am also lying to myself, I am not really lying, right?” But then, these poor bastards cannot help it. They were born as dead ends. They will be taken to the graveyard as dead ends. I would be surprised if they swallow the mortification without holding grudges.

The attitude of biographers of writers can at best be expressed by these words: “He was a genius, but geniuses too have flaws. If a genius doesn’t have flaws, he should have flaws.” These biographers claim that these are not hagiographies, but that is, again, the usual fig leaf exercise. Do you think that others did nothing to these geniuses when these geniuses annoyed them again—And again and again? I mean, really?

I like autobiographies. I do not trust biographies much because it is hard to write about someone without knowing how he really thinks, without really being able to interpret his behavior. That is even truer, if it is a posthumous biography. But, people are idiots. They claim that autobiographies can be lies. But to tell the truth, you should at least be in a position to tell the truth. That is the difference between “perhaps won’t” and “can’t and won’t”.

From Anne C Heller’s biography of Ayn Rand:

“Ayn Rand regularly protested that Bobbs-Merrill was assigning too much paper to other books and not enough to hers and that the policy of allotting equal proportions of paper to all books slowed shipments of The Fountainhead to bookstores, sabotaged sales, and kept her off the regional best-seller lists. “What about our other authors?” Bobbs-Merrill’s production department exclaimed. That was their problem, she replied. The Fountainhead was her book, her chance, and she wasn’t going to let it slip by out of an ill-conceived concern for others, whose books, she conjectured, were less important and had less potential than her own. At one point, she hired an attorney and hinted that she might sue. As often in these matters, her reasoning made sense if you accepted her assumptions—in this case, that the practice of rewarding (others’) need rather than (her) excellence was tantamount to socialism and exemplified a second-hander’s way of avoiding making a literary or a business judgment. But her manner did not win her friends.”

Observe. Rand’s reasoning made sense if you accepted her assumptions! But, weren’t Rand’s assumptions obviously true, as time has proven? Why is it hard to see that if Rand was good enough to write “The Fountainhead”, she was good enough to see that it will sell? The publishers and editors are ordinary people blinded with envy and ignorance. Even if it is explained to them, they probably won’t understand what Rand have always found obvious. So, should she let it slip it out to “win friends”?  

“She told Isabel Paterson that if The Fountainhead stopped selling—if it went the way of We the Living—she would resign herself to working at a dead-end job and writing only at night, for future generations. That would be her life. When Paterson, herself the author of eight moderately successful novels as well as The God of the Machine, asked why Rand was placing so much emphasis on a single book, the younger woman replied that she considered The Fountainhead to be so good that if it didn’t sell she could hope for nothing further from this culture in her lifetime. Paterson asked what it would take to convince her that The Fountainhead was a success. “A sale of one hundred thousand copies,” Rand immediately replied, watching as a look of disbelief crossed Paterson’s face. No doubt the more experienced writer thought the younger woman’ s expectations bordered on lunacy and invited further disappointment. Very few books sell that well, Paterson pointed out.”

But, again, Rand was right. Now that she is proven right, why is it so hard to admit that she was right, and all others wrong?

“Together The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957) have typically sold more than 300,000 copies a year, easily making them the equivalent of best-sellers. Recently, in the midst of a financial crisis greater than any since the Great Depression—the proximate setting of Atlas Shrugged—sales of her last and most ambitious book have nearly tripled. More than thirteen million copies of the two books are in print in the United States.”

A passage in the end, on her husband:

 One day, Rand confided to a friend that he had tried to hit her. (“I was sorry he missed,” said the friend.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *