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Hey kid, have your good looks gotten in the way of you being taken seriously as a writer? Feeling misplaced in both a marriage and a job led to fantasies about women, art, and salvation that would later land me in world of trouble; I had already taken one of the women writers at the conference for a late night spin in my convertible, and had plans to see her that night.Somehow I had arrived at two non-original ideas: that I needed to write fiction, not philosophy, and that my personal aesthetic should be, “I write to get the girl.” I was a hollowed out writing conference cliché, and I was sure Patrick O’Connor saw right through me.Do you want to know why Ayn Rand’s books sell so well? is practically a rite of passage for alienated youth. Where the sex takes place on the very highest plane and it speaks to the kids’ highest aspirations, their youthful idealism. In that case, I argued, people should grow out of her, like a phase, they should get over her ideas when they become adults. I asked about the “didactic nature” of her prose and he laughed. Two-thirds of the long term budget cuts that Ryan proposes are directed at middle class and low-income people, as well as the poorest of the poor at home and abroad.
Was I a frivolous person, impersonating a serious one?
Talking to her favorite editor, I was certain that Ayn Rand did not see herself this way. On April 15, 2011, almost twenty years after my encounter with Patrick O’Connor, and almost 30 years after Ayn Rand’s death in 1982, opened in theaters around the country.
I asked him directly: What was she like to work with? There is very little publishing “from belief” and that’s the way it has always been. And a guy whom no one had heard of until recently, congressman Paul Ryan, (R-WI) Chairman of the House Budget Committee, has been making the GOP case for massive budget cuts that will hurt the poorest and most vulnerable among us, using principles derived from Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” of Objectivism, and requiring his staff to read her work. Over the next decade that means cuts to education, job training, and social services of 25 percent below levels needed to maintain current services.
How had he managed to be that woman’s editor all those years? Because she writes the best children’s literature in America, O’Connor said. Ayn Rand had a few simple ones which she believed in fiercely and promoted relentlessly. We’ll publish anything that we know will sell, and everyone — no matter what they may think of her personally — everyone, every one, admires her sales. Paul Ryan proposes a budget plan would cap non-security discretionary spending at $360 billion for the fiscal year beginning Oct. These reductions come on top of the $38.5 billion already cut from this year’s budget.
Antioch was a hotbed of student radicalism and curricular innovation. You can get schooled at Twitter if you have the right friends.
Two years later, four miles southeast, my “Christian” college would try to fire me for publishing a book on feminism, yet here I was in conversation with the editor of an indomitable woman from Russia, herself among the first women to be admitted to university after the Russian Revolution — an atheist and fierce critic of religion — who was nevertheless the guiding light of some of my evangelical Christian students. Additionally, they were having difficulty with the concept of Jesus of Nazareth having compassion for the poor, like, say, Mother Teresa. Naively, and un-Rand-like, I said yes to everything Macmillan and Prentice Hall told me.) Ayn Rand wanted approval of copy, advertising, art, you name it, O’Connor said. The other day someone tweeted that Facebook is the people you went to school with, and Twitter the people you wish you went to school with. the other day, Maud Newton tweeted: “Irony of Atlas Shrugged, movie about great people laid low by mediocre jealous people, is that it is wholly mediocre.” It’s been years since I spoke with Patrick O’Connor.
When money ceases to become the means by which men deal with one another, then men become tools of other men. Was I really a pretty boy, flighty, without substance?
Or someone serious enough to write, to take myself seriously as a writer? I was carried away by the next breeze, toward the next woman, self absorbed and a wisp of the wind—but she stood as firmly planted as an oak. She has endured, despite turgid prose and half baked ideas that were laughed out of the academy by people like me.
But the affair with the writer I met at that Antioch conference created deep pain in my family, and in hers, and led to the breakup of both marriages. It could not be otherwise when their entire “philosophy” is based upon the works of a sociopath.” Patrick O’Connor did not think that Ayn Rand was a sociopath—to him she was just a loveable little old Jewish lady from Leningrad– although apparently his bosses at New American Library thought otherwise. I’ve often wondered whether Patrick O’Connor believed that publishers decrying Ayn Rand as a fascist while enjoying the benefits of her labor should undergo a legitimation crisis or shut up.
In time, I came to understand the wisdom of that saying, “All love affairs are special cases, and yet at the same time each is the same case” — but in my case, it was too late. Here are Ayn Rand’s own words, in Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. My encounter with Patrick O’Connor went to the heart of my struggles in those days: Was I a serious person?