I was with a bunch of media people and someone mentioned that Michael Caine had chosen Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead as his book on Desert Island Discs .Good choice Michael. Not surprisingly very few of those present had heard of Ayn Rand. This included a girl who has a first class degree in English and a Master’s in English and Philosophy. How can anyone who has taken a Master’s in Philosophy not know of Ayn Rand?
I love The Fountainhead- it’s one of my favourite books, but Ayn Rand is better known for Atlas Shrugged, which is something of a phenomenon in America. A survey in 1991 by the Library of Congress and The Book of the Month Club put Atlas Shrugged as second only to the Bible as the book that made the most difference to readers’ lives. A poll by Modern Library in 1998 of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century has Atlas rated first, with 217,520 votes cast. This is remarkable for a book which is as long as War and Peace, which has never been filmed or televised and which contains no sex or violence (which probably explains why it isn’t well known here). Even last year, 52 years after its first publication Atlas sold half a million copies and was number 13 in the best seller’s list, above Barack Obama’s “Dreams of My Father”, in the week of Obama’s inauguration.
John Galt is rumoured to have been the inspiration for Don Draper in Mad Men. There have been frequent references to Ayn Rand in the series, which must have been baffling to most British viewers, even to graduates with first class degrees in English.