Jennifer Burns, a first-class scholar, has written the first serious biography of Ayn Rand that places her role as central to American intellectual life in the second half of the twentieth century.
As pure biography, hers is a masterful treatment: clear, engaging, fair, and comprehensive. As a biography of Rand, it is hard to imagine it could ever be equaled.
The first question that comes up when people see this book is: is it for or against Rand? The question just doesn't apply in this case. The book is a marvel of objectivity and balance.
One gains a great respect for this giant of a public intellectual as the reader follows her through her dramatic life from Russia to Hollywood to New York. At the same time, we get a close look at her peculiar personality, her inner struggles, and the circumstances that led to her isolation at the very period when she was at the height of her powers.
The result is a book that sings, page after page, from the beginning to the end. It is so dramatic and interesting that one feels a sense of disappointment in having to take a break from the reading, and sadness when it is all over.
There is no one who has ever been influenced by her work, or has even been curious about her work, that should not read this book. She establishes that Rand was a giant beyond even what her greatest fans have understood, and yet she reveals a side of Rand that is all but unknown.
Burns covers her relationships with Murray Rothbard, Alan Greenspan, Ludwig von Mises, Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and of course her own Collective of the Brandens and their extended network.
In all, this is an amazing story, fantastically well told.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
Worshipped by her fans, denounced by her enemies, and forever shadowed by controversy and scandal, the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand was a powerful thinker whose views on government and markets shaped the conservative movement from its earliest days. Drawing on unprecedented access to Rand's private papers and the original, unedited versions of Rand's journals, Jennifer Burns offers a groundbreaking reassessment of this key cultural figure, examining her life, her ideas, and her impact on conservative political thought.
Goddess of the Market follows Rand from her childhood in Russia through her meteoric rise from struggling Hollywood screenwriter to bestselling novelist, including the writing of her wildly successful The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Burns highlights the two facets of Rand's work that make her a perennial draw for those on the right: her promotion of capitalism, and her defense of limited government. Both sprang from her early, bitter experience of life under Communism, and became among the most deeply enduring of her messages, attracting a diverse audience of college students and intellectuals, business people and Republican Party activists, libertarians and conservatives. The book also traces the development of Rand's Objectivist philosophy and her relationship with Nathaniel Branden, her closest intellectual partner, with whom she had an explosive falling out in 1968.
This extraordinary book captures the life of the woman who was a tireless champion of capitalism and the freedom of the individual, and whose ideas are still devoured by eager students, debated on blogs, cited by political candidates, and promoted by corporate tycoons.
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