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Fall 2009: Peikoff, OCON and Ayn Rand

This fall, I am working on projects and studying Objectivism, and reading new biographies of its creator, Ayn Rand. My review of Yale University Press’ Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein is available for purchase in the fall edition of a print publication. The foremost expert on Objectivism, Leonard Peikoff, will deliver a 6-part lecture course at the 2010 Objectivist Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) reports. Dr. Peikoff’s forthcoming book, The DIM Hypothesis, in which he presents a new philosophical theory, will be the basis for the course. For more information about this exciting news, read the announcement in ARI’s latest Impact, which is packed with interesting information (incidentally, my movie review of the pirated, 1942 Italian film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s We the Living is published in the electronic edition, with a brief history of the motion picture). The review is one of a series of articles for this site; others include this op-ed about the 1936 novel. I’m planning to post new, exclusive interviews about We the Living, about both the book and the movie, in the future.

Books: ‘Nothing Less Than Victory’

With diabolical new plots to attack America by Islamic terrorists and Iran continuing to threaten the West with nuclear destruction, Professor John Lewis makes the urgent case for “offensive actions in pursuit of peace” in Nothing Less Than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History, due to be published by Princeton University Press next year. Dr. Lewis, a friend and teacher whose military and ancient history courses are superb, promises on his Web site that Nothing Less Than Victoryshows that a war’s endurance rests in each side’s reasoning, moral purpose, and commitment to fight, and why an effectively aimed, well-planned, and quickly executed offense can end a conflict and create the conditions needed for long-term peace.” Dr. Lewis, whom I once interviewed for an article series about Alexander the Great, is both extremely passionate and knowledgeable, a rare and welcome combination among today’s intellectuals. His new book deserves serious attention.

New on DVD: ‘We the Living’

We the LivingAs I reported in May, a film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s 1936 novel We the Living, is available on DVD. It is also on sale through the production company.

The 1942 motion picture was recut from a pirated Italian adaptation and released in fascist Italy and Europe as two separate pictures. I’m planning an interview series about Ayn Rand’s breathtaking literary achievement and the outstanding movie version, which was theatrically released in 1988, for publication on the site.

While the film is also excellent, there is no substitute for the superior experience of reading We the Living, which was recently reprinted with an urgently relevant introduction by Leonard Peikoff, in this new trade paperback edition.

Dominick Dunne, 1925-2009

Writer Dominick Dunne, a voice of reason, particularly during the outrageous trial of the Butcher of Brentwood, O.J. Simpson, died yesterday. Mr. Dunne was a Hollywood studio executive, author of The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, and he was the survivor of a murder victim (his daughter, Dominique). His articles were published in the insufferably trendy Vanity Fair but he is best remembered by this writer for his unwavering sense of justice and his cogent reports from the Los Angeles courtroom calling out a monster that was literally getting away with murder.

Back from Boston

Back from Boston and catching up. I gained new knowledge in several lectures and courses, visited with friends and family, and I met some of my classmates for the first time. More on OCON later—I know I’m still behind on posts—and other stuff. I did see a movie, which I recommend: Public Enemies. Not a great film, and it’s directed by Michael Mann, who tends to portray villains as heroes and vice versa, but it’s a solid gangster movie, not too graphic, and the Marion Cotillard character holds it together. Johnny Depp plays Chicago gangtser John Dillinger with a bit too much of an ‘Elvis‘ impersonation for my tastes and Christian Bale is fine but underdeveloped (he plays the good guy), though he does pull off the movie’s most emotional scene, in which his policeman character reclaims his own moral authority from an incompetent government agency.

The role of government continues to expand. President Obama’s at it again with another attempt to nationalize an American industry—this time, the medical profession. In six months, he has quasi-nationalized banks, insurance companies and the automotive industry and his health care reform, such as and whatever it is, will undoubtedly move the nation toward economic fascism. Having written about medical policy for 15 years and having been on the forefront of protecting individual rights in medicine, I see that legislation to control each American’s medical treatment is coming. The showdown is likely to be the most crucial political battle since slavery. And socialized medicine is exactly that, so this is urgent.

One of the nation’s least important—yet overhyped—battles is the Watergate dustup, which at least gave us a decent president, Gerald R. Ford. I recently read his off-the-record thoughts and memories in Write It When I’m Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford by Thomas M. DeFrank. Covering the tense days before the former Michigan congressman became President of the United States when Richard M. Nixon resigned in August of 1974 through President Ford’s final days, DeFrank’s unique arrangement with the 38th president results in recollections and conversations that are often fascinating. President Ford was a pragmatist and he wasn’t around long enough to shape the direction of his Republican Party—which buckled to the religionist faction in 1978—or the nation. But, whether he was confronting Communists over the U.S.S. Mayaguez, refusing to bail out New York City, or granting a pardon to a disgraced former President Nixon, which was the unequivocally proper course of action, President Ford emerges as the best president of the late 20th century. Though he briefly served in the White House before narrowly losing to a “born-again” Christian fundamentalist named James Earl Carter, Jr., Jerry Ford was a great American and a good president. Write It When I’m Gone (he actually told DeFrank: “Write it when I’m dead”) shows an ambitious, deliberative and thoughtful man who generally understood the nation’s founding principles and government’s proper role. Jerry Ford’s razor-thin loss to Jimmy Carter in 1976 reminds us of the power of one’s political choices to shape history and our future.