This summer, I studied both Aristotle’s Poetics and short stories by O. Henry at the annual Objectivist Conference (OCON) in Chicago and earlier this week I finished attending the first Story Expo writers’ conference here in Los Angeles, where I had the privilege of studying with film scholars, published authors and agents and managers.
One of them is Cal State Northridge graduate studies screenwriting professor Eric Edson, author of The Story Solution, which he was kind enough to sign for me, who has made unique formulations about cinematic heroism that amazingly do not preclude the hero acting in his own self-interest. Something about him reminded me of Roark’s mentor in The Fountainhead, Henry Cameron.
The Fountainhead brings me to the fact that September 11 has a new, happier meaning for me after learning yesterday that my application for admission to Leonard Peikoff’s new writing course, predicated on an entrance essay assignment on ‘Why I Like The Fountainhead’, was accepted. Class starts this week with a new lecture on writing by Dr. Peikoff, who studied with Ayn Rand for 30 years, is Objectivism’s foremost authority and has written three books.
By now, I know what I know and don’t know about storytelling and, as I finish another manuscript and continue works in progress, I am thrilled to be studying again with a true master of the art of thinking.
Why I Like The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead makes me think—about art, work and life. The story of an orange-haired architect named Howard Roark, who builds because he wants to build, is an intense, complex and epic tale about the glory of the rational man’s life. It is the type of life I want to live.
The Fountainhead helps me to live it. That Roark achieves success based on reason, individualism and egoism, against the entire world, including those he loves, makes Ayn Rand’s novel a deeper, more radical work of art, which provides an example of the ideal man.
Though I know it’s a novel, not propaganda, and I’ve noticed that some people try to use The Fountainhead as if it’s the latter, missing Rand’s whole point, I find a wealth of such examples. Even in the smallest characters. In fact, few of the less appealing characters are irredeemable—Katie, Peter and other mixed characters come to mind—which makes it easier to realize that, despite the similarities, I can make better choices in the future and that’s more important than having made mistakes in the past. It helps me realize that perfection is possible.
I like The Fountainhead for its expression of an intransigent mind, an unconquerable hero who makes mistakes, delays short-term gratification, sticks to his principles—and lives happily thereafter. I like The Fountainhead for its contrasts among an intricate cast of characters and for the seriousness of purpose with which it tells Roark’s towering story. And how rare it is to find books about people like me, who struggle, fail and feel pain while trying in a troubled world to accomplish goals and achieve happiness. But the truth is that I love The Fountainhead for giving me, in sum total and to borrow Ayn Rand’s phrase describing what Roark gives to a child who’s seen what he’s made, the courage to face a lifetime.