Barbara Branden "...was that I heard the identical story from Ayn."
Even though Ayn Rand "convinced herself" that "it sounded so good," she never told anybody but three people. Barbara Branden thought it was such a good story she didn't include it in "Who is Ayn Rand?"
David Brown:" I submit that nobody on the planet earth, researching and writing a biography...no matter how prescient, no matter how clairvoyant...access to the kind of infallible crystal ball...allow the author to anticipate in advance not only all possible corrections..."
People need to be clairvoyant with a crystal ball to remember what they themselves hear?
I am reading a book right now called Greek Fire by Nicholas Gage (best-selling author and former investigative reporter of the New York Times) to get away from so much recent emphasis on Objectivism. It is a biography of the love affair between Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis.
I was astonished to read a passage in the Foreword (pp. xiv-xv) that has such bearing on what we are talking about in Barbara's book:
... and I have rigorously maintained the standards of an investigative reporter, validating each fact with at least two independent sources - two individuals who concur but don't know each other - or an original document.
Before beginning my own research, I read virtually everything in print about Onassis and Callas.
I will never read a biography with the same faith again.
It quickly became evident that almost all published books about Onassis or Callas are studded with errors. Everything from their birth dates to the causes of their deaths - and especially the details of their relationship - has been reported with inaccuracies that range from the hilarious to the appalling.
This is said about the published biographical information on two of the most documented people on earth during their lifetimes.
Does this mean that the whole gamut of Onassis/Callas biographers is malicious and evil? Or does it mean that writing a biography is plain hard and complicated work - and when you consult many sources, as a good biographer (like Barbara) will, inaccuracies will occur?
One of the elements that makes Barbara's biography of Ayn Rand so special is that it is concurrently an autobiography. She was there. She didn't just see, she was part of Ms. Rand's intimate life. Many things in her story are based on her own memories.
To hold Barbara's book to task for not being perfect in all details or not using original documents that were withheld from her is not only unfair, it is to not understand the nature of the autobiographical part.
Also, anyone calling Barbara an outright liar is to place himself/herself on my own personal shit list. (Saying that she was mistaken in some fact or another is OK at times - we all err.)
Robert Bidinotto said in post 8: " Folks, I can barely remember most conversations from two days ago, let alone those that transpired decades in the murky past, when details memories of who said what and to whom become hopelessly tangled. Why would Valliant wish to inflate into a moral issue the accuracy of the Brandens' recollection of conversations that occurred scores of years ago?
Wow Robert, I didn't know you agreed with James Valliant.
"Their boldest assertions are unfailing made where no corroboration is possible and often in contradiction to the available evidence, including their own direct observations." "The entire body of verifiable evidence is contradicted by private, unnamed, or otherwise unverifiable evidence only known to the Brandens which, gee whiz, happens to prove their point... All the evidence of all the other witnesses and all outward appearances are refuted by pulling out of their hats the contradictory item that no one can contradict--or corroborate."
Michael did you mean to put together Gage's quotes: "... and I have rigorously maintained the standards of an investigative reporter, validating each fact with at least two independent sources--two individuals who concur but don't know each other--or an original document."
And: "It quickly became evident that almost all published books about O&C are studded with errors. Everything from their birth dates to the causes of their deaths--and especially the details of their relationship--has been reported with inaccuracies the range from the hilarious to the appalling."
With: "One of the elements that makes Barbara's biography of Ayn Rand so special is that it is concurrently an autobiography. She was there. She didn't just see, she was part of Ms. Rand's intimate life. Many things in her story are based on her own memories."
That was a pretty pathetic attempt, Glenn. Even you can do better than that.
Uhm... just a small question. If ARI had all the original documentation in 1986 (and 1989), when the two Branden books came out, and if their effect was as malevolent as Valliant claims (including the apparent rape of Rand both in life and after death), then why didn't ARI do its own biography at the time?
ARI certainly had the resources and industry contacts to make a splash. The Paxton documentary even won an Academy award nomination when its resources were put into play.
What truth was ARI not able to address? If the "Branden effect" was as bad as Valliant so ridiculously claims, why did ARI do nothing all these years?
Let's not bother answering this guy Glenn any further, Mike. His liberal use of ellipses and highly selective quotation convince me that he's not inclined to respond honestly to the substance of what is said. Trolls want to be fed.
My grateful thanks to my defenders -- especially since, as I have said, I am quite willing to explain to interested (and non-accusing) Soloists issues that arise for them with regard to PASSION, but I am not willing to defend myself against slander. Ayn Rand once explained why she did not respond to the smears against her. She said that she had a respected and well-known name, which most of her accusers did not, and she was not willing to give them precisely the publicity they wanted by engaging in a debate with them.
Thanks to all of you with such complimentary things to say about my column.
Jim Perren: Your question is in my To Be Answered folder.
"My grateful thanks to my defenders -- especially since, as I have said, I am quite willing to explain to interested (and non-accusing) Soloists issues that arise for them with regard to PASSION, but I am not willing to defend myself against slander. Ayn Rand once explained why she did not respond to the smears against her. She said that she had a respected and well-known name, which most of her accusers did not, and she was not willing to give them precisely the publicity they wanted by engaging in a debate with them."
Barbara, I know you know this, but you should be rest-assured that you never had to take any of them seriously. :-)
"It does nothing to show what the analytically comatose Valliant claims it shows, i.e., that Barabara was deliberately feeding her readers a patently implausible story just to practice being malevolent."
Indeed, if Ms. Branden was practicing being malevolent, she needed more practice. She never seems to have managed to get it right ;-)
Debating trivia like the typewriter story makes for a great way to waste time, but there is an important point here, which is one Michael raised with his quote from Greek Fire: people place waaay too much confidence on individual sources of biographical information. No offense intended to Barbara, but I'm surprised that anyone wouldn't expect her book to have scads of mistakes and biased perspectives. She isn't a professional historian, and she had a long personal history with the subject of her book. A future academic evaluating sources from a distance would naturally look on such a work with some suspicion, wondering how much of it is based on research vs. (notoriously unreliable) personal recollection, and how the writer's personal feelings might have skewed her treatment of the subject. We should wonder the same things, and read accordingly. This is basic historiography: sources should be approached carefully, not with naive trust.
In this respect, Valliant (and other critics who take the same tack) does himself a disservice by attributing the flaws of Barbara Branden's book to malice instead of more ordinary failings. I think he presents relatively good evidence that Nathaniel Branden was a real S.O.B. in his treatment of Rand, moreso than NB has admitted in his own writings. But by dragging in trivia like the typewriter story and trying to trump each little item into a case of intentional lying, Valliant undercuts his own credibility.