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Saturday, November 26, 2005 - 4:51pmSanction this postReply
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I am looking for a biography of AR that covers her personal life. I would prefer it to be mainly about her life and not written by an sycophant nor a deconstructionist out to debunk her.




Post 1

Saturday, November 26, 2005 - 5:10pmSanction this postReply
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It doesn't yet exist.

Although Jeff Britting's book is neutral it is not in-depth. The rest are partisan to one degree or another or deal more with her philosophy.

Wait 20 years. (Man, do I hope I'm wrong about this last.)




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Post 2

Monday, November 28, 2005 - 5:33pmSanction this postReply
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If you don't want to wait 20 years :-), Barbara Branden's _The Passion of Ayn Rand_ is the closest there is to a neutral biography. If you are not aware of their relationship, Barbara was a close friend of Ayn's for many years until their relationship ended badly in the late 60s.. The book has elements of "factual" storytelling, but because of Barbara's personal history with Ayn, it also entails Barbara's subjective perspective.  



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Post 3

Monday, November 28, 2005 - 8:52pmSanction this postReply
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Anne Heller is also working on a biography of Rand. And I think someone from ARI is, too. Given the controversial nature of Rand, and disagreements concerning her personality even among Objectivists, your best bet might be to try several biographies taking different viewpoints. Then you would have a better overview than if you just read one that someone else certified as being "neutral".

-Bill



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Post 4

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 1:57amSanction this postReply
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(Shudder.) If you do read the Brandens' books, please read The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, as well. Then you can make up your own mind about what you can trust that the Brandens wrote about Rand.



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Post 5

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 8:06amSanction this postReply
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Ali,

I should add that I must respectfully disagree with Walter on this one.  The Passion of Ayn Rand was written by a woman who claims to have been victimized by Rand.  In places it is quite vindictive, with enough praise for Rand thrown in at random to give the false impression that it is "balanced" and "objective".  It contains some internal contradictions and, according to someone I know who worked for Rand after the break with the Brandens, contains anecdotes of her later life that are pure inventions of the author.  A number of people who were mentioned in it have praised it with the caveat that the details of their lives as recounted in it are quite inaccurate.  The lack of accuracy in details that can be checked by third parties makes it almost useless, in my opinion, as a record of the real or alleged private conversations and other events to which there are no longer any living witnesses other than the Brandens.  Overall, it is a very sloppy and partisan work covered by a veneer of clever writing skill.

If you do read it, I suggest doing so only after reading other biographical material on her and hopefully listening to some recordings of her public appearances and/or lecture series appearances.

Material sold under the auspices of ARI, like Paxton's Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, are interesting in their own way, but tend towards adulation and are flawed by a whitewash of the whole NBI period and an unwillingness to come to grips with (or even to mention) Nathaniel Branden's influence on Objectivism.  This makes the experience of watching the movie version of Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life a little like watching a history of the Soviet space program.

And if you aren't familiar with Rand's own fiction and nonfiction, I would place those as a higher priority than any biographies.  A good bet might be to focus on those while waiting for the newer biographies to come out.

-Bill

(Edited by William A. Nevin III on 11/29, 8:07am)

(Edited by William A. Nevin III on 11/29, 8:07am)




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Post 6

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 8:56amSanction this postReply
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Ali,

I am repeating the following from the other thread with identical title, since this seems to be the one that has been given attention.

I would suggest you go here and read through whatever you wish. Richard Lawrence has done a top-notch job of keeping most of the pertinent information, both positive and negative, that is out there on both Rand and Objectivism on his site, the Objectivism Reference Center.

As this site has no affiliation with any of the Objectivist factions that I can discern, I find it extremely objective and a wonderful source of information. His "Biographical FAQ" is very good and to the point - and in my opinion, as a short overview, very, very, very good.

As an added thought, I respectfully disagree with the value attributed to The Passion of Ayn Rand by the last two gentlemen. If it is read as an autobiography/biography, it is a magnificent work.

It will give you a pretty good timeline of the events in Rand's life, a list of non-Objectivist people whom Rand did influence in the world (by 1988), a wonderful portrait of the early Rand and her struggles through The Fountainhead, a first-hand insider account of the writing of Atlas Shrugged days and NBI days and following, and a pretty good idea of the personal impact of Rand on one disciple. There are many other virtues to that book.

I will not need to state any criticisms since this has been done constantly on the Valliant threads and even on this one.

I do agree that it should be supplemented with other works, though. But that would be true for any of the other works you read about Rand.

There is nothing like using your own mind to judge what is out there.

Good luck to you and happy reading.

Michael

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 11/29, 8:59am)




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Post 7

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 7:13pmSanction this postReply
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These are the biographies I’ve selected so far:
1. The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden
2. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical by Chris Matthew Sciabarra,
3. The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics by James S. Valliant

I’ve ordered the first one and I am going to buy the next two after Christmas. I’ve already read her major works of fiction and her collections of essays.


I am distressed to learn that this site is going to morph, disappear or something the day after tomorrow. Too bad too because SOLO is one of the better Randian discussion forums on the net.

Thank you for your input one and all.

Ali Hassan Massoud





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Post 8

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 5:11pmSanction this postReply
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Just WHAT did Barbara Branden invent? I am asking for references not in PARC. If you can't say why did you speak?

It is obvious to me that while Ayn Rand appears to be more innocent regarding the start of her affair with NB than the Brandens came to think, a great injustice was done to Barbara Branden and Frank O'Connor by Ayn Rand and to a lesser extent by Nathaniel, who was also something of a victim. The whole thing was just too bad.

I said a while back that PARC would slap back to hit Rand in a great irony to the stated purposes of James Valliant. It has.

--Brant




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Post 9

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 7:53pmSanction this postReply
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Ali,

You chose most wisely. Congratulations. Read them all, then use your own mind. (Boy, do I respect that!)

I still highly recommend the Objectivism Reference Center for a huge amount of free online material, including many texts by Rand herself.

You will also find collections of links to material criticizing Objectivism, which provide much food for thought. (I strongly believe that a sound philosophy must be able to stand up to good criticism, so I am all in favor of examining this stuff, despite disagreeing with it.)

btw - I have no relationship, not even as a friend, to the site's owner. I just admire his work.

Michael





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Post 10

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 8:45pmSanction this postReply
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Brant,

She invented things like the dialogue between the doctor who diagnosed her lung cancer and Rand -- something Barbara could not have witnessed. That's just an obvious example.




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Post 11

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 7:48amSanction this postReply
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MSK:
I looked over the Objectivism Reference Center and found it to be a very good source but as with hors d'eorves before a meal, it only whetted my appetite for more. I looked over nearly all the links provided and they were all pretty good.

BG & CF:
It doesn’t bother me that Rand wasn’t able to be a perfect example of the ubermensch that she extolled in her novels, or that she proved to be “human, all too human”. The nobility of her soul is shown by her efforts not necessarily her attainments, or so it seems to me.

I was really surprised when I spoke with a philosophy professor at a social event a few years ago by the way she dismissed Objectivism as ridiculous and Rand as a hypocrite because of some of her personal flaws and weaknesses (i.e. smoking and adultery). However the professor was a big defender of then President Clinton whose moral and human failings were dismissed by her as “beside the point” because of all the good things he did in her view. Go figure, eh?

No one dismisses Heidegger because he was a Nazi Party member, (which is a much more morally egregious flaw than anything Miss Rand ever did by the way), and there are many, many more examples. The lives of Sartre, Russell, Einstein, Frank Lloyd Wright and many others show them to have been high level achievers whose work was first rate and who were not dismissed out-of-hand because of the less than perfect record of their personal lives.

Cognitive dissonance from the academics is a reliable cliché these days it seems.







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Post 12

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 8:03amSanction this postReply
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Ali,

I'm glad you enjoyed that site. I agree heartily with your appraisal. It's a great starting place, but it is no substitute for books.

To the shame of us all, no one recommended Chris Sciabarra's Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. The very fact that you chose that marvelous work shows that you have one hell of a good mind.

Michael




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Post 13

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 8:35amSanction this postReply
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MSK,
I didn't -- and don't -- recommend Russian Radical to someone relatively new to Objectivism looking for a biography. It's very tough going and much more concentrated on the historical roots of her philosophy. I think Chris would agree.

That's a much more advanced book for those looking for an alternative or expanded explanation or view of Objectivism than, say OPAR.
I don't recommend Quantum Field Theory for undergraduates who've never had a basic Quantum Mechanics course.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with acquiring or even reading the book. By all means, if he has time and money to spare, pick it up. But it didn't seem to be what he was looking for.




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Post 14

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 10:12amSanction this postReply
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Brant,

I haven't read PARC, so have no idea what specific examples are in it.

According to my source, who took NBI classes, then worked for Rand for a number years after the break, Rand remained a proud smoker throughout the period that he knew her.  When people asked her about quitting, or mistakenly congratulated her on quitting, she would send for her cigarettes and light up to prove to them that she was unabashed by the then-current arguments against smoking.  According to him, the entire scene that Casey mentioned above (of her quitting smoking in the doctor's office) was a complete fabrication, not just the specific lines of dialog.  Nevertheless, my source recommended  the book and praised it for the conclusions it reached about the problems in the Objectivist movement of that time.  As I said before, if I am going to read criticism of Rand or the Objectivist movement, I want it at least to be based on specific details that I can believe, not on made-up stories.

-Bill




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Post 15

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 8:30amSanction this postReply
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I'm sorry, Casey, but it's obvious Barbara Branden got her information from the doctor, or less problematically, from a friend of hers who was told this story by Ayn Rand. I think--actually I can't say if I think or know here on SOLO--that it was from the doctor. Now, if it was the doctor, I thought that doctor/patient confidentiality extended beyond the grave, but if so that was the doctor's problem and issue, not Barbara's.

Barbara Branden made a decision that the biography would not be cluttered and bogged down with detailed attribution and references. It worked in the early part for obviously almost all the material came from the interviews she did with Rand in 1961. It didn't work so well, except literarily--PAR is a smooth read--in the later portions, but Barbara's ultimate tribute to Ayn Rand is that Rand's life was like a novel with a marvellous plot structure, including a tremendous climax and poignant denouement, so she made it almost more real than real that way.

My grandfather spent over 23 years, mostly in the Library of Congress, researching his Madison biography. One or two million of his words in notes were typed up on 3x5 index cards by his wife. They were put in the appropriate order and the bio was written off those cards. (It wasn't possible to do such with PAR for several reasons.) The friends of James Madison were not available to be interviewed and Irving Brant never knew those folks first hand, so almost everything came from documents and other written material. But after all the dust is settled and another significant bio of Rand is written, we will find that while PARC has provided a great deal of material to think about and evaluate, without PAR, which contains significant memoir material, we would not really know Ayn Rand except as a brain.

--Brant

(Edited by Brant Gaede on 11/30, 4:54pm)




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Post 16

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 12:45pmSanction this postReply
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Brant,

That was a magnificent post.

You are really inspiring when you get cranked up.

Michael




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Post 17

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 1:59pmSanction this postReply
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Brant, there is too much that has been discussed regarding the dishonesty of the Brandens on the posts on Solo to go over them all again. In the final analysis, that's what books are for. Linz loathed the idea of PARC, then read it, and the rest is history. We have even witnessed Barbara Branden's current standards for evidence right here on Solo. You have read PARC, I take it. It's time to judge for yourself how much good and how much bad PAR and MYWAR did for Rand. The idea that defending her is tantamount to idolatory is one of those wonderful endowments they have bequeathed us with.




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Post 18

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 2:38pmSanction this postReply
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I made this little experiment on Diaries; I wrote for three weeks  a diary about me  and my wife. I tried to write it and to be as honest as  possible.
After three weeks, I showed it to my wife.  She seemed very surprised, but accepted to read it with me  and   to comment on what I had written.
After few minutes she started saying, oh yea! about this, then? and that, and this , what the hell  are you saying here.
After a while, I had to tell her that it was only an experiment. She agreed for the second time to reread it with me, on a condition that I would give her a chance to correct what she told to be wrong. I agreed.
After we finished to read it,  I had to make many adjustment to which after my wife had pointed them out to me I admitted that my conclusions were wrong.
I concluded then, that dairies  are most of the time emotion collectors, and should never be published, if not only for a  studying purpose.
Dairies should be only used as a means for personal self growth and not to make books out of them.
This is my honest believe.

(Edited by Ciro D'Agostino on 11/30, 3:07pm)




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Post 19

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 2:58pmSanction this postReply
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Ciro,

LOLOLOLOLOL...

Wonderful experiment. Only you would test those waters...

Michael




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