My earliest memories of book reading are related to stories. Books were meant for those short simple stories either related to mythology, animals or cartoons. They were meant for entertainment and passing your time. After some years a different category of books got added to this. I remember reading some Russian books translated in Hindi about space exploration, planets and other science subjects. There were books about greatest and best adventures, mysteries, treasures and such information. That was the time when books changed from being entertainment to source of information as well.
As I grew older, the kind of stories I was reading also changed. I was reading thrillers, complex stories, science fiction and humor. I still enjoyed reading the stories but now I was also learning from these stories. I was able to create my own version of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts in my mind. I had my own image of Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark or Eric Segal’s Barney. I was creating my own Universe while reading these stories. Many of these stories were also rich source of cultural nuances of different societies and people. I also started reading history and books related to historical research. That opened my eyes to not only today’s civilization but of our ancestors as well. Now the books were becoming more than a source of information. They were my friend and guide as well.
More recently, I got interested in books which are described as Self-Help books. Many of these books have complex philosophical and psychological concepts. They are about behavioral economics of individuals, groups and societies. I have started learning about the nature of our own thoughts and actions. Today the books are my companion, friend, my shrink and my guide as well. Not only the nature of books that I read have evolved but what I extract from a simple story book has also changed over the years. I can enjoy a non-fiction “Guns Germs and Steel” as easily as a story book and I also enjoy discovering deep psychological concepts from Harry Potter books.
When I speak to people, it is the books that I have read throughout my life that are speaking on my behalf. This attempt at writing blog on the books that I have read is the next phase of my book reading where I am not only benefitting from the books that I read but I am also sharing them with the unseen world. Books have played a great role in shaping my life and I wish it will play the same role to all the other readers out there.
I think writing about Ayn Rand is the most difficult things. But let me make a try. I was introduced to this book by friend in college. I read first few pages and then left it. I could not go through first 10 pages in multiple tries that I made. But then one day I picked it up and read it till Howard Roark goes to Henry Cameron. Once I read the passage where Cameron is angry at Roark for coming to him for work and at the same time threaten him if he goes anywhere else; I was hooked. This was the point where my relationship with Ayn Rand’s work truly began. I read through the book and after that I have read multiple times both Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I will cover about Atlas Shrugged some other time.
At a top-level, Fountainhead is a love story of a struggling architect and a daughter of big builder and the fight of Roark to make his identity and to eventually win back Dominique. But of course, that does not describe the book at all. The book is about integrity of thought and action. Through a very complicated plot involving various characters Ayn Rand goes on to show that you cannot have corruption of thought and action. You cannot achieve right ends with wrong means. And most importantly, nobody lives for others. Human beings are selfish and their first job is to live for themselves and their thoughts and not for others. Whenever human beings try to pretend that they are living for others or sacrificing themselves for others, they actually end up making mockery of themselves resulting in corruption of society and world in general.
It is better to accept the selfishness as the essential trait of human beings and then get guided by it. Sometimes I have had arguments with friends who say how I can agree with selfishness. If we are so selfish then what will happen to world. We will never help each other. People will end up killing each other. I completely disagree on this. Selfishness does not mean that I will not help others. It just means that when I do help, I do it for my own sake. I do it because I expect something in return, I do it to get peace of mind, I do it to feel happy, I do it to please God, I do it to get better afterlife. My reasons could be many but all of them are very selfish. Charity is biggest selfish act that human beings perform. I can go on and on writing about this but I guess I will stop myself.
Beyond the philosophy of selfishness and individualism, Fountainhead is also a great story. The characterization is flawless. The way she has written about Howard or Dominique or Toohey or Peter or Gail; they are all unique characters central to the theme and they play their role perfectly. I did not see any disconnect between characters from beginning to end. It also portrays the life of American city and architecture as it happened during that time. It is a masterpiece of work in all ways. Some people say that if you read Ayn Rand, you will either become a fan or you will hate her. There is no third option. What it means is that she will touch you. If you resonate with her thoughts you will become a fan.
Another aspect of the book is about love between various characters. Whether it is love between Peter and Toohey’s daughter or between Howard and Dominique or how Gail comes into picture; it is always intense and thought-provoking. This love does not exist on its own. It is the extension of characters themselves and their highest achievement in life.
Sometime back I watched the movie adaptation of the book and I was so much disappointed. I guess it is better to leave some books as they are and not try them to convert them to movies.
I know I have not done full justice to writing about Fountainhead. I will come back to this later sometime.