Hot Take

The Fountainhead is a legitimately good book.

Neglecting the Ayn Rand-isms of Objectivism, the book itself is a good read. It does battles of ideas in a way I’ve never seen elsewhere.

Imagine Adam and Bob get into an argument. Adam tells Bob to do something. Bob says no.

End scene. There’s not much room to keep going there.

In the Fountainhead, at one point Roarke is trying to get some investors to fund a resort, and Rand talks about a hidden third party, a faceless, voiceless other member of the negotiations who sits in the room with them. The investors are in some way performing for this third party, but there’s no one there. Roarke can’t see what’s happening.

First of all, the leverage of the scene with the hidden agenda is beyond the simple argument and refusal. The investors are bound to something that matters to them in a way that’s significant. The persuasion isn’t unreasonable of inexplicable. You get it. They are completely in their own characters and not talking to the reader at all.

Secondly, I absolutely have conversations with people in the real world who are performing for an audience when it’s just the two of us. I have spoke to someone who made a joke and then looked around as if to see if everyone else noticed how good her joke was. There’s no one else there. We don’t live in the Truman show. It’s not real.

I don’t know if they’re practicing for social media, like they’re going to make a video about this conversation later. I don’t know if they’re showing off for other people they used to know. But the invisible third party is absolutely a real thing people do.

Ayn Rand hits a few things like that, social phenomena that no one else seems to touch. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen social conflict like that anyplace else.

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