Mean Girl (American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present) by Duggan Lisa

Mean Girl (American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present) by Duggan Lisa

Author:Duggan, Lisa [Duggan, Lisa]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: University of California Press
Published: 2019-05-13T16:00:00+00:00

All the betrayals, all the dirty crawling, scheming malice, all the lust and lechery in “The Fountainhead” give it an atmosphere so luridly evil and conspiratorial that Cesare Borgia, the Marquis de Sade and Adolf Hitler could walk right in and feel cozily at home. The result is disastrous to what I am sure are Miss Rand’s high and solemn intentions. The coils and convolutions of her plot are complicated and violent enough to have an interest of their own, but the interest is rather like that aroused by a Boris Karloff movie. Miss Rand’s crude cast of characters are just about exactly on that level. 2 7

No doubt Rand believed that such a reviewer did not understand her “romantic realism,” her reliance on ideal types and clashes of values that she learned from her devotion to Victor Hugo, and her rejection of the kind of naturalistic writing held in high regard among critics. But on May 16, the Sunday New York Times ran an adulatory review by feminist psychologist and former Smith College professor Lorine Pruette: “Ayn Rand is a writer of great power. She has a subtle and ingenious mind and the capacity of writing brilliantly, beautifully, bitterly. . . . Good novels of ideas are rare at any time. This is the only novel of ideas written by an American woman that I can recall.” 28

Sales of The Fountainhead picked up after summer 1943, and by the end of the year it had sold more than 100,000 copies, a rate of sale that only rose year by year, generated mostly by word of mouth. The total sales as of this writing exceed six and a half million copies. The book was a publishing phenomenon—a fat novel full of long, didactic speeches that became a bestseller! Fan letters began pouring in to Rand’s publisher, eventually by the thousands. As Rand biographer Jennifer Burns reports, readers recounted their experiences of revelation and awakening upon reading the novel. It was indeed Rand’s intention to stir her readers’ deep emotions in keeping with her belief that procapitalist forces needed to copy the left by appealing to them on a deeper level than mere politics. Although readers’ reactions did not always follow the lines Rand preferred, deep reactions of some kind were widely reported. 29

The Fountainhead joined a short list of popular American novels with political resonance and huge sales that rose above the category of “genre novel” but were nonetheless held in generally low regard by literary critics. Like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Gone with the Wind, The Fountainhead ultimately became what scholar Linda Williams has called a “trans genre media event,” with its multiple editions, a magazine serialization, and a Hollywood movie. 30


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