Ayn Rand : biography
Reception and legacy
During Rand’s lifetime, her work evoked both extreme praise and condemnation. Rand’s first novel, We the Living, was admired by the literary critic H.L. Mencken, her Broadway play Night of January 16th was both a critical and popular success, and The Fountainhead was hailed by a reviewer in The New York Times as "masterful". Reprinted in Rand’s novels were derided by some critics when they were first published as being long and melodramatic. However, they became bestsellers largely through word of mouth.;
The first reviews Rand received were for Night of January 16th. Reviews of the production were largely positive, but Rand considered even positive reviews to be embarrassing because of significant changes made to her script by the producer. Rand believed that her first novel, We the Living, was not widely reviewed, but Rand scholar Michael S. Berliner says "it was the most reviewed of any of her works", with approximately 125 different reviews being published in more than 200 publications. Overall these reviews were more positive than the reviews she received for her later work.Berliner, Michael S. "Reviews of We the Living". In Her 1938 novella Anthem received little attention from reviewers, both for its first publication in England and for subsequent re-issues.Berliner, Michael S. "Reviews of Anthem". In
Rand’s first bestseller, The Fountainhead, received far fewer reviews than We the Living, and reviewers’ opinions were mixed.Berliner, Michael S. "The Fountainhead Reviews". In There was a positive review in The New York Times that Rand greatly appreciated. The reviewer called Rand "a writer of great power" who wrote "brilliantly, beautifully and bitterly", and stated that "you will not be able to read this masterful book without thinking through some of the basic concepts of our time". There were other positive reviews, but Rand dismissed most of them as either not understanding her message or as being from unimportant publications. Some negative reviews focused on the length of the novel, such as one that called it "a whale of a book" and another that said "anyone who is taken in by it deserves a stern lecture on paper-rationing". Other negative reviews called the characters unsympathetic and Rand’s style "offensively pedestrian".
Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged was widely reviewed, and many of the reviews were strongly negative.Berliner, Michael S. "The Atlas Shrugged Reviews". In In the National Review, conservative author Whittaker Chambers called the book "sophomoric" and "remarkably silly". He described the tone of the book as "shrillness without reprieve" and accused Rand of supporting a godless system (which he related to that of the Soviets), claiming "From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: ‘To a gas chamber—go! Atlas Shrugged received positive reviews from a few publications, including praise from the noted book reviewer John Chamberlain, but Rand scholar Mimi Reisel Gladstein later wrote that "reviewers seemed to vie with each other in a contest to devise the cleverest put-downs", calling it "execrable claptrap" and "a nightmare"; they said it was "written out of hate" and showed "remorseless hectoring and prolixity". Author Flannery O’Connor wrote in a letter to a friend that "The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail."
Rand’s nonfiction received far fewer reviews than her novels had. The tenor of the criticism for her first nonfiction book, For the New Intellectual, was similar to that for Atlas Shrugged, with philosopher Sidney Hook likening her certainty to "the way philosophy is written in the Soviet Union", and author Gore Vidal calling her viewpoint "nearly perfect in its immorality". Reprinted from Esquire, July 1961. Her subsequent books got progressively less attention from reviewers.