Amazon.com editorial description: The Fountainhead has become an enduring piece of literature, more popular now than when published in 1943. On the surface, it is a story of one man, Howard Roark, and his struggles as an architect in the face of a successful rival, Peter Keating, and a newspaper columnist, Ellsworth Toohey. But the book addresses a number of universal themes: the strength of the individual, the tug between good and evil, the threat of fascism. The confrontation of those themes, along with the amazing stroke of Rand’s writing, combine to give this book its enduring influence.
My take on the book: Okay, first things first, I’m not a huge fan of Ayn Rand‘s Objectivism, but I’ve heard of her through another favorite author, Terry Goodkind. Goodkind’s tendency to pepper his fiction with philosophy went a bit overboard and finding out that he was inspired by Rand made me sort of veer away from her literature.
Now for the twist: I was exposed to the philosophy of Objectivism through one of the books I had to review for academic reasons, Why People Believe in Weird Things. Objectivism had been attacked several times by the author that I suddenly found myself — instead of staying away — becoming decidedly curious. So I went ahead and borrowed this book.
To my utter surprise, I couldn’t put the book down. I almost found myself wishing for more holidays just so I could sit through it without disturbance. Architect Howard Roark pulled me in. He is stubborn, to the point of impracticality, but he holds on to his beliefs about architecture despite his struggles with unpopularity. He is a total underdog, his logic skewed in such a way that it makes sense…well, only for those who are heavily philosophical, I suppose?
I find it odd that Dominique Francon, Roark’s silent rival, is not even mentioned in the editorial description. The woman is so powerful that I almost deemed her the epitome of female emancipation. Like Roark, she upholds unpopular beliefs, but unlike Roark, she is able to cultivate these beliefs by playing with popular culture. The woman schemes with every page and yet I just find myself in awe of her.
The other characters are just as riveting, although a reader may find himself/herself exhausted at some point as this spans a lifetime. One gets to journey with Howard and his main rival, Peter Keating, from college up to their middle ages — each year dutifully chronicled.
The entire book is a whirlwind of fast-paced events, cycles of ups and downs, tragedies and heroism. I still don’t agree with most of Rand’s philosophy but I have got to hand it to her: The Fountainhead is way ahead of its time. Her ideas are just so mind-blowing (you can take that positively or negatively) that I do not wonder why she has had a cult following.