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22 October 2004


Responding to my excerpts from a Florence King essay on the "anti-anti-Semitism" encoded in Ayn Rand's novels, Dumb Blonde Capitalist notes: The part that gnaws at me is the physical description of Ayn Rand's characters as Waspish in appearance. This seems to be a subtle bit of backwards stereotyping - that Jews are rarely blonde, red-headed, blue or gray-eyed.

In King's defense, I should point out that she also spent a couple of paragraphs noting that Rand's characters typically have names that sound WASP-y or Irish -- excluding altogether the casts of We the Living (set in Russia) and Anthem (set in a future collectivist dystopia where everyone has names like "Solidarity 3-5027")! And the few exceptions to this pattern are nonetheless overtly goyish: Ragnar Danneskjold, Dominique Francon. (Presumably because she wanted to make the joke about a Scandanavian being Rand's idea of a "token ethnic," King omits Francisco D'Anconia -- hmmm, maybe he was Sephardic?)

UPDATE 2: Speaking of physical types in Rand's books, I'm reminded that she actually gave herself a 2- or 3-sentence "cameo" in early drafts of Atlas Shrugged, though it was cut from the final novel. Among the inhabitants of "Galt's Gulch" was a young fisherwoman who was described as having dark hair, "ethnic" bone structure, and arresting brown eyes -- and who clearly had a crush on the Irish-looking hero John Galt. (Rand's own husband, artist Frank O'Conner, was a good guy who never amounted to much -- but she was determined to idolize him, and "encoded" him twice in Atlas Shrugged: in the physical description of John Galt, and in the name of the suave Latin tycoon Francisco D'Anconia.)

UPDATE 3: Did I mention that I was a College Objectivist? I just recalled another piece of Rand trivia. In one of her non-fiction books, she related an exchange that took place between herself and a salesman at Random House, just before the publication of Atlas Shrugged. It went something like this:

SALESMAN: Miss Rand, can you present the essence of your philosophy while standing on one foot?
RAND: You bet your sweet ass, bubeleh. Here goes:
One, Metaphysics: Objective Reality.
Two, Epistemology: Reason.
Three, Ethics: Self-Interest.
Four, Politics: Capitalism
Thank you, folks, I'll be here all week!

I had not yet heard of Rabbi Hillel's standing-on-one-foot stunt during my College Objectivist days, but now of course I wonder whether Rand might have invented this anecdote as a little nod to her Jewish heritage.

posted by Throbert | 10/22/2004 03:01:00 AM |
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