I picked up "Goddess of the Market" primarily because "The Fountainhead" is one of my favorite books. I have to say that I found Burns' work to be more interesting than any biography has a right to be.
Having read the 1-3 star reviews here, I'm left wondering if a reader's more extensive knowledge of Ayn Rand and her philosophy, Objectivism, becomes a disservice in trying to read what one of these reviewers correctly labels a Reader's Digest version of Rand.
These reviewers are also correct that the work is not so much analysis and interpretation as a regurgitation of facts around Rand's life, relationships, and belief system. For the uninitiated such as myself, the regurgitation will naturally not come across as a repetition of well-known events. I can see that if the author is claiming "never before seen sources" as input to the work that there would be unmet expectations among the more knowledgeable, but for me the survey level was just fine. I take issue, though, with the complaints that the book (a) is laced with negative renderings of Rand and Objectivism, and (b) characterizes Objectivism as indistinguishable from "the right" or "the GOP". In this, perhaps because I'm less sensitive to it through distance from the philosophy, I thought Burns was extremely fair.
Were there negative statements about Rand and/or her behavior and/or her philosophy? Certainly, but there were also some very strongly worded positive statements. Did Burns imply/state that Objectivism influenced the development of "the Right"? Yes, but as a reader Burns also left me with the impression that Rand did not align her philosophy with others - she came across personally as extraordinarily consistent in her beliefs and behaviors through most of her actively influential years and, for example, refused to yield to the William F Buckleys of the new conservative right where she saw them going astray.
That said, the book did produce some lingering negatives for me. While Objectivism as a philosophy (based on my very limited understanding) advocates admirable overarching values, Rand and her tangible execution of Objectivism are portrayed as excessively pedantic, dogmatic and rigid. One reviewer doesn't argue with this portrayal; rather, says this is because she (and her inner circle) didn't truly live the principles of Objectivism. Here I believe we're splitting hairs - when any philosophy is used not as a set of guidelines; rather, as a user's manual for your life as Rand is portrayed as wanting her philosophy to be applied, it becomes difficult - perhaps unfairly - to separate the human error from the philosophical error. This is not unique to Objectivism. The difference from other philosophies, I suppose, is that Rand is shown to have been quick and merciless in culling the herd for these transgressions, allowing little dissent and tolerating no missteps. This doesn't appear to live up to the ideals of individualism to me; this seems like Orwell's 1984.
I leave "Goddess of the Market" impressed with Ayn Rand for her stalwart adherence to her personal convictions, and her energy and ambition in articulating her philosophy and extending its reach and influence through dogged determination. I also leave with the belief that Objectivism (or its tangible execution) sets the idealism bar too high for mere mortals to live their lives by in any meaningfully adherent way....Continua