Sunday, September 26, 2010

Phony Artist Types

The Fountainhead includes a character called Lois Cook, described by another character as “the greatest literary genius since Goethe.” Goethe, are you kidding? How in the world did Rand pull Goethe out as the exemplar? Were they suspiring Goethe’s name in the 40s so richly? What ev. Rand treats us to a passage from one of Cook’s books:

“… Toothbrush in the jaw toothbrush brush brush come home home in the jaw Rome dome tooth toothbrush toothpick pickpocket socket rocket…”

I suppose that’s a case of pigeons on the grass alas fever, or Joyce bounding into gibberish. The satire flops there with satisfaction. It is just too smugly tooled.

Admittedly I’m enjoying this piece of crumb cake but I hate that smartass typification. The Fountainhead is a scan of the superficial. Its charm relies on saturated malarkey. The characters are stalwart embryos of real people. It’s not so much that Gail Wynand = William Randolph Hearst, and so forth, but that serious space is stated by each character. It’s a trim Hollywood approach, and it works as fiction. By fiction, I mean that often lugubrious animal that walks across our path with hearty stories of fulsome fabrication. I am both offended and entertained by these appeals to surface tendency.

You know how Keats chafed at the idea of Wordsworth efforting a definitive reaction. Blowhard satire such as the above refutes Rand’s advocacy of the creative original. Rather than hear an expansion away from dictate, Rand modifies the boundaries more tightly. Compartments are easier to comprise.

I take The Fountainhead as a hyped entertainment, but the critical entropy of such satire wears on me. Don’t blame Stein if you can read no more into her works. I’m as stupid as anyone regarding The New, but I know I am not oracular in my ignorance and unreceptivity. Phony artist types aren’t the problem, but phony critic types are.