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100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand von…
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100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand (2010. Auflage)

von Scott McConnell (Autor)

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Interviews conducted between 1996 and 2003 with Ayn Rand's family members, friends, and associates are arranged by decades, from the 1910s through the 1980s.
Mitglied:Fjorgyn793
Titel:100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand
Autoren:Scott McConnell (Autor)
Info:Berkley (2010), Edition: Original, 656 pages
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100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand von Scott McConnell

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    Facets of Ayn Rand von Charles Sures (Anonymer Nutzer)
    Anonymer Nutzer: A pleasant work that provides interviews with those who knew Ayn Rand.
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Back when this first came out, I just did a skim-through for the most interesting interviews, and thought it was pretty good because there are several. But when I went back and read it all the way through, I was seriously disappointed.

Most of the book is filled with material that you either might already know, or have no good reason to want to. A lot of it is interviews with distant relatives or autograph-seeking fans who only met Ayn Rand on perhaps one occasion, and repeat ad nauseum how invariably kind she was to children and strangers (presumably included to soften her supposedly harsh image as spread by a couple of cranks, which is second-handed and insulting to the reader's intelligence). There's even an interview with her dentist, discussing her attitude toward visiting him (she disliked it, but knew it was in her long-range interest---isn't that *everyone's* attitude toward visiting the dentist?!). A lot of meaningless blather like that. What was the purpose in including interviews of people whose (sometimes vague) recollections don't add much if anything of worth to our understanding of her? Just that 100 is such a nice round number? (Although neither the number of interviews nor of interviewees is actually 100---I counted, and they are 97 and 105 respectively.)

It's interesting, there are even stories about her in the book that make it clear she wouldn't have approved of it---for instance, about how she didn't like being photographed with her glasses on, because at the time that would have detracted from her image as a serious philosopher. But much of the book (like the dentist thing) amounts precisely to "photographing her with her glasses on."

To put it another way, half of the material in the book is exactly the kind of material that wouldn't make it into a fictionalized account of Ayn Rand's life, or even a proper biography. Some might say that's precisely the virtue of the present volume, but that attitude seems to rest on the premise that it is proper to be interested in every mundane aspect of her life. I can only think of two motives for that attitude---first, the desire to "humanize" (in the worst sense of the word) a larger-than-life figure and bring her down to the level of the common herd (perhaps best expressed by the phrase, "She puts her pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else"); or, as is more likely in this case, the exaggeration of the importance of every trivial detail of the life of someone one admires (similar to the error said to have been made by some early followers of Ayn Rand in dying their hair orange in a misguided attempt to be more like Roark). The latter is more understandable and forgivable, but no less misguided.

(Even the organization of the book, supposedly roughly chronological, seems a bit hodgepodge or at least very rough indeed---a few interviews appear to have been placed in the wrong decade entirely for no apparent reason.)

All that said, there are some interesting interviews---mostly those toward the end with people who knew her fairly well, or exhibit the proper attitude and actually have some interesting things to say (like Allan Gotthelf), or ones in which the interviewee is of interest in his own right (such as Mickey Spillane). And even some of the trivial details do give a fuller picture of Ayn Rand as thinker and valuer. But a lot of it is repetitious at best, and some of it doesn't seem first-handed in motivation (and here I'm not necessarily criticizing the interviewees, but the interviewer/editor).

So on the whole I'm not sure if the project was ill-conceived or just ill-executed, but at best the book should have been half its present length. I guess what my criticism boils down to is that McConnell seems not to have consistently employed any standard of importance to guide his interview questions and final selection of material, and to the extent that there do seem to be some rough standards of selection, they seem improper. Of course, this is just my first impression on an initial reading, so if you disagree I'm open to counterarguments. But you might want to just pick it up from the library and skim it for the interesting interviews. And of course, this is just my opinion, so you may well disagree---and if you checked it out from the library and really liked it, you could decide then whether you want to spend the money to buy your own copy or not. Anyway, that's my advice.

I hope and trust that Shoshana Milgram's forthcoming biography will be better than this. And as for interviewed recollections of Ayn Rand, the Sures' book was better as far as I can remember. ( )
  AshRyan | Feb 6, 2012 |
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Interviews conducted between 1996 and 2003 with Ayn Rand's family members, friends, and associates are arranged by decades, from the 1910s through the 1980s.

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