Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Meg's Book Club: Facets of Ayn Rand

This week's book is Facets of Ayn Rand: Memoirs by Mary Ann Sures and Charles Sures, published by the Ayn Rand Institute Press. It is also available to read online at facetsofaynrand.com

Author Mary Ann Sures nee Rukovina was the only member of the "Senior Collective" not related to the Canadian-Jewish Blumenthal family. She came to Rand's circle through her college roommate Joan Blumenthal. Charles Sures was an attorney who attended NBI lectures when he met Mary Ann. As Objectivist kismet would have it, they were rationally ideal for each other. Rand herself once said, "I know all the rational young men and women in New York and I can match them up." The Sures were lucky, they seem to have maintained their objective marital bliss, judging from their picture on the front page of the website. Many other couples churned out by the Objectivist matchmaking machine were not so lucky. Examples include Lawrence Scott and Patrecia Gullison (later on to be Nathaniel Branden's lover), and the Brandens themselves.

If you thought Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics was funny, you're in for a real treat. Facets of Ayn Rand is a barrel of monkeys compared to PARC and Ayn Rand's Marginalia. The book is written in a format of ARI interviewing the Sures. It is hagiography in the extreme, hilariously funny without meaning to be. The first subheading of Chapter One is entitled "AYN RAND'S CERTAINTY". Later in that chapter, Ms. Sures describes working as Ayn Rand's assistant. One of her duties was to sort out and dispose drafts of pages of the manuscript that were no longer needed.

ARI : Are you say­ing that you actual­ly destroyed pages of that novel?

MARY ANN : Yes. If a typewritten page had extensive edit­ing and had to be retyped, the original page was destroyed. Her rule was that the page would first be torn into small pieces, and then the pieces mixed up and thrown down the incinerator in the hallway. She showed me how she wanted it done. She never, ever, discarded anyth­ing she had written without tear­ing it up complete­ly — she didn’t take whole pages, squash them up, and throw them as a ball into the wastebasket.

ARI: What about handwritten pages? Don’t tell me you destroyed any of those?

MARY ANN : Oh, yes. If her changes on a handwritten page were so extensive that the page was difficult to read, she rewrote that page and gave me the original page to destroy. To tear up and incinerate.

ARI : How could you br­ing yourself to destroy them?

MARY ANN : Because that’s what she wanted. She didn’t want those pages ly­ing around. They weren’t of any use to her. She wasn’t like some artists who save every scrap of paper they touch. She was concerned with the finished product, not with the process.

ARI : But this is an historic document we are talk­ing about! Didn’t you want to keep the pages as souvenirs? How many of those pages were there?

MARY ANN : I don’t remember the exact number, but there were not a great many. It never occurred to me to ask for them. I think that would have been the height of presump­tion. And, had I asked, I think she would have been annoyed and refused. And right­ly so. The one time I attempted to save a souvenir, she intervened.

Oh the horror! Mary Ann Sures foolishly shredded Rand's drafts! That's so many more pages ARI could have scammed its lemmings into paying for, after they've completely milked her Marginalia for what it's worth.

*hat tip to Neil Parille


Neil Parille said...

Hi Meg,

It looks like the ARI has been on a charm offensive lately.

Not only did they put this book up for free, they also have three lectures on Rand the person available --


A while ago the put the Ayn Rand Lexicon on the web.

Michael H said...

Hi Meg - Enjoy your posts, found you via the link from your comment at Prescott's. As a former Objectivist, I'm always amused when I come across people who have been bamboozled by her. Ran into one last weekend elsewhere, and made this point:

What Rand and her followers do not grasp is that all of these assumptions that are professed to be absolute are not, but that cannot be understood until one penetrates beyond the intellect and begins to actually see what their own intellect is up to.

The problem is, until someone makes that experiential shift within, any attempt to show them otherwise will be met with extreme resistance by the very intellect they need to be cognizant of, and will be seen as nothing more than 'mystical intuition' from their point of view.

The reason that is, as I tried to point out before, is that it's always point of view.

I'm honest when I say I don't want you to believe me. Just look and see if it's true or not.

I didn't hear back from him. He probably decided I was too irrational. :)

Meg's Marginalia said...

Hi Michael,
I want to comment more on Prescott's posts, especially the one about evolution. I posted about atheism and Dawkins a while back too http://megsmargin.blogspot.com/2008/02/atheism.html
and plan to make another post on the same subject when I get around to it.

It's not just Objectivists who have trouble appreciating views other than their own. Actually it's totally natural to assume your point of view is the absolute right one. However as you said, it's good to remember from time to time that none of us are omnipotent and it is possible for intelligent, reasonable and logical people to disagree, which of course is what Objectivists spectacularly fail to do.

Michael H said...

"It's not just Objectivists who have trouble appreciating views other than their own."

Exactly. As near as I can tell, it's the entire planet! :-)

I'm probably a bit interesting as Objectivist critics go, simply because I still feel that many of Rand's conclusions, especially her insistence on protecting individual liberty, have great significance.

Rand was largely correct in pointing out the flaws she identified in the philosophies that she battled against, but she made a fatal mistake in assuming that she or anyone else could solve the problem with a new system of philosophy. The solution can only come about from a deeper level of understanding. It sounds really strange, but I've thought before that she was divinely inspired at times, but too arrogant to recognize the source of her inspiration as originating from anywhere or anything beyond her self.

Good article on atheism, by the way. What you seem to be pointing to is the idea that few appear to grasp; that truth is accessible to anyone in direct proportion to their humility. The statement applies to both the devoutly religious and the devoutly atheist. If I'm putting words in your mouth, feel free to throw them back at me.

As far as the evolution thing, you might be interested in my speculations on how consciousness might be involved at this link:


I like the way you think - keep questioning everything!

Meg's Marginalia said...

Well obviously everyone thinks their right and their point of view is superior, otherwise, they would not have that point of view and instead have a different one.

Ayn Rand inspired by God to construct a narcissistic, misanthropic, atheistic philosophy? That's a good one LOL.

Like you, was kind of a former Objectivist (I was never really hardcore although I guess I was sufficiently affected to be embarassed when I think about it and have a bitter aftertaste), and I still agree with many of her positions, at least somewhat. I'm a fan of individuality, free market capitalism (to an extent), and personal freedoms. However, many people hold those same positions. Individuality, the free market, and personal freedoms have had defenders before Ayn Rand, and better ones than her since.

Anonymous said...

Like you, was kind of a former Objectivist (I was never really hardcore although I guess I was sufficiently affected to be embarassed when I think about it and have a bitter aftertaste)

Bitter, you say?



Anonymous said...

Try that again: