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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I can't help it...

Scott posts some thoughts about Ayn Rand today.

What do YOU think?

25 comments:

Scott Walters said...

*LMAO* Good one, Matt. Made my day!

Kerry said...

I think the fact that Ayn Rand allowed the execrable film version of "The Fountainhead" to be released, instead of pulling a Howard Roark and bombing the hell out of Warner Bros., pretty much puts the kibosh on her as anything other than a money-hungry whore with an empty ideology. Also, Florence King wrote a pretty amusing demolishment of her in "With Charity Toward None: A Fond Look at Misanthropy," including pointing out at that Alice Rosenbaum's entire survival was at least initially predicated on the altruism of others -- namely, the cousins in Chicago who took her in when she fled Soviet Russia, only to have their sleep disturbed by her late-night typing and their hot water hogged by the rugged individualist who apparently didn't feel that living rent-free on someone else's dime wasn't at odds with her philosophy. The rules are always different for self-styled geniuses, aren't they?

Most of my attempts at reading Rand have usually ended with a physical demonstration of Dorothy Parker's line: "This isn't a book to be tossed aside lightly. Rather, it should be thrown with great force." Wooden, wooden, wooden prose. At least King and Camille Paglia are amusing from time to time. (Okay, King is funny most of the time, even when I disagree with her politically and philosophically.) But Rand's complete lack of humor and self-awareness suggests to me that she was nowhere near as bright as she thought she was.

Though I admit to laughing my ass off when I saw "The Fountainhead" and Patricia Neal looked at Gary Cooper with flashing eyes and said "You! I wish I'd never SEEN your...building!" Those two were having a torrid extracurricular affair at the time, none of which translates to the screen. But then, I think Rand is the ultimate boner-shrinker of letters.

Scott Walters said...

Which, of course, is a great reason to dismiss all of her ideas without another thought...

Kerry said...

Also, speaking of lack of humor and self-awareness. . .

Kerry said...

If it will make you feel better, Scott, I'm taking another gander at her fabulous lil collection of essays in "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" right now. It makes for great bathroom reading -- this week, in particular. (Those of you with 401ks may want to wipe your ass with Rand instead of your latest retirement statements -- it won't ease the financial pain, but there will be some poetic justice in the gesture, at least.)

As I mentioned, I have tried to read her novels as well -- several times, out of a sense that I should be dutiful and TRY to understand what the raving cultists are on about (though none of them ever seems to return the favor and read, say, Djuna Barnes when I insist that doing so is crucial to an understanding of female sexuality and views of family life in the 20th century).

For my money, Rand writes wooden characters and soapbox dialogue that fails to engage me, and life is too short to waste time on bad literature. So I've hardly dismissed her "without a thought." But hey, if being huffy and condescending is your bag (and I think we know it is!), go for it.

Me, I've got seven shows to review in the next week, a class to teach, three articles to write, and all the other things that make up the non-tenured freelance writer's life.

Mac said...

Kerry, I also found it pretty funny how your reference to multiple attempts at reading Rand somehow became dismissing her ideas "without another thought."

Scott Walters said...

Actually, what I was referring to -- and what I explicitly discussed in the post to which Matt linked -- is the idea that one has to either accept everything an author writes or nothing. As I said in my post, I, too am extremely uncomfortable with Rand's Objectivist philosophy and her love of capitalism egoism. However, I believe that it is possible to find worth in certain ideas without swallowing the whole enchilada. Paul Johnson wrote an entire book, called "Intellectuals," that took as its central theme that the ideas of leftist writers should be rejected because they were slimeballs in their personal lives (he devoted an entire chapter to Brecht). This seems wrongheaded to me.

To me, this is consumerism in the realm of ideas. We want to buy or not buy an entire product, rather than construct our own ideas from gathering bits and pieces a variety of sources. So we don't consider Rand's aesthetic ideas because her novels don't excite us, or her personal behavior violates out code of ethics, or we don't like the movie made from a book. Sure, Kerry, your comments are funny -- I did recognize that -- but it also was pretty clear that you were rejecting all of herideas because you didn't like some of them. To me, that seems problematic.

Forgive me for actually taking the world of ideas seriously. Given the shallowness of so much contemporary art work, I think it is important.

Kerry said...

Scott, the problem is that you take CERTAIN ideas in the world seriously, and then decide that everyone else should be taking the same ideas seriously as well, without recognizing that A) the blogosphere isn't your classroom, so you have no power or authority to dictate either required reading or writing assignments to the rest of us and B) the fact that people aren't engaging with the ideas that YOU deem interesting and vital doesn't mean that we aren't all engaging with ideas. In fact, it's your insistence to the contrary that continually makes you look like a condescending jackass.

You sometimes remind me of a guy I knew in the Bay Area -- a not-bad playwright who was disgruntled that he wasn't getting more traction from the scripts he was sending out. When I offered to look over a couple of them for feedback, the first thing I noticed is that he had put "PhD" after his name on the title page. It wasn't false advertising -- he did have a doctorate in theater history. But so fucking what? That couldn't possibly tell anybody whether or not the play they were about to read would be any good. When I pointed out that whipping out his academic credentials in that manner might be hurting his initial impression to literary managers, he got quite huffy and assumed I was being anti-intellectual.

It's all about context.

Dan Freeman said...
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Scott Walters said...

Kerry -- You're a little late to the academic bashing party, but welcome. Let me turn your example around for a second: what does it say about the literary managers, at least as you perceive them, that putting Ph.D after your name would have the ffect of "hurting his initial impression"? What kind of narrow-minded attitude does that indicate, other than a narrow-minded attitude that you yourself share.

As far as my demand that the 'sphere take only the ideas I care about serious, that is far from the case. I would be happy to read posts on ANY ideas that were engaged, not just flippantly and superficially thrown about. The problem with so much writing in and about the theatre is that it illustrates a non-reflective, non-critical orientation that expects others to accept ideas simply because you're wearing the badge of "artist." Well, just like being a Ph.D. doesn't mean you're smart, being an artist doesn't mean you're insightful.

And again, I would assert that dismissing ideas of a thinker because you don't agree with ALL of them is as misguided as dismissing all the work of a novelist because you didn't like one of their short stories. And to dismiss someone because you don't like their personal style is as misguided as dismissing a playwright because you don't like the clothes they wear.

Kerry said...

Dan, I am a regular freelancer for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader. I have been with those papers for the better part of the last decade, and I freelanced regularly for ten years before that with papers in the Bay Area. I pretty much make a living from my writing (can you say the same?), at least for the time being (of course, print media being endangered, that could certainly change). I think both of those papers in Chicago are pretty "serious" credits, and my editors would probably agree, but thanks for the concern trollery in regards to my career. (And why did you capitalize "Novel?" Just curious.)

Scott: I have explained several times to you that I HAVE read some of Rand, including her essays on capitalism that I referenced in an earlier comment, and I don't dismiss her simply because of her wooden prose (though that's sufficient when it comes to critiquing literature). I find her ideas bankrupt, intellectually and morally. Her popularity doesn't translate into seriousness. Many things that are regarded as "cornerstones" (as Dan put it) later turn out to be soggy cardboard boxes. Or should we be reading pre-Copernican astronomical tracts because they were "cornerstones" of their era as well?

At least Paglia, whom I also find laughable from time to time, tosses a few beefy nuggets of genuinely interesting insight into the mix. I have never found that to be the case with Rand, I've given her enough chances, and I'm ready to move on to more interesting writers and thinkers. And I don't need your permission to do so.

The point about the "PhD" is that it was completely irrelevant for what he was seeking. He wasn't applying for a teaching position. I am a member of Amnesty International and the ACLU, both of which might say good things about me as a nice progressive person, but neither of which should be taken as a sign that I'm a good playwright, so I wouldn't put them on the title page of a play, either.

Kerry said...

Also, Dan, I think you completely missed the point of "The Fountainhead." Didn't Howard Roark blow up a building rather than have something that didn't meet his ideals go out in the world with his name on it? If Ayn Rand thought the film version of the book was good, then her aesthetics were for shit. If she thought it was bad but didn't care enough to take the same drastic measures she lionized in her novel, then she was simply out for a buck and lacked the courage of her much-touted convictions. No one held a gun to her head and made her sign away the film rights.

Scott Walters said...

Kerry -- And I have repeatedly said that my discussion was of specific ideas Rand described in the first few chapters of "The Romantic Manifesto," so her other works are irrelevant to that discussion. I will leave the discussion of Rand's ouevre to you and Dan -- it is totally outside of the realm of my subject. I was talking about Rand's description of how art reflects metaphysics. If you'd like to talk about that, I'd love to continue. If not, well, that's what your own blog is for. That's sort of how discussion works: you stick to the subject matter and don't drag in irrelevant stuff. But I'm sure that sounds very professorial.

Kerry said...

Um, Scott, I wasn't making comments on your blog about your interest in that aspect of Rand. Matt threw out a cheeky one-liner, I responded TO HIM in a jocular manner, and you chose to make the conversation all about you and denigrate and hector anyone who has a different perspective. Quel surprise!

Now, if Matt actually WAS seeking to further the discussion of The Romantic Manifesto, then my apologies to him.

Scott Walters said...

And my apologies to Matt as well. I thought his post (which I laughed at) was an opening to further discussion. I return you to your regularly-scheduled program.

Dan Freeman said...

Kerry,

Good luck to you in your career,

Best Regards

Kerry said...

Thank you, Dan. The same to you. And I am sincere in that. Writing is damn hard work (I attempted a novel once and decided that it most definitely was NOT the form for me), so I salute your success.

And I actually don't think that whether or not someone makes a living at their writing is a measure of their innate ability, but since you seemed to be implying that I was a hobbyist and not serious or informed in my field of work, I bristled a bit at that. If that wasn't your intent, my apologies for misreading you. I certainly don't think anyone can claim to know it all. My feelings on Rand, which should be entirely clear by now, are that I've read several of her essays, have made valiant attempts at her novels, and that she has run out of chances with me. If others find her compelling, well, that is, as a wise man once said, "all part of life's rich pageant."

Freeman said...
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Scott Walters said...

You know what I find fascinating, Matt? How it is that others can come in and personally attack me, but it is always me who gets called for it.

Freeman said...

Hey,

Wow. You read that before I deleted it. Listen, I don't want to contribute to the negativity on the blog. I appreciate that everyone here has a side, and all I can say is, be nice! Me included!

Kim Wallace said...

Dan,

you said:

"Let me tell you there are a lot of things that an author has nothing to do with, screen plays, book covers and promos, who is cast in films, etc."

It seems to me that you're unaware that Ayn Rand adapted her own novel, in which case she must bear some responsibility for what ended up on screen.

And Kerry,

It seems totally consistent to me that the mind that conceived that story (and wrote that screenplay) might have approved that movie. I'd side on the possibility that you raised when you conjectured..."her aesthetics were for shit".

And Scott...oh nevermind.

Dan Freeman said...
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Dan Freeman said...
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Kerry said...
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Freeman said...

Dan and Kerry -

Sorry about that, but I just think that got a little too personal and it's not necessary.

One of you IS my brother after all.

-Matt