A review of ‘Ayn Rand Explained: From Tyranny to Tea Party’

But now the quiet little book has come alive in a revised and updated edition by Chicago Montessori-grounded educator and Daily Caller author Marsha Familaro Enright, published as part of Open Court’s Ideas Explained Series — joining such figures as Sartre, Ockham, and Heidegger — and there is no mistaking the reviser-updater for a ghost. Several new chapters pop up before the renewed text of Merrill’s book, bringing the story up to date and adding new light to the enterprise. We learn the now-familiar story of Rand’s three novels, each a vast growth from the last — her birth in Russia to a middle-class family — the horror of the Soviet coup and subsequent terror and starvation — her near-miraculous escape to America, never to leave again — the growth of her thinking, artistry, and career in the five-and-a-half decades to follow — and the unique design of her philosophical system, which she meant to finally fulfill — and forevermore protect — the American Revolution. We learn — too early, before we fully know what the fuss is about — of the inner conflicts and outer dramas of the movement that sprang up from her greatest work, the epic Atlas Shrugged, and her subsequent philosophical and political thought. We learn of some quiet years after her death, when posthumous works and works by others were quietly built up, and then as if some critical mass were passed, the growth began again, on a still wider base.

And then after the colorful enthusiasm of the reviser-updater’s chapters, we enter into the amiable thought of Mr. Merrill, and he makes his cases for an early Nietzschean period to the mature Aristotelian’s thought, nods to the Talmud in Atlas Shrugged, a decline in her writing in the 1970s, and other things — and though I found none of the three ideas convincing, it was all of interest — as was seeing the reviser-updater’s speaking about Merrill’s case for the Talmudic nods and, too, finding it not producing of conviction.

And so, the amiable ghost and the enthused reviser-updater speak throughout, sometimes in harmony and sometimes as if over coffee about the book they’ll do together in the next revision. Looking forward, one imagines other participants being called in, and the whole thing in time going open-source, to a long future.

And looking at it in whole, one sees an importance not in the specific arguments made, but in the tone, of the amiable ghost plus his reviser-reviver. For if Ayn Rand has inspired lightning from the left and hammer-blows from the right, perhaps the storm will be a little calmed by the amiable ghost and the enthusiastic reviver, taking turns on the text.

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We end with a return to the borrowed document.

Ayn Rand disdained to conceal her views and aims. She openly declared that the good could only be attained by the overthrow of the inheritances of collectivism and that self-sacrifice of the mind: unreason. Those who have held sway rightly tremble at the prospect of her ascent. The individual has nothing to lose but his chains. He has a life, and, through it, a world to win.

Michael R. Brown is a writer, pianist-composer, and investor. Now completing a biography of early-1900s individualist Mary MacLane, he lives in Northern California. He tweets @fuguewriter.