Feel free to add your own favourite. Best comment (judged by me, no correspondence entered into etc) wins a free copy of Greg Nyquist's "Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature."
5. The Surprise Party of Evil
Random House (why, even the name is irrationalist!) throw Rand a surprise party to celebrate the launch of 'Atlas Shrugged'. In return, Rand throws a control-freaky snit about other people trying to 'control her context'. Later she launches into a analysis of the merits of surprise parties and hilariously declares that, philosophically, she can find "no valid reason for them". Equally hilariously, Grand High Inquistor Valliant's ever-alert nostrils manage to detect the scent of the devil in the seemingly innocent fact that Nathaniel and Barbara Branden played along with the Surprise Party of Evil: "It was the Brandens who were part of the effort to "control" Rand's context through deception...We shall see that this is not the last time that they will attempt to do this..."
4. Jealous Gal
In a feat perhaps unparallelled in the annals of groupiedom, Valliant manages to insert a compliment to Rand on almost page of PARC; sometimes in every paragraph, and occasionally in every sentence. He attributes to her literally superhuman qualities such as immunity to envy or jealousy - as he must, of course, as such emotions are inconsistent with Rand's philosophy, and Valliant's main objective is rehabilitating her reputation as Objectivism's irreproachable exemplar. Unfortunately, groupiedom is blind; these claims are contradicted by his own book. For example, jealousy:
"Female jealousy, in the traditional sense" writes Valliant, "was alien to Rand, and her ability to remain rational - whatever personal feelings she had on the subject - is truly impressive."
But then from the very pages of PARC itself, here's Rand on Patrecia, Branden's glamorous new young cookie:
"...he kept insisting that he sees some wonderful qualities in her, which he could not define and which were not seen, nor even sensed, by anyone else (most emphatically not by me)..."
"And what did he get in exchange for his mind and soul? Nothing. That is the grotesque emptiness of evil. Nothing but the empty chatter with (Patrecia) at their lunches...listening to the theatrical prattling of a girl who bores much lesser minds within half an hour...what else was there to do with a girl of that kind?...If one looks at the above in realistic, existential terms, it becomes pure insanity: why would would a man want to give up all the values representing his mind and his career...in exchange for this sort of silly, trashy, vulgar, juvenile nonsense?"
"(Patrecia) was disgustingly phoney, and I felt strained..."Yes folks, it certainly is "remarkable" how Rand rises so objectively above mere "traditional female emotions"!
"Symbolically, this was a battle between my universe and (Patrecia's). Existentially and objectively, the choice to keep (Patrecia's) and to reject (mine) speaks for itself..."
"Existentially, he must not have any romantic or even friendship relationship with (Patrecia)..."
"I feel the strongest contempt I have ever felt - and I regard (Branden, for his relationship with Patrecia) as the worst traitor and the most immoral person I have ever met..."
3. Comic Genius
Hey, who says Rand had no sense of humour?
2. Take My Wife - Please!
Perhaps Valliant's most bizarre flight of fantasy is his depiction of Rand and her husband Frank O'Connor as bold rebels against drab sexual orthodoxy - here to teach mankind a new "science of ethics", no less. Basically, Valliant argues that the Rand/Branden/O'Connor menage a trois - Rand's 18-year adultery with a star-struck Branden some 25 years her junior - was, despite obvious appearances, a supreme example of her "remarkable integrity". How so? Well, because - get this - her husband got off on it too. In support of his superbly pervy thesis, Valliant quotes Rand's notes from "Atlas Shrugged":
"(Rearden) takes pleasure in the thought of Dagny with another man, which is an unconscious acknowledgement that sex, as such, is great and beautiful, not evil and degrading."Valliant declares that, far from resenting it as ordinary men might, for Rand a male "hero" would actually take pleasure in the thought of their loved one getting it on with "another hero". Not only that, but this type of male psychology is, according to Valliant, "almost certain to be an expression of her husband's own psychology...as Frank was...the model for her fictional heroes." For as a "loving husband", Valliant concludes that Frank must surely have "appreciated his wife's complex emotional - and intellectual - needs." What a guy! Far from being intensely angry and conflicted as the Brandens testify, and as one might reasonably expect from being cuckolded, Valliant insists that Frank possessed "such a sensitive and daring soul," that it "may well have given him the capacity to embrace his wife's quest for joy..." - perhaps even finding it "a sexual inspiration." As we say here in New Zealand...yeah,right!
And then the cringing clincher:"Such a scenario,"writes Valliant,"however probable..." Yes, that's right, Valliant really says this! Er, James, shouldn't that really read "however improbable"? Poor, poor Frank.
1. "Too Much For Him"
PARC's biggest faux pas is certainly Valliant's decision to publish Rand's personal notes on the breakup of her menage a trois with Nathaniel Branden. As I've written elsewhere, far from rehabilitating her intellectual reputation among non-Objectivists, they're more likely to sink it for all time. On one level, the pseudo-psychological drivel is bad enough; but it's made worse by the almost poignant portrait of self-delusion that these notes paint of Rand herself. She torturously 'analyses' Branden's supposed 'psycho-epistemological repressions' for page after daft page; yet never does she seriously examine her own reponsibility for the state of the relationship. Does she ever think: Gee, it maybe wasn't such a good idea to have an adulterous relationship with a fanboy half my age? That, as the saying goes, there's no fool like an old fool? Does she ever pick up the moral courage to end the years of "greyness" herself with Branden?; to figure out the obvious reality of the situation and simply tell him it's over? Nope. Her self awareness is zero. Everything that's wrong with their relationship is always and everywhere Branden's fault, due to him being a 'secretly repressed social metaphysician'; not because there's no fool like an old fool, and that the whole thing was obviously going to end in tears right from the start. Reality never enters into it. Rand's self-delusion eventually metastatizes into desperate self-aggrandisement in what will surely become an infamous passage:
"I am convinced that the clearest and probably conscious fear in his mind was the fear of admitting that I was 'too much for (Branden).'...I was too much for him - in every sense of the phrase and in a deeper sense than would apply to the type of men he despises. I want to stress this: I was and am too much for him. This is my full conviction, reached with the full power, logic, clarity and context of my mind..."
By this point, "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics" is too much for just about anybody.