Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's Still Real To James Valliant, Dammit!

"[I]f Ms. Heller's private comments -- and asking me to read the galleys of her new biography -- are any measure -- PARC has forever changed the field of Rand biography.”
- The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics author James Valliant
Unlike James Valliant, we here at ARCHNblog have not seen the galleys of the new biography of Ayn Rand by Anne Heller (Ayn Rand and the World She Made), but from the early reviews it doesn’t appear that it is going to take the Valliant/Peikoff line that Rand’s one character flaw was her occasional anger. In fact, it seems that Ms. Heller’s portrayal of Rand will confirm the accounts of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. Mr. Valliant’s opus has now joined the ranks of the Hitler Diaries, I Rigoberta Menchu and the Sokal Hoax in the annals of journalistic and literary embarrassments. This, combined with the growing scandal of the tampering at the Ayn Rand Archives, which another recent Rand biographer Jennifer Burns has revealed (here, and here for the story so far), and Valliant's own dubious adventures in tampering with the Wikipedia, his Peikoff-endorsed tome is looking like the crank apparatchik fantasia that we always said it was.

Here's a sample from a couple of recent reviews for a flavour:

Heller shows how frequently Rand lied, explicitly and implicitly, directly and indirectly, to others and to herself. Do we all lie? Sure. But your lie about the artistic ability of your friend’s 6-year-old is nothing like the lies that Rand communicated and believed. She made a profession out of lying to herself about the artistic and intellectual incapacity of 99% of the literary world, so she could feel at home in her own, increasingly isolated domain. And, as Heller’s work shows, there were many worse lies, and worse failures, than literary ones. Rand’s injustice and ingratitude, her intransigent emotional demands, her gross one-sidedness on countless emotional and intellectual occasions, appear in larger dimensions than ever before. All of it testifies to her desire to create the world she wanted to have, even when the evidence was all against her, even when she had to lie to herself and everyone else in order to do so. -Stephen Cox, Liberty Magazine, October 2009.

Valliant tried to present the Brandens as vicious attackers of Rand, seeking to distort facts in order to ruin her reputation. But, Heller’s biography, which I have read, doesn’t contradict the Brandens on any major statement of fact.
What struck me about Heller’s biography, is that while it reveals new details, and more information, there simply was nothing there that indicated the Brandens had been deceptive. -Classically Liberal

- Neil Parille


Neil Parille said...

It looks like the Jennifer Burns book will be released next week.

This is great news.

sorepaw said...

The Burns is out now, and making for fascinating reading.

Robert Campbell

tenaj said...

I am sorry but I cannot understand why anyone would seriously consider Valliant's book in any way at all. I have read excerpts at solo and I find his writing tedious, structurally boring, (oh how can I say it)just the kind of book I read a few sentences and paragraphs and toss it back on the shelf in the bookstore. The gossip is great though. And I don't even want to go near Greenspan's memoirs. Thank you amazon for a chance to taste and spit out. Haven't these people who endlessly refute his stupidity ever read a fine biography in their lives. As someone wrote somewhere, if only Iris Murdoch had written one on Rand. Now that one would have been exceptional.

As for the journals edit them but footnote the original. Hasn't anyone been to university at ARI? Whatever credibility Rand has is being undermined and ruined by LP pleasers. Shades of Ellsworth Toohey.