Since a rational man’s ambition is unlimited, since his pursuit and achievement of values is a lifelong process—and the higher the values, the harder the struggle—he needs a moment, an hour or some period of time in which he can experience the sense of his completed task, the sense of living in a universe where his values have been successfully achieved. It is like a moment of rest, a moment to gain fuel to move farther. Art gives him that fuel; the pleasure of contemplating the objectified reality of one’s own sense of life is the pleasure of feeling what it would be like to live in one’s ideal world.
I suspect that this statement explains more about Rand's aesthetics than any of Rand's specific theories about art. Rand preferred art that gave her the pleasure of feeling like she was living in her own "ideal" world, populated by her own "ideal" men. While Rand appreciated some works of literature that did not serve as "fuel," she seems to have appreciated no music that fell short of her ideal and hardly any visual art.
Now while anyone may have as narrow (or as wide) aesthetic tastes as they please, in a philosopher of aesthetics, such prejudices are deeply problematic. How can a philosopher provide insights on aesthetics applicable to all (or at least most) individuals when their tastes are so confined within the narrow bounds of their own narcissistic agendas? By Rand's own account (related by Barbara Branden in Who is Ayn Rand? and The Passion of Ayn Rand), Rand was drawn to exciting tales of heroic men. The heroes of most literature simply didn't do anything for her. But the desire to find her ideal man portrayed in literature seems to have prevented Rand from developing appreciation for other virtues in literature. Worse, it inspired her with a scathing contempt for most literature and art which failed to serve as "fuel." Consider what she wrote about the three classics she despised most:
Don Quixote is a malevolent universe attack on all values as such. It belongs in the same class with two other books, which together make up the three books I hate most: Don Quixote, Anna Karenina, and Madame Bovary.They all have the same theme: Man should not aspire to values. Don Quixote is usually presented as a satire on phony romanticism, but it isn't. It's a satire on all romanticism. As for its literary category, it's a precursor of naturalism (though it isn't written naturalistically). But philosophically -- if you could call it philosophy -- it is plain evil.
And by implication, anyone who admires and enjoys these three novels is also evil. Rand was not content merely to state her own likes and dislikes, however narrow and prejudiced these might have been; but she also had to attack and disparage those whose tastes differed from her own.
In going through Rand's aesthetic judgments, one can't help noticing how often Rand conflates her personal tastes with objective truth. Her "Objectivist" philosophy is really the most subjective of philosophies. It's all about her: her tastes, her emotions, her wants, her needs, all writ large in platonic letters across the heavens. The standard of truth and morality in Objectivism is not "reason" or logic or fact; it is Ayn Rand herself. What Rand said is true is true, despite what all the great thinkers and scientists said before her. What Ayn Rand said is good or evil is good or evil, regardless of whatever natural needs may exist elsewhere in the universe. This explains, perhaps more than anything else, why Objectivsm so quickly degenerated into an Ayn Rand personality cult. Since Objectivism was defined as Rand's philosophy, since she was the ultimate and final arbiter of its dogma, points of disagreement, whenever they fell within the confines of Objectivist doctrine, could only be settled in relation to what Rand might say or think about it. Hence, Beethoven has a malevolent sense of life, not because most of his admirers find him malevolent, but because Rand did. Man is born tabula rasa, not because the facts, as compiled by science, demonstrate such a thing, but because Rand said so. Kant is the most evil man in history, not because he ever did or said anything particularly despicable, but because Rand said so. Rand claimed to found her philosophy on the axiom existence exists; but it is really founded on the (implicit) axiom that equates Rand's thoughts and judgments with objective truth.