William F. Buckley on Ayn Rand. During his lifetime Buckley functioned as a gatekeeper for the conservative movement. Get on the wrong side of Buckley and a group on the right could quickly find itself relegated to the fringes of American life. So it was with Ayn Rand and her Objectivists, a movement whose main tenet seems to have been to say “Yes Ma’am!” to anything that came from her mouth or pen. Rand made her reputation and fortune by writing two novels: The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). The poorly written novels, with stick figure characters, were immense financial successes, combining Rand’s anti-collectivist libertarianism with heaping helpings of, for the time, explicit sex, her heroines, always Rand think-a-likes, having multiple lovers. Between the sex Rand specialized in long, bloviating, didactic speeches:
“Did you want to see it used by whining rotters who never rouse themselves to any effort, who do not possess the ability of a filing clerk, but demand the income of a company president, who drift from failure to failure and expect you to pay their bills, who hold their wishing as an equivalent of your work and their need as a higher claim to reward than your effort, who demand that you serve them, who demand that it be the aim of your life to serve them, who demand that your strength be the voiceless, rightless, unpaid, unrewarded slave of their impotence, who proclaim that you are born to serfdom by reason of your genius, while they are born to rule by the grace of incompetence, that yours is only to give, but theirs only to take, that yours is to produce, but theirs to consume, that you are not to be paid, neither in matter nor in spirit, neither by wealth nor by recognition nor by respect nor by gratitude—so that they would ride on your rail and sneer at you and curse you, since they owe you nothing, not even the effort of taking off their hats which you paid for? Would this be what you wanted? Would you feel proud of it?”
Atlas Shrugged, page 453
Buckley assigned Whittaker Chambers to review Atlas Shrugged. His review, entitled Big Sister is Watching You, appeared in the December 28, 1957 issue of National Review.
Several years ago, Miss Ayn Rand wrote The Fountainhead. Despite a generally poor press, it is said to have sold some four hundred thousand copies. Thus, it became a wonder of the book trade of a kind that publishers dream about after taxes. So Atlas Shrugged had a first printing of one hundred thousand copies. It appears to be slowly climbing the best-seller lists.