January 05, 2005

The Fountainhead

“You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are. If there’s any kind of fiction better than that, I don’t know what it is.” Joss Whedon

Those are my favourite lines on fiction. That’s just the type of books I enjoy most. The Fountainhead is nothing like that, but I still loved it. It’s like a trial version of Atlas Shrugged; the story’s different enough, but the author’s saying the same thing.

The best way to describe the Fountainhead’s protagonist, Howard Roark, is to simple call him the book’s hero. I liked this much more than Atlas Shrugged, can’t really say why. Of course, there are fewer über-men in this book. And no 40 page monologues.

Lets get down to the specifics: Roark is an architect like no other. He’s the perfect individualist, he designs buildings his way, the world be damned. People are always free to not hire him, of course. He’s a rock: you don’t see him changing in any way the entire length of the book. He never changes a single conviction of his, other than one specific exception he makes near the end. He’s the man that does not need any other, that’s what makes him so appealing. He does not give others power over him.

“Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Only down to a certain point. Not after that.”

Of course I’ve made him look bad here, I’m nowhere near as eloquent or as clear as Ayn Rand. The point is: that’s what I think every one should be like too. If I were an idealist, I’d embrace her philosophy wholeheartedly, but the cynic in me holds me back. There just seems to be something missing.

Most other characters are also excellent. I’ll never complete this if I start describing them. I wondered for some time what the book would be like if there was no Roark, no philosophical agenda, and all the other characters the same as before. Those who’ve read Atlas Shrugged will find this book strangely familiar. Those who have not read either should pick one up right away. I don’t expect most people to agree with them at all though…

I finished this book in two days at a relative’s place. Two days where I would have been mind-numbingly bored if I did not have this book. So I’m really thankful for it.

Oh, and I have to say that I am really annoyed when I know I like something, but come up blank when I ask myself why I like it. That’s the most frustrating question ever, one that I can never solve. Dishing out these half-assed reviews is one way of trying to answer it.

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