Reviews of Fountainhead, the (1943)
The Fountainhead is the second novel by Ayn Rand showing the application of her philosophy of Objectivism. Although the novel is written mainly from the view of Dominique Francon, Howard Roark's (and every other man in the novel) love interest; we follow the life of architect Howard Roark as he struggles against the rest of the world to do what he does best...work.
Story-wise this is an absolutely astonishing book. Ayn Rand's vision of Howard Roark as he struggles against the forces of “greater good” and label theory is superbly executed. So much of what is discussed and executed in this novel is true in our society today. In the Fountainhead we see the power and influence that Ellsworth Toohey has over the architecture industry and how he can essentially choose the architect for any building in the city with a simple article in the Banner newspaper. This type of influence and power is apparent in critics like Ebert and Roeper and how they have the power to attract audiences to films and to discourage audiences from viewing others. Although certainly not as grand an ending as Atlas Shrugged, the final two scenes of the Fountainhead were an excellent way to close off a very exciting ride.
I found that much could have been improved in the way of Ayn Rand's writing style with this novel. Rand introduces so many stereotypical characters that often an entire page of the novel contains a random series of comments from “some architect” or “some socialite.” Only during these moments does it feel as if Rand was trying to meet an editorial deadline instead of help us continue the journey of Howard Roark. The cardboard cut-out bad guys in the novel take away a bit of the magic of Roark's struggle. Even Ellsworth Toohey at times seems so destined to fail at his dreams that the inevitable courtroom showdown between Roark and the architects guild seems rather unnecessary.
I would recommend The Fountainhead to anyone who takes pride in the work that they do. It's a very inspiring story that shows (in a way) that man's ego is the Fountainhead of human progress...
Review by Thomas (2003-11-16)
Let me begin by stating up front my limitations. I was introduced to Ayn Rand by watching the movie 'The Fountainhead' which starred Gary Cooper with the screenplay written by Rand. I bought the book and read the first 200 pages. It's pretty dense and I thought it was enough to say that the movie mirrored what was in the book.
I found myself living out the principles espoused by Rand through Howard Roarke. I think this was a subconscious decision. The effect was deliterious on relationships and on the spirit. Roarke lives in a world which is governed by intellect but there is so much more to life than that. In a funny sort of way, reading the Fountainhead helped me to realise that and I now live a much more fulfilling life than one based on pure logic and intellect. By moving past what Roarke does, I have become more of an individual. I know better now what I am about and can connect with other humans easier and this is not dependent on them knowing what they are about (eg. Roger Enright).
I can give a practical example of this. I was at a property seminar where the presenters were frauds. I knew because the information they were supplying (the performance of various investments) was information which I dealt with at my previous work for 3 years. They were plainly misleading. Roarke would have simply not being taken in by it. That was true of me but I also spoke out against the presenters. Roarke wouldn't have paid attention to the corruption of the world 'out there'. I did and I think I am a better man for it. Rand has got half the story to life right: you need to be your own person. The other half is engaging the world even when they don't want you. There is more to life than dealing with people that come to you. There is also going out to deal with people even if they don't want to be dealt with. Roarke faces frustration with years of unproductive time. The person who goes out into the world to start relationships with others faces years of frustration in being pushed away. Can you really say objectively that one is better than the other? You can select a lifestyle for yourself and that's it.
Rand only gives one side to a very multi-faceted story named life.
Review by scottie (2003-08-27)
I really enjoyed this novel for 3 main reasons:
1) the integrity the main character, Howard Roark
2) the prose/writing-style of the author
3) its exteme thought-provokation
Altogether quite inspiring! Afterwards I read Atlas Shrugged which was quite ... um ... heavy.
Review by azure (2003-08-24)
The Fountainhead, in my opinion, is the best novel that I have read. That it presents a revolutionary philosophy while gripping the reader into the minds of its characters is astounding.
As in many of Ayn Rand's novels, the plot is rather predictable, especially if, like this reader, you want to be sure that the ending will be as wonderful as the beginning suggests. However, there are many twists along the way that make it a delight to read each page and find out what happens to the characters, and how they deal with their situation.
The Fountainhead relies on its characters to make the book come alive, and in this it is quite, quite successful. Each character is different, and each is used for a special purpose by the author. Not every character doing evil things is, themselves, evil. Ayn Rand shows that the worst kind of evil is the kind that accepts mediocrity as close enough to greatness to commend. You are cheering for Howard Roark throughout the novel, and are booing and hissing Peter Keating and all the others like him.
The philosophy in The Fountainhead is exquisitely presented, without making it a chore to read, Ayn Rand clearly shows what it is she believes and why, and makes very convincing points.
If nothing else, The Fountainhead shows the heroism in striving to follow dreams, the glory in doing what we think is right for ourselves. That the book is so much more makes it a must-read.
Review by lovell (2003-05-29)
Idealism has no place in politics, but it has one in the realm of the novel. Luckily, Any Rand is better known as a novelist than as a politician, aspirations aside. Novels don't have to be realistic. Novels don't have to be fair. If you believe that they do, please skip _The Fountainhead_.
The Fountainhead is beautiful (and very much an important novel, (despite what the last reviewer thinks) in several respects. It is, as many will point out, a beautiful work of propaganda, heavy with Objectivism (not that "Objectivism" fits our modern definition of "objective", that's just the name Rand gave it) and anti-Socialism from cover-to-cover-- no small achivement. The novel is not usually considered a vessel for blatant propaganda preciesly because of the difficulty posed to the idealogue by the lengthy format. Ask yourself, "Could I write such a novel presenting my _own_ philosophy in such a readable way?". While it is of course the nature of all authorship to imbue the finished product with one's own biases and opinions, few novelists set out to do so in such an honest manner. In _The Fountainhead_, Ayn Rand did for the novel what Hunter Thompson did for the magazine article, stripping it of the modern notion of impartiality.
More importantly, and in stark contrast to Rand's other popular novel _Atlas Shrugged_, The Fountainhead is a beautiful work in its reditions of human emotion, suffering, and loss. The Fountainhead stands on its own as a great novel, propaganda or not. As a pure study of emotion and motive rather than individual character, this novel surpasses even her earlier, semi-autobiographical work _We the Living_.
Review by reebchan (2003-03-09)
I can't believe this book is liked by so many people. It's one of the most arrogant, elitist, and irritating books I've ever read. The characters are flat idealized cardboard cutouts, the philosophy expounded is absolutely unlivable, and Rand's ego shows in every sentence. Do yourself a favor and read something good -- don't waste your time with this.