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June 2001
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Noam Chomsky and Ayn Rand

In the rec.arts.books newsgroup Jim Hartley slipped in the following bit of bait whilst trolling for large mouthed bass:

... that greatest writer of ALL TIME, Ayn Rand.
A lady named Margaret promptly snapped up the bait with:
You can't be serious. I wouldn't pause to mock you just because you thought Ayn Rand was okay, or even very good, but your hyperbole causes me to take some time out from my busy day to protest. I'm willing to wager you're literary opinion is based on your finding the libertarian philosophy so congenial. But I can't help thinking of a minor writer named Shakespeare, another named Milton, another named Hemingway, another named Proust, another named Cervantes, and wondering whether anyone really placed Ayn Rand on the top of the heap?
I am not one to let such opportunities pass by. I stirred up the pot with:


Ayn Rand the best? But of course. Granted that she did not get the Nobel prizes (one in economics and one in literature) that she deserved but that was almost certainly due to the shameful log-rolling and politicking that accompanies the selection of the awards. I have little difficulty in saying that her novels are models of modern fiction. It is true enough that Shakespeare and Milton were great authors in their time (although it must be said that Shakespeare's works are filled with musty mots) but Rand simply transcends them, being an author for our time, and indeed an author for all times. As for Hemingway, he was a dropout from the select writing class that she taught and at that he only was a member because she had been under the false impression that he was one of the "piano" Hemingways.

In answer to Jim's query about Chomsky and Rand, there are a few things to be said. First of all, the story that they were lovers is completely false. There is no evidence that Chomsky ever even met Rand. It is true enough that he was a great admirer of her but that was at a distance and was not publicly expressed until after her death. The supposed mash notes by him to her that circulated on the net are almost certainly forgeries. Nor is it hard to distinguish between the two authors. He was influenced by her; that much is true but then what great thinker of our times has not been. Rand, however, was universal whereas Chomsky is a man of topics. More than that, Chomsky's writing is pervaded by a sly, puckish humor, an attribute notably missing in Rand.

ObBook: "Ayn Rand, A Mind for our Time", by Noam Chomsky


This page was last updated June 1, 2001.

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