Book 230: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

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Finished reading on May 7 th, 2017

Rating: 8/10

I feel like I’ve been slogging through “The Fountainhead” forever. I approached it with curiosity and excitement as I had rather liked “Atlas Shrugged“.

In case of this book however, I made steady progress with it for a while, then hit a roadblock and almost decided to not get back to it at all and left it for months. Until a few weeks ago when I felt like I’ve made my peace with the character’s actions and can go back to it having pretty much forgotten what had driven me away.

But now to the plot and characters and the rest…

We first meet Howard Roark, the main character of the book when he gets thrown out of college, where he has been studying architecture, which remains his calling throughout the book. Another character we meet at the same time is Peter Keating who graduates successfully, already has a great job offer, but really he would rather have studied painting instead of architecture.

Now we get to the main part – one has a passion for architecture, for creating something original and functional and not following in the footsteps of anyone else and trying to reproduce ancient buildings etc. The other wants to be though as a great architect, follow the demands that anyone places on him and steal from historical buildings whenever necessary.

Roark has very high principles whilst Keating doesn’t seem to have any – Keating doesn’t really have the talent to get where he wants to get with his job, but does have a knack for weaselling his way into the good job, making the right connections etc.

At first I felt sad for Roark, because as he wants to follow his ideas and not conform to others in any way, he gets trampled under everyone’s feet with modern buildings that are ahead of their time, and doesn’t appear to be getting anywhere. At the same time Peter Keating is climbing the career ladder.

There are more characters connected to arcitecture in the book, but I’m going to skip over them.

Media and general public play an important role in the book in helping Keating gain what he wants and to keep Roark’s genius at bay by not giving him any slack. The media and general public are however controlled by some powerful and despotic people, whose activities seem to be at the border of insane and quirky. We have Ellsworth Toohey, an expert on architecture, who has a large influence on many successful businesspeople when it comes to choosing someone to design a building for them.

Then there’ Dominique Francon – a columnist at the New york Banner, the daughter of the architect Guy Francon for whose firm Peter Keating starts working for. She is one of the few female characters in the book, another one being Catherine Halsey, and then there’s Peter Keating’s mother…

Dominique Francon comes through as a strong, independent and very intelligent woman. She plays quite a big role in the book, but despite her part as a smart woman I didn’t really take a liking to her at first. There’s a relationship between her and Roark eventually, that drove me away from the book altogether. I had just started to see her as an interesting and relatable character, when something happened that to me seemed ultimately stereotypical taming of the shrew… (I think that I might possibly have been so disturbed by it exactly because I had found Dominique so relatable) and I took a break from reading it.

However eventually I got back to it to read some more of rather strange and illogical actions, that seemed to lead to a real dystopia, where the public’s opinion can be easily molded to a certain limit to accept rubbish as great masterpieces (The Gallant Gallstone and The Skin Off Our Noses), which seem so riddiculous, but scarily possible…

Enough of that though… I felt as if Rand could have been quoting Einstein: “How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will.” in the whole of the book.

At first it isn’t as obvious, but it does seem to end up with few great geniuses against the easily affected mob of common people. I wonder what was she trying to say with that…

I could almost hear a maniacal lauch when Toohey is explaining to Keating ” If you learn how to rule one single man’s soul, you can get the rest of mankind”. And “kill his  capacity to recognize greatness or to achieve it”. I can see how that is just around the corner… A world full of mediocre people who don’t want things to change or anyone to be different or better…

Toohey’s a real menace. A really scary person, especially if they’re after power and against individualism.

I did end up liking and enjoying the book, and I think I will read it again in the future, since there are so many actions that are undertaken for a variety of reasons that I’d like to ponder on… Like the general lack of female characters, and how all three that are mentioned the most are connected to Peter Keating… Or how Peter Keating searches for Roark’s validation on his paintings… or capturing the spirit of someone or something in a work of art or in a building etc,

 

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Book 186: The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany

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The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany

Finished reading on July 23nd, 2015

Rating: 7/10

“The Yacoubian Building” is set in Cairo, Egypt and deals with the lives of some of the people who live in one building. In the book you meet some people who are really quite different – although they live in the same building their living conditions are very different. For example you meet a young boy who wants to become a police officer, but there are difficulties that stand in his way and aim his later life in a rather different direction.

That is basically the main theme as I saw it – you’ll be expecting one thing and something totally different will happen.

The book does contain quite a lot of adult content.

Reading this book did feel as if I was just peeking into the lives of the characters through the windows.

One of the troubling aspects for me was that none of the characters are really altogether likable – mostly they’re obsessed with something – religion, work, sex etc – to a point that’s disturbing and strange.

Book 165: Ulysses by James Joyce

PIMG_9144“Ulysses” by James Joyce

Finished reading on April 22nd, 2015
Rating: R

I’ve read Ulysses, I feel like I should be able to say something profound, yet I’ve never been bothered more by the lack of logic than I was when reading this book.

Honestly it was a bumpy ride reading Ulysses in 8 days. I only really started enjoying it when a colleague asked whether I was enjoying the book I’m reading and I said “no” – after that it all got better.

I think I feel slightly angry at the book – I’ve loved reading Joyce’s shorter works, but this one left me confused and baffled and thinking that I might actually prefer to read a quantum mechanics textbook rather than delve into such a literary work next time. Though I think maybe that’s not a good idea as maybe that’s exactly what it’s about – it’s so different from our everyday experience that you have to reset your mind or die trying to adapt to a novel where one moment a character is forced to wear womens’ clothes at a brothel and the next they’re in a courtroom and then they become a mayor…

There certainly were enjoyable parts, but it’s mostly all way too difficult – as soon as you get used to it you’ll have to face fifty pages of stream-of-consciousness writing without any punctuation marks!

But then in the end it’s all quite sad, especially when you realize it’s been a week from when you started reading it, and it’s still the same day in the book…

I liked how Joyce mentions the night sky – I often wonder whether regular people who have no work-related reason to look at the night sky and know what’s there, whether they even notice it – do they see the planets, do they know that you can see planets and what about constellations? At least Joyce seems to have noticed. So that was good.

The important part is – I read it, and now I know it’s not made-up words throughout, only in some parts. In other parts it’s as if it were a (hideously long) play where there are new characters coming to the stage every five minutes and they’re not even doing the same play!

It’s interesting, but with one reading I wouldn’t even try to figure this one out even just a tiny little bit.

I’m hoping that reading “Ulysses” will make me value more writers whose works aren’t from an alien world in a parallel universe.