Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: 100 Voices—An Oral History of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand with husband, Frank O'Connor
Anyone who has read the biographies of Ayn Rand, such as Barbara Branden’s The Passion of Ayn Rand, or Anne Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made, will find 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, a wonderful companion.

What we have is a collection of excerpts from interviews with 100 people who dealt with Rand over the years, including friends, relatives, and business associates. And much of the information is refreshingly new and offers new insights into a complex and controversial figure in American history.
There are, however, caveats to consider. Scott McConnell of the Ayn Rand Institute conducts these interviews and they are not entirely free of an agenda. But, for the most part, they seem fairly balanced and individuals are quoted saying things that are not always pleasant. But neither are they always accurate.

These are first person accounts of Rand and all first person accounts tend to be prone to errors and personal agendas. Rand’s sister, Nora, for instance, is particularly bitter and unpleasant. A few other relatives make claims that sound utterly absurd to this reviewer. One insists that the penniless Rand promised to buy them a Rolls Royce if she made good, another seems to believe she promised a mink coat.  Additionally, you will find a few interviewees who seem to insist that Ayn Rand’s career was assured because of them.  Had she failed in her endeavors I’m not sure they would be so quick to claim credit for her efforts.