Now, this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do during the dead of winter, or mud season, but no one wants to leave Maine during the summer. After all, the reasoning goes, we spend all this time slogging through the snow and cold, waiting for the perfection of July, August, and September — why the heck would you go anywhere else?
But here I am in Truro, on Cape Cod, staying with some friends in their beach house, built by Chip’s grandfather back in the 1940’s. Today we rode our bikes to Race Point, in Provincetown, and tonight we will visit some other friends in Eastham. I’m getting some much needed rest in as I recuperate from pneumonia on the dunes with the Camden Library’s copy of The Fountainhead.
I picked up this tome because my son Nate came for a visit in June and was surprised to learn that I’ve never read it. Truthfully, I couldn’t really believe it either. It’s one of those books everyone has read at one time or another, right? One of those books I’d always planned to tackle, along with War and Peace.
“You really ought to read it.” It’s funny when your kids start talking like this. Echoes of all the things you’ve told them for the past twenty-one years circle back. You want to do a little happy dance, because here is your middle kid – the one who was a wee bit challenging there for a while – and he wants to discuss a book with you.
Nate went back to Burlington, Vermont, where he goes to college, and a few weeks later I found myself there unexpectedly. We had dinner together and he again asked me about The Fountainhead. When I confessed I didn’t have it yet, he insisted on making me a copy of the first ten chapters to listen to on the ride home to Maine. “This will get you started,” he said, handing me the disk.
I’m only about halfway through, but I can safely agree with Nate’s assessment — The Fountainhead is astounding. I could probably blog about nothing else for several years and still have plenty to say about the strongly drawn characters, riveting story lines, and complex philosophical themes. The language is rich (these are the kinds of sentences you want to read out loud to someone, just to savor how finely crafted they are) and I can’t begin to describe the author’s use of metaphor. Clearly Ayn Rand was a masterful storyteller.
What fascinates me (and Nate as well) is how Rand managed to write in such a timeless style. Despite the occasional reference to a “speakeasy” or a “switchboard,” her story of two architects struggling to succeed in Manhattan feels as if it is happening right now. Granted, no one is using a cell phone, writing a blog, or stopping at a Starbucks, and yet the setting seems contemporary and fresh.
Why is that?
Is it precisely because there is so little technology integral to the story? Or is it because she focused on universal human truths and questions? Do we, as writers, care about how our novels age? Is that even something you can think about while writing a book?
I’ll be back in Maine on Saturday, Meanwhile, from the dunes of Truro, I bid you a wonderful Friday.