…and it was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The first time I took it on, I was in business school at Chicago Booth where they worship her as the goddess of free market economics fueled by the idea of individualism.
When I entered business school, I was still focused on saving the world via the public sector world vs. the private sector, viewing capitalism as an enemy of sorts, especially unbridled. As I reluctantly dug into the book (it’s big with small print 😊). I found myself bristling at so much of what she said, the characters and what seemed like their caricature-ness that I didn’t believe existed. And yet, I couldn’t put it down and couldn’t stop thinking about it once I had finished…for years thereafter. I understood why Rand and her books have left such a mark on people, why they’re cited as the most influential after the Bible…even though I still struggled with all of it.
Fast forward 20 years and I picked up The Fountainhead again, reading it from the perspective of a 47 vs. 27-year-old, as someone who’d experienced so much more and engaged with so many more people. All of the things I struggled with the first time, all of the people who seemed like extreme caricatures, were so darn familiar. I’d seen so many Gail Wynands and Peter Keatings. I knew and adored a Howard Roark. I’d struggled with so many Ellsworth Tooheys. I identified deeply with Dominique Francon and how she felt in her world. I’ve never identified with a protagonist in any story—truth or fiction—more than her. Maybe it’s because she operates in a man’s world and that’s been true for me most of my life and career.
Anyway, it’s probably not for everyone, but maybe there’s some other outlier like me who will relish the feeling of excitement, frustration, and contentment knowing you’re not alone in being the she-wolf operating in a world of male archetypes that often seem like characters out of a movie, sort of like the ones portrayed in Men@Work.
If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts (people tend to love or hate Dominique and her work, which isn’t the worst thing in the world 😊). If you haven’t but end up taking it on, I hope you’ll let me know what you think.