One Hundred Monkeys in Texas

October 14, 2008

Tell us what you really think, Miz Flannery

Filed under: Books,Writing — alancochrum @ 4:16 pm
Tags: ,

So I’m about two-thirds of my way through The Habit of Being, the several-times-previously-referred-to collection of letters by Flannery O’Connor, and I run into this in a missive from May 1960:

“I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.”

O’Connor doesn’t elaborate — at least in this collection — on what she found so offensive about Rand’s writing. They certainly were of differing minds about religion, O’Connor being a devout Catholic and faith being an F-word to Rand.

The ironic thing is O’Connor’s comparison of Rand to Spillane, given that the latter two liked each other’s work. Nathaniel Branden writes in his memoir Judgment Day about the period after the 1957 publication of Rand’s massive novel Atlas Shrugged:

“Ayn admired the ‘black-and-white moral absolutism’ of Spillane’s writing and also felt he was underappreciated as a stylist. ‘Granted his writing is uneven,’ she said, ‘and some passages are crude, but his descriptions at their best are excellent. Compare his descriptions of New York City in One Lonely Night with Thomas Wolfe’s descriptions — and you’ll appreciate the difference between a writer who knows how to make you see and one who just throws adjectives at you.’ I agreed with her, at least to some extent, but I was uneasy about the degree of praise she heaped on him publicly, as if she enjoyed shocking everyone — or as if she wanted to do for him what no one had done for her. At that time liberal reviewers went literally berserk on the subject of Mickey Spillane; I would not have imagined that a writer of thrillers could push so many hostile buttons.”

I have yet to read O’Connor’s fiction. But after reading a good number of her letters and a considerable amount of Rand’s work, I know which of the two I find more congenial.

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