Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Passion of James Valliant's Criticism: The Surprise Party From Hell

Both Brandens relate a surprise party that was thrown for Rand to celebrate the publication of Atlas Shrugged. Barbara writes that it was thrown by “the collective.” (PAR, p. 295.) Nathaniel says that he and Barbara decided to have the party. For some reason, Valliant twice says that Random House (Atlas’ publisher) threw the party. (PARC, pp. 48-49.) The Brandens report that Rand was unhappy and made it clear that she didn’t like surprise parties. She was rather gloomy for most of the party, but eventually Bennett Cerf (who doesn’t discuss the incident in his memoirs) was able to cheer Rand up. Both Brandens engage in a bit of psychologizing relative to Rand’s reaction to the party.

Granted, one might find this psychologizing excessive. But Valliant’s claim that Nathaniel is claiming some sort of “special (i.e, unverifiable)” knowledge is off the mark. Branden knew Rand quite well and his (and Barbara’s) analysis of Rand is entitled to some deference. Particularly strange is Valliant’s claim that the party represented an attempt to control Rand’s “context through deception.” (PARC, pp. 49-50.) In any event, if Random House did in fact throw the party as Valliant contends, that makes the Brandens somewhat less culpable. Interestingly, Frank O’Connor (Rand’s husband) was part of the “deception”; but if Rand’s husband didn’t think she would get upset, I don’t see how the Brandens can be blamed.

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