Part 2- The Art of Fiction Henry James wrote his essay “A Lecture on the Art of Fiction” in 1884 in response to novelist Walter Besant. Besant gave a lecture at the Royal Institution entitled, “Fiction as One of the Fine Arts,” and argued for a formulaic approach to novel writing—“laws of fiction [that] may be laid down and taught with as much precision and exactness as the laws of harmony, perspective, and proportion.” Essential to the laws of fiction, Besant proposed, would be that novelists write only from personal experience; that characters be only those recognizable from “actual life;”  that the novelist’s gender, geography, and social class all confine the scope of his or her horizons: “a young lady brought up in a quiet country village should avoid descriptions of garrison life,” was one such prescription, as was “a writer whose friends and personal experiences belong to the lower middle-class should carefully avoid introducing his characters into Society;” and that a novel written in English should be didactic, possessing a “conscious moral purpose.” James, who by 1884 had published seven novels, including The Portrait of a Lady, forty-six works of short fiction including “Daisy Miller,” and five works of nonfiction, was concerned that Besant’s formulaic approach to English literature would stymie creativity. James argued instead for the freedom of the novelist to shape a novel from imagination. An art of fiction, rather than formulaic laws of fiction,...
Part 1 Henry James (1843-1916) is a major American author. His numerous novels and novellas include What Maisie Knew, The Turn of the Screw, The American, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Ambassadors. His fiction is considered among the best ever written in the English language. Reverently known as The Master, James was a realist who had a great deal more in common with the Romantic movement of the early part of the nineteenth century than he did with the Naturalists who dominated American and European literature during his lifetime. In a previous essay I contrasted Ayn Rand’s novel We the Living with Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy to demonstrate how Ayn Rand successfully refuted the Naturalist worldview. In this essay, I compare Ayn Rand favorably to Henry James. Both Henry James and Ayn Rand were artists of the highest caliber. Both artists made significant and enduring contributions to American literature, but the academic literary establishment overwhelmingly favors Henry James and ignores Ayn Rand. What are the ideas, then, that Ayn Rand and Henry James contributed to American literature? Why are James’s ideas canonical while Rand’s are not? Ayn Rand’s command of the English language, her interest in the novel as an art form, her interest in the practical concerns of fiction writing, and her psychological depth are equal to those of Henry James. The difference between the two novelists has little to do with art. The difference,...
When Steve Ditko picked up the phone over two years ago, I stammered an introduction, thanking him for the generous checks he’d written for years to The Atlas Society.  The 30-year-old philosophy non-profit organization had hired me, I let him know, and hence the call was my way of connecting with some of our longest supporters. In particular,  Ditko deserved to know of our plans to leverage artistic means -- including a comic book -- to advance our shared commitment to the ideals of individualism, achievement, and rational-self-interest. He was not rude, but he was also decidedly not interested in talking by phone -- and certainly not interested in meeting -- though when I offered that I might write to him, he did not object. And so write, I did.  As a follow up to our conversation, I sent him a few of the sketches from early pages of ANTHEM: The Graphic Novel which award-winning Marvel comics illustrator Dan Parsons and I were then in the early stages of adapting from Ayn Rand’s novella, first published 80 years ago.  Now complete, the comic-style illustrated adaptation dramatizes Rand’s tale of how a collectivist society which repressed individualism would try to crush the ablest, by word and by deed.  A few months after I sent Ditko the offering,  he sent a handwritten reply with a critique of the costuming.  His interest in the clothes the hero wore is noteworthy, since   costume was an area where Ditko innovated, as...
Listen, my children, and you shall learn Of the personal liberty for which all people yearn, Since the fourth of July, in Seventy-six; It's been the core of our country's life and politics Liberty is what people fight for 'til their very last breath As Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death!” Fighters for freedom have forever sought Individual freedom which can be neither sold nor bought. By word and by deed the ruling class has tried To diminish the rights for which our forefathers died. As far back as the Pharaoh who enslaved the Jews Mankind has strived to live and die as we choose.   And just as America rebelled to be free of the crown Paul Revere made a midnight ride of renown. In order to warn all the good local people He had his friend place a lantern atop the town steeple One lantern if the British came by land and two if by sea Then he'd know which towns to warn with his horse riding plea. Two lanterns went up on high and in time he did see So off went Revere on his horse like a sprite on a spree. Revere rode his horse many miles deep into the night Warning patriots to get up  to get ready to fight. "The British are coming to keep us all down Wake up, wake up and defend home and town!"" They rose in defiance against the redcoats Who'd come in the thousands by sea and in boats. In Concord the Minutemen all stood their ground And Americans were tested...more courage they found. At last they gave the redcoats a resounding...
Ayn Rand left an intellectual legacy the size of Mount Everest. A mountain this size cannot be traversed in a few hours, the literary equivalent of which is 36,000 words. But Eamonn Butler pulls it off, not by scaling the mountain, but by taking the reader on an easy helicopter ride over Rand’s philosophical terrain in his excellent primer, Ayn Rand: An Introduction, published by The Cato Institute, and available on Libertarianism.org. Butler, who for the past four decades has served as Director of The Adam Smith Institute, the UK’s leading free market think tank, and has authored several influential primers on thinkers such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, brings his franchise to Ayn Rand.  Butler covers all aspects of her philosophy, wisely stripped to their essentials, to make every word count. More crucially, Butler does not forget to trace the integrative concepts when jumping from ethics and epistemology to economics, and from politics and culture to aesthetics. Illuminating the turning points in her life from a Russian childhood to life in America, Butler spares no feud—Rand’s own, or within her followers, from a dispassionate mention. Most impressive is his ability to do justice to Rand’s critics. Here he distills the essence of the more meritorious critiques, aptly ignoring the envious smears and ignorant spears thrown at the much-maligned Rand. Only once he throws his own...

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