Editor’s Note: In The Writers Series this month we feature another contemporary novel informed by the ideas and the romantic realism of Ayn Rand. Crosspoints: A Novel of Choice,  is a 2004 novel by Alexandra York. Set in contemporary Greece and New York, the novel depicts a woman at a turning point who uses reason to decide her career and to choose the man she loves. Nautical archaeologist Tara Niforous is working in Greece, diving for artifacts in the Aegean with Dimitrios Kokonas, an accomplished archaeologist that she knows well and respects. Dimitrios is in love with Tara, but Tara thinks of him as a mentor and professional partner. Tara meets the New York-based Leon Skillman, a superstar postmodernist sculptor who pursues her first to win a bet, then in earnest. Tara, who does not know about the wager, is attracted to Leon. She admires his creativity and his connection to the contemporary world of art. Now she must decide between the two men–a decision that will impact her heart, her career, and where she calls home.   In the following excerpt, Spring Flower, Tara, Leon, and Dimitrios meet Tara’s younger brother, budding artist Nicky Niforous, and romantic realist artist Dorina Swing in Dorina’s New York artist’s loft. Nicky is trying to decide whether to pursue a career as an abstract artist or a figurative artist. Leon and Dorina debate the merits of abstract art and romantic realism respectively, and Tara considers Leon’s...
A soul-searching article by exasperated art critic Jerry Saltz. How does the art world live with itself? Great question, and Saltz’s piece is well worth reading. (Thanks to Michael Newberry for the link.) But: The problem is not “Too much money!” in the art world. The problem is bad ideas working with bad character. Money is only a tool, and it is used only according to the ideas and character of those who have it. Suppose you’re an art buyer with a billion in the bank. The money will not force you to buy crap. You will buy crap only if you like crap, or have no idea of the difference between crap and worth, or don’t care that it’s crap and only want to be part of the in-crowd. Or suppose you’re a financially struggling artist: Your desire for money will not make you produce crap. You will produce crap only if you like crap, or don’t know the difference between crap and worth, or have so little integrity that you’ll give up your artistic goals for money. We want lots of money in the art world. If we think money is the problem, then the solution is to remove the money. But taking a few billion dollars out of the art world will not solve anything. A generation ago when the art market was half its current size, the art world had exactly the same problems. And those were the same problems it had two generations ago when the art market was half again...
W. S. Gifford, the president of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, called London on January 7, 1927 to speak with Sir Evelyn P. Murray, the secretary of the General Post Office of Great Britain. It was the first transatlantic telephone call ever made. Gifford predicted that better telecommunication would foster benevolence and trade: “No one can foresee the ultimate significance of this latest achievement of science and organization,” he said. “It will certainly facilitate business. It will be a social convenience and comfort, and through the closer bonds which it establishes, it will promote better understanding and strengthen the ties of friendship.” The importance of the telephone to benevolence and trade was not lost on Ayn Rand, and she used it as a plot device in her novels more than once. The end of Part One of The Fountainhead  is a good example. Architect Howard Roark is waiting in his New York office for the telephone to ring. He has not worked since building the Heller house, and he is running out of money. He has submitted a design for the Manhattan Bank Company building. If he gets the commission, he can stay in business. Instead of hearing about the commission, however, Roark hears from his frenemy, the poseur Peter Keating. Roark and Keating studied architecture together at the Stanton Institute of Technology. Even though his projects were...
Ayn Rand’s Ethics, Part Four According to Rand, ethics is based on the requirements of life. That which makes life possible sets the standard of good; that which undermines or destroys life is the bad. Ethics is thus rooted in biology: the fact that life is conditional. The values needed for life are not automatically achieved, and since they are not automatically achieved, each human faces a fundamental alternative: to achieve the values necessary for life, or not. Achieving the values sustains one’s life; not doing so leads to death. But the achieving of the values has preconditions. Each of us has to learn what values are necessary for life and what actions are necessary to achieve them, and then choose consistently to initiate those actions. But the learning of these things depends on a personal choice to think. In summary form, the points here are: Life requires the consumption of values. The values to be consumed must be produced. The production of values requires that we act in certain ways. Acting in those ways requires that we have the knowledge of what values we need to consume and what actions will produce them. Having the knowledge requires that we think and learn. Or, in brief: Life depends on values. Values depend on production. Production depends on knowledge. Knowledge depends on thinking. The key thing about each of these points is that they are and can be performed only by individuals. Individualism is built into the nature of human...
In “Benevolence versus Altruism” (The Objectivist Newsletter, July 1962), Nathaniel Branden decried the “package deal” that links altruism to “the principle of benevolence, good will, and kindness toward others.” This claim is “worse than mistaken”; in fact, “altruism and benevolence are not merely different, they are mutually inimical and contradictory.” Branden concluded his article as follows: The choice is not: selfishness or good will among men. The choice is: altruism or good will, benevolence, kindness, love and human brotherhood. To find, in the official Objectivist publication of its day, positive references to kindness, human brotherhood, and similar notions may come as a shock to those many detractors of Ayn Rand who insist on portraying her as an unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge in a bad mood. But this and other egregious misrepresentations of Rand’s views have become the rule rather than the exception, so they should come as no surprise to those who actually take the time to read what Rand (and Branden) wrote on the subject of benevolence. According to Rand, “No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as ‘the right to enslave.’” This “right to enslave” is precisely how Rand viewed altruism, which preaches...

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