Skwire versus Ghate on Rand’s fiction

Rounds one and two, I hope, of a good discussion of Rand’s philosophical fiction.atlas-original

Sarah Skwire: “Ayn Rand, John Steinbeck, and Fiction with a ‘Message’: The Problems with Didactic Fiction.”

Onkar Ghate: “Is Ayn Rand a Writer of Didactic Fiction?”

One interesting sub-issue to me arises from the fact that many readers do experience Rand’s fiction as being in the grip of great storytelling, while many other readers do experience it as being lectured at. So I have often wondered how much the responses depend upon what the reader brings to the encounter. Three possibilities are:

1. Some readers have a general discomfort with abstract intellectual content in fiction, in which case they also find lecture-y the long speeches in the epic poems and novels of many authors — Fyodor Dostoevsky, Hermann Hesse, John Milton, Victor Hugo, and so on.

2. Some readers enjoy abstract intellectual content integrated well into fiction, unless they disagree with the value orientation of the content, in which case they disengage with the experience and so find the writing boring.

3. That there is a psychological limit to how much abstract philosophizing one can absorb in the context of reading fiction — and the great writers often violate that limit — but many of us forgive them because their works’ other literary merits more than make up for it.

Other possibilities?

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