Cool Irony Watch: Ayn Rand department by mattsteinglass
September 14, 2009, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Conservatism

Reporters these days are chafing against the restrictions of journalistic pseudo-objectivity, and using cool irony as a way to tell the truth through the haze. Magazine writers labor under fewer such restrictions, but they’re often picking up the trick, too. Here’s Jonathan Chait’s review of a biography of the Russian Jewish right-wing intellectual Alissa Rosenbaum, better known as Ayn Rand:

Rosenbaum dreamed of fame as a novelist and a scriptwriter, and fled to the United States in 1926, at the age of twenty-one. There she adopted her new name, for reasons that remain unclear.

Heh. For reasons that remain unclear. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; everyone did it back then. Well, not everyone. Not Julius Epstein, who wrote the script of “Casablanca”. And not the Marx Brothers, despite having a Jewish name that might have been just slightly more disadvantageous than most in those years. Not Louis Mayer or Samuel Goldwyn or… So, maybe there is just a little bit wrong with it.

Add: Actually, I take it back. There was clearly a lot wrong with it. It’s somewhat polemical to state that Rand changed her name from Alissa Rosenbaum to Ayn Rand, had her chief acolyte change his name from Nathan Blumenthal to Nathaniel Branden, and opposed fighting the Nazis. But it’s also true. Her shade has a lot of explaining to do.


3 Comments so far
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Anyone who has read “We the Living” (and I’m sure Mr. Steinglass has not) would instantly realize why Rand changed her name (she still had family in the USSR).

The notion that Ms. Rand made Brandon change his name or that she was against fighting Nazi’s is absurd.

Comment by dikaios

She changed her name to Ayn Rand in 1926. She wrote “We the Living” in 1934.

Comment by Matt Steinglass

Ayn Rand explained that she changed her name to protect her family, living under the Soviets, from reprisals for her famous anti-communism.

Also, she didn’t oppose fighting the Nazis; she opposed our entering World War II as an ally of the Soviets. She thought the U.S. should have let the Nazis and commies fight it out, and then, as she put it, “take on the winner” (the winner then being in a much weakened state).

Comment by hbinswanger

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