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James Baker on Rand in the Early 1960s

History professor James Baker wrote a book on Ayn Rand for Twayne's United States Authors series. The excerpt below describes some of her activities in the early 1960s, and some of the media coverage that she generated.

Slowly but surely Rand earned respect as someone who could do more than write novels. In 1958 she raised eyebrows with comments made to CBS news reporter Mike Wallace in an interview. In 1960, just into the decade that would see her become a philosopher, she was a visiting lecturer at Columbia, Princeton, and Yale. Time covered the latter address, which was part of the Yale Challenge Series, and reported some of her more provocative pronouncements [...].

In 1961 she published her first philosophic treatise, a book called For the New Intellectual. [...] This book, with its subtitle "The Philosophy of Ayn Rand," announced to the world that she was to be taken seriously as a philosopher. That year, in addition to lectures at Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins, and Syracuse, she presented a formal address at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston, where she gave an annual lecture until the year she died.

In March 1961 Newsweek did a story on her called "Born Eccentric." The anonymous reporter described a typical evening with Branden and Rand at the Nathaniel Branden Institute. All the "new intellectuals" listed patiently as Branden droned on for three hours, discoursing on "Ayn Rand and Ethics," "Ayn Rand and Aesthetics," Ayn Rand and Love," preparing them for the moment Rand would appear to answer questions. The reporter found her an impressive figure, despite her stocky build, because her dark penetrating eyes could "wilt a cactus." Her thick Russian voice intimidated doubters and scoffers, while her "dollar sign" gold broach impressed the faithful. He concluded that "there hasn't been a she-messiah since Aimee McPherson who can so hypnotize an audience." As to one of her arguments, that America is too altruistic, he advised her to correct this misapprehension by riding on any New York subway. Rand demanded more of this reporter than a straight factual story.

In November 1961 John Kobler, in a Saturday Evening Post story called "Curious Cult of Ayn Rand," described his own reaction as he listened to that voice as richly Russian as blintzes on sour cream. he found her almost completely devoid of grace, with a personality as compelling as a sledgehammer, slow to smile, on guard against laughter, intolerant of humor. [...] Kobler called her the free enterprise system's Joan of Arc, with a Yankee dollar her Cross of Lorraine. It is obvious that Rand was making quite an impression in this first year of the Kennedy presidency.

The year 1962 saw her delivering addresses at Columbia, Harvard, and MIT. It also saw the birth of a journal designed to spread Rand's thought. The Objectivist Newsletter was a four-page monthly that lasted for forty-eight issues, from January 1962 through December 1965. With Rand and Branden as coeditors and copublishers, it featured articles, essays and lectures [...] .

In 1962 the Brandens' book Who Is Ayn Rand? was published by Random House (as had been Atlas Shrugged), its title derived from the question, "Who is John Galt?" Its brisk sales demonstrated how intriguing the public found the new philosopher.

From Ayn Rand by James T. Baker, pp. 18-19. Omissions from the text are shown with bracketed ellipses. All other punctuation and spelling is from the original.

Additional keywords: Ann Rand, Anne Rand, Any Rand


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