As you suggested, I wanted to address Betty’s letters at some point… But speaking of Mad Men…
My fondest desire has finally come true! Mark Sanford, whose affair captured my imagination for all its literary sturm und drang — the struggle with faith, norms of marriage and power, passionate letters, and heady exoticism — all that I love about French literature, well, he has finally set about to writing. And, naturally, his first effort, as with all good, up-and-comers, is a book review.
But not just any book review… he discusses his readings of Ayn Rand. A paean to the objectivist ethos of one Bertram Cooper? Pshaw!
In fact, bearing a similar chaotic ingenuousness to his confessions, the review often falters, holds back from tackling difficult concepts and paves a fairly rustic path with crude cobble-stones. Reading like a high school essay, Sanford’s piece limits itself for the most part to a commented summary of the key works, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, with some clumsy observations:
What happens, of course, is that the government collapses, and Galt emerges to reorder society along strictly free-market lines. Granted, the plot is farfetched, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enormously influential.
We learn that Sanford came to Rand relatively late:
When I first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in the 1980s, I was blown away. Those books portray the power of the free individual in ways I had never thought about before.
In the 1980s, he had already finished college. There really seems like no excuse to visit with Ayn Rand after the age of 17. If you aren’t hooked on nerd-revenge fantasies by then, it’s most likely that they don’t apply to you. One can only imagine that the books were forced upon him by some club at business school, kind of like taking up golf.
In the end, though, the most touching part of Sanford’s review is his final evocation of human frailty:
There is one more major flaw in Rand’s thinking. She believed that man is perfectible—a view she shared with the Soviet collectivists she hated. The geniuses and industrial titans who retire to Galt’s hidden valley create a perfect society based on reason and pure individualism; and Galt himself, in the 57-page speech near the book’s end, explicitly denies the existence of original sin. The idea that man is perfectible has been disproved by 10,000 years of history. Men and women are imperfect, or “fallen,” which is why I believe there is a role for limited government in making sure that my rights end where yours begin.
While the political lesson that Sanford draws from this inheritance of sin appears tacked on out of political convenience, his insistence upon the corruption of our flesh is touching and shows some glimmer of promise should he find someone to actually edit his work.
As I said when the scandal first broke — and it applies even more so, now — I would jump at the chance to ghostwrite Mark Sanford’s memoirs. Mark, have your people call me.