Ayn Rand herself, it is safe to say,rnwould have been appalled by nearly everythingrnproduced by the Brandens.rnOne may infer, moreover, how shernwould have evaluated the stilted, derivative,rnand unconvincing writings of herrnlatter-day followers, which lack the essentialrningredient she infused into all herrnwritings—passion—while undergirdingrna movement that has iirherited all of herrncrankier, more tiresome, and least interestingrneccentricities: her fanaticism, herrndidacticism, and her obsessive hatred ofrnImmanuel Kant, a philosopher whosernworks she irever bothered to read. Thisrnmovement is the focus of Jeff Walker’srnThe Ayn Rand Cult, the latest book —rnand, perhaps, one of the strangest—inrnthe ever-expanding field of “Ayn Rairdrnstudies.”rnHere is a tome of some 300 pages,rnseemingly devoted to proving that Randrnwas a psychopath who delighted in dominatingrnand then destroying her followers,rnand whose megalomaniacal ragesrnwere fueled by amphetamines and a fullblownrndelusional system of almost demonicrnpower. Walker’s story relates howrnRand, after the publication of T/ie Fountainhead,rngathered a circle of muchrnyounger acolytes around her, and howrnthis group expanded aird soon took on allrnthe characteristics of the classic cult;rnworship of the leader, blind dogmatism,rnpsychological abuse, indoctrination andrnmind-control in the guise of “therapy,”rnand periodic purges on the model of thernMoscow Trials. What he fails to tell us isrnwhy we should care —or why, for thatrnmatter, he cares.rnIn his preface. Walker suggests thatrnreading The Ayn Rand Cult as an attemptrnto refute Rand would be “missingrnthe point”: His main concern is not herrnideas but rather the cidtist nature of thernmovement she created. While the authorrndevelops a valid thesis, his focus onrnthe organizational and personal dynamicsrnof the movement excludes nearly everythingrnelse: There is almost no discussionrnof Randian ideology, and preciousrnlittle mention of the source of the wholernmovement and its attendant organizations,rntheoreticians, and internecinernsquabbles —Rand’s novels. Walker assumesrnthat the reader already knows thernplots of her novels and is familiar withrnthe principal characters, as well as thernideology, that animates them. Without arnchapter summarizing the ideologicalrnand emotional context in which thernevents described took place, the cimiulativerneffect of Walker’s catalogue ofrnpurges, excommunications, aird betrayalsrnis to raise the inevitable question: Sornwhat? He quotes one of Rand’s excommunicatedrnacolytes as bitterly exclaimingrnthat her experience in the cult was “‘arnmajor traumatic life experience,’ itsrnsplendors attached to ‘a lot of agony.'”rnBut what about those splendors? Of thisrnthere is nothing, and so the great appealrnof the Rand cult remains mysterious.rnWalker notes that “nearly always, newrnconverts to Objectivism are young,” butrnfails even to speculate on why this is so.rnAlthough seriously flawed. The AynrnRand Cult does provide a useful servicernin debunking Rand’s claim to have inventedrnreason, individualism, and thernconcept of natural rights. While thisrnclaim may be absurd on its face, the oldrnsaw that any doctrine (no matter how deluded)rncan find at least some adherentsrnapplies to the libertarian movement inrnspades. The libertarian myth that, beforernRand, there was only Darkness and OldrnNight is as false as the conservative mythrnthat, before the founding oi National Review,rnthe American right did not exist,rnsave in sonre barely recognizable form.rnWalker also performs a public service inrnexposing Nathaniel Branden as a conrnman and a cad who not only exploitedrnRand financially, emotionally, and in everyrnother way, but had the gall to write arnmost unpleasant book about it.rnIn Walker’s book, Rand holds her followersrnin thrall by the sheer force of herrnpersonality and her indomitable will.rnYet they would never have fallen underrnher spell in the first place had not thernsheer narrative power of her novels madernthem susceptible to it. Like Rand’s contemporaryrnfollowers—and like Rand herselfrnafter the publication of AtlasrnS/irugged —Walker loses sight of thernartist and sees only the founder of a sect.rnHe cavalierly dismisses her fiction asrnthinly disginsed capitalist agitprop, andrnyet The Fountainhead^ihe story of arnprincipled architect who refuses to compromisernhis ideals —dramatizes thernessence of authentic individualism withoutrnany explicit reference to politics.rnWhile the literati were churning outrnslender novels about sensitive youngrnsouls in search of the ineffable, Rand hadrna vision of a sturdier and far healthier aesthetic.rnShe also had a great satiric sense,rna talent for drawing a devastating portraitrnwith just a few well-placed brushstrokes;rnthe young and adventurous were natural-rnIv drawn to her iconoclasm. And so thernsmoke from Walker’s scorched earth approachrnto his subject obscures the reallyrninteresting question about the Rand cult:rnHow could a movement ostensibly devotedrnto individualism become so miredrnin groupthink and dogmatism?rnJustin Raimondo writes from SanrnFrancisco.rnNatural Womanrnby Karina RollinsrnA Return to Modesty:rnDiscovering the Lost Virtuernby Wendy ShalitrnNew York: The Free Press;rn304 pp., $24.00rnWomen of the younger, liberatedrngeneration have been raised tornbelieve that being equal to men meansrnbeing the same as men. Thus, they tryrnhard to convince themselves that casualrnsex is harmless “fun” as long as they “playrnit safe.” In A Return to Modesty: Discoveringrnthe Lost Virtue, Wendy Shalit preseirtsrnthe radical notion that men andrnwomen are, yes, different. Men can engagernin sexual activity without becomiirgrnemotionally attached. Women, MissrnShalit observes, generally cannot.rnA young woman surrounded by casualrnsexuality all her life —from safesexrnlessons (which she boycotted) inrngrade school to young men and womenrn”hooking-up” serially and meaninglesslyrnthroughout college —Miss Shalit fails tornobser’e the suppression of anyone’s wishrnfor promiscuous sex. She is concernedrnthat society ignores the fact that mostrnwomen simply do not want as much randomrnsex as possible. Consequently, shernargues, women must often suppress theirrnhopes and dreams and pretend not to bernwhat they really are: women.rnThe reason women have to try so hardrnto be like men is because it does notrncome naturally, and women most oftenrnget hurt by giving their bodies to menrnwho do not care about their souls. Howrnunfair that men should have all the funrnwhen the sexual revolution promisedrnwomen that they could, too! But there isrnmethod in Mother Natme’s madness.rnWomen are, by nature, equipped withrn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn