Flannery O’Connor, God rest her acerbic soul, said this about Ayn Rand:
I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re: fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky. (The Habit of Being, h/t Anna Williams at First Thoughts).
I’d concur, and say similar about Dan Brown. In fact, considering both…authors? …together is instructive. In terms of content, in both we are dealing with ideologies far removed from reality. There’s lots to be said about an ever-expanding State creating a culture of dependency, but Rand’s remedy is antihuman as it’s rooted not in any serious reflection on nature, society, or the human person, but rather in an ideology (philosophy is self-critical) of the unlimited actualization of desire for those with the power to do so. So too with Brown: the history recounted in The Da Vinci Code is wildly false, driven by ideological commitments.
What’s more disturbing, though, is how both authors damage the genre of the novel and how their works diminish the sensitivities and sensibilities of their readers, reducing their ability to perceive beauty. Ultimately such works occlude God not (just) through their content but through their form. As Amy Welborn once wrote:
One of the most lasting bits of damage that DVC [=The Da Vinci Code] has wrought, I think, is the diminishment of our sensibilities. The ‘faith issues’ it claims to grapple with are a crude, cheap gimmick. It’s diminished the way too many of its readers view history, religion and art, as, in regard to the latter, the DVC devotees swarm over Europe, novels firmly in hand, looking for clues for secrets that were never told, much less kept, blinded to the real beauty and mystery right in front of them.
You can say the same thing about Rand’s novels and the human person.
UPDATE: Ed Morrisey, a conservative Catholic blogger writing about the Catholic Left’s estimation of Paul Ryan, writes the following:
People wondering about Ryan’s relationship with Catholic voters usually results from Ryan’s attempts to restructure federal spending, or his supposed devotion to Ayn Rand. The last question is easiest to answer, since I’ve read Rand and admired the ideas in Atlas Shrugged while rejecting completely the philosophies of objectivism and atheism Rand embraced. One hardly needs to be an atheist to appreciate limited government, especially after the HHS contraception mandate being imposed on religious organizations and charities. Reading Atlas Shrugged and appreciating the wisdom of limited government is not an excommunicating act in the Catholic Church, I assure you.
Well, maybe the former should be. Being that as it may, this illustrates what I’m talking about. I’m not sure how one can admire the ideas in Atlas Shrugged and then turn around and reject the philosophies that are the ideas in Atlas Shrugged. One can appreciate limited government as a conservative, but one would take better cues from folks like Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk.