|Tom Fulton, the executive producer of On the Arts|
For a few years, I flogged the proposal to various publishers but many were worried that there were too many people from different backgrounds (i.e. Margaret Atwood sitting alongside Oliver Stone). Another publisher curiously chose to reject it because, to them, it appeared to be a book about me promoting my interviews (as if I was trying to be a low-rent Larry King) rather than seeing it as a commentary on the decade through the eyes of the guests. All told, the book soon faded away and I turned to other projects. However, when recently uncovering the original proposal and sample interviews, I felt that maybe some of them could find a new life on Critics at Large.
In the chapter Icons Revisited, I included a number of writers who re-examined past iconic figures whose personalities still continued to overshadow the decade. Some of the writers included historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on the Kennedy family, John Malcolm Brinnin on Truman Capote, Heather Robertson's fictionalized biographies on former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, former leftist activist (now neo-conservative) David Horowitz who, along with Peter Collier, wrote a riveting and complex study of the Ford family empire, and Barbara Branden on the controversial author Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged), a writer whose work has had a strong influence on the current Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism illicits a strong reaction from just about everyone who reads her work (especially young adolescents who identify with her heroes' battles against conformity and mediocrity). Yet most of us know little of Rand's personal life. Barbara Branden, who along with her husband Nathaniel, became one of her early followers and closest friends in 1950. (Branden and her former husband also co-founded the Nathaniel Branden Institute which gave courses on Rand's philosophy.) In 1954, however, Nathaniel began a secret romantic affair with Rand with the reluctant permission of both their spouses (Barbara and Frank O'Connor). Rand terminated her association with Nathaniel Branden by 1968 however after she discovered that he had become involved with actress Patricia Scott more than four years earlier. She likewise disassociated herself from Barbara Branden for keeping this fact from her.
In 1986, Barbara Branden wrote a memoir, The Passion of Ayn Rand (Doubleday), that not only unveiled this polarizing figure, she also illustrated the perils of blind faith and idolatry. The book later became an Emmy-award winning film in 1999 with Helen Mirren portraying Ayn Rand, and Eric Stoltz as Nathaniel and Julie Delpy as Barbara.