R(yan) (Andr)ew

One of the two books I was waiting has arrived:

The name of the writer was obviously inspired to the main character of a popular computer game released in 2008.

The first cover is the book I actually received. The second is the version I decided to order later (after deeming the book worthy), as I explained that I like to hunt on the internet particular editions of the books. First the UK paperback from Penguin Classics, and next the centennial US edition that is just too classy to not buy. Hoping that Amazon doesn’t mess up and sends me the other ugly cover.

I have a lot of curiosity for the book and the introduction already won me over. Thought provoking and ambitious. Culturally and ideally I can’t be further from the objectivism philosophy, so it’s a kind of challenge.

The introduction is written by Rand herself, 25 years after the book was first published. It starts explaining that most writers write “on the range of the moment”, meaning that most books are meant to vanish shortly after. While her intent was to write through Romanticism to reach some universal concepts and values of human existence that would stay actual.

I do not mean to imply that I knew, when I wrote it, that The Fountainhead would remain in print for twenty-five years. I did not think of any specific time period. I knew only that it was a book that ought to live. It did.

Particularly impressive as I’m holding the book in 2009, so more than 65 years after the book was first published.

The whole introduction, spanning eight pages, is interesting and thought provoking. I’ll quote a few short passages and the whole last page, that is a masterpiece on its own:

I want to see, real, living, and in the hours of my own days, that glory I create as an illusion. I want it real.

There was one evening, during the writing of The Fountainhead, when I felt so profound an indignation at the state of “things as they are” that it seemed as if I would never regain the energy to move one step farther toward “things as they ought be”.

I have been asked whether I have changed in these past twenty-five years. No, I am the same – only more so. Have my ideas changed? No, my fundamental convictions, my view of life and of man, have never changed, from as back as I can remember, but my knowledge of their applications has grown, in scope and in precision.

This view of man has rarely been expressed in human history. Today, it is virtually non-existent. Yet this is the view with which – in various degrees of longing, wistfulness, passion and agonized confusion – the best of mankind’s youth start out in life. It is not even a view, for most of them, but a foggy, groping, undefined sense of raw pain and incommunicable happiness. It is a sense of enormous expectation, the sense that one’s life is important, that great achievements are within one’s capacity, and that great things lie ahead.
It is not in the nature of man – nor of any living entity – to start out by giving up, by spitting in one’s own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption whose rapidity differs from man to man. Some give up at the first touch of pressure; some sell out; some run down by imperceptible degrees and lose their fire, never knowing when or how they lost it. Then all of these vanish in the vast swamp of their elders who tell them persistently that maturity consists of abandoning one’s mind; security, of abandoning one’s values; practicality, of losing self-esteem. Yet a few hold on and move on, knowing that that fire is not to be betrayed, learning how to give it shape, purpose and reality. But whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man’s nature and of life’s potential.
There are very few guideposts to find. The Fountainhead is one of them.
This is one of the cardinal reasons of The Fountainhead‘s lasting appeal; it is a confirmation of the spirit of youth, proclaiming man’s glory, showing how much is possible.
It does not matter that only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of man’s proper stature – and that the rest will betray it. It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning – and it is those few that I have always sought to address. The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me or The Fountainhead that they will betray; it is their own souls.

EDIT: A day later and I received the other book this edition of Atlas Shrugged. Uhm, do not buy this edition. They crammed 51 lines of text on the same page, and some pages don’t even have line spacing. Just solid rectangles of tiny text. 1000+ pages of dense text. In mass market this is just not readable, I’ll have to find the centennial paperback for this too, but it can wait.

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New mmorpg(?) I might try

It’s here.

Two things:

– Good mindset.
– Good dev presence (and not just for shit and giggles) on the forums.

The downside is that it’s not cheap for a “game” so low on bandwidth and related maintenance costs.

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GRRM and the neverending delays

With the beginning of new year I was at least expecting an update about the status of the book. Good news, bad news, even the same rhetorical lines, I was only hoping in some kind of update to know where he stands. I expected it because the last one was written the 1st January 08, where he wrote he was hoping to finish the book before the summer. Then the summer arrived and it became obvious that he was not yet done (like Iktovian). One year later, not yet done still. But I was at least hoping that he would write us a page. Not of apologies, just of honest update.

As always there are plenty of fans that defend GRRM and the books, and justify every kind of delay as something ultimately good. The arguments are usually two. The first is that more time equals to a better book. The second comes right from GRRM, saying that in the next years it won’t matter when the books came out or how long it took to write them, but just their quality. Meaning that he wants to write for future readers as he wants for current ones, and he cares more about doing the thing right than do it in time.

I write about this because I kind of disagree with both arguments. Against the first I already argued many times. Statistically it seems that the best books from an author or in a series are the ones that took LESS time to write. When the author starts to struggle and need more and more time to complete a book, said book is usually disappointing and below expectations when it is out. Specifically I also believe that more than time = quality, the more meaningful equivalence is: necessity = quality. If you look at the past of Fantasy and Science Fiction genre you see a number of writers that at the time wrote for specialized magazines. They wrote to make money and eat, out of necessity. This means that they HAD to write quickly and favor quantity over quality. Today that time is considered a Golden Age. Only few writers have the luxury to break deadlines without worries and I believe that this can be useful as it can be detrimental. Sometimes better things come out of a scarcity and strong determination, opposed to the whimsical, fickle inspiration.

The other aspect is about considering the book outside its time. Tolkien is still popular today, as are plenty of other classics. It’s the vocation of every writer to transcend time and embrace immortality. The book is in itself immanent and defying time. But at the same time I consider this an unrespectful claim. If you truly like a genre, you hope it to flourish. You’ll try to write books the best you can, you’ll hope to reach people and have success, but you ought also to be willingly to see it exist and flourish WITHOUT you. I don’t know where the genre will go, if it will expand or slowly fade into a niche. A lot depends on how the culture goes. As long there’s a focused interest, good things will continue to come out. So, sure, let’s hope that Martin finishes the book and it kicks ass, and then completes the series in the way he wants. But I also sure hope that in the next years new writers will come that will try to match and even surpass Martin. I think that ultimately that should be the hope, that the apprentice surpasses the master.

If that doesn’t happen then the genre is as good as dead, and the role of the master diminished.