Wednesday, September 24, 2014

At Large in the Library: Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week kicked off a few days ago, and it seemed a good time to mention Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.  Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript -- first titled Second-Hand Lives -- before Bobbs-Merrill finally released 7,500 copies on 6 May 1943.  The company's New York business manager felt that sales would never surpass more than 10,000 copies. Overall Bobbs-Merrill spent about $250,000 on promotions and within a few months Warner Brothers acquired the film rights.

The idea for the book stemmed from Rand's 1926 arrival to Manhattan; she later recalled that "there was one skyscraper that stood out ablaze like the finger of God, and it seemed to me that [it was] the greatest symbol of free man.... I made a mental note that someday I would write a novel with the skyscraper as a theme."

The novel's visionary architect-protagonist, Howard Roark, was widely believed to have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. There has been some recent speculation that Raymond Hood may have been the basis for the novel's other architect character Peter Keating.

The Fountainhead frequently appears on Top 100 lists of banned and challenged books.

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