Friday, March 24, 2006

The Passion of Barbara Branden

Some years ago I was reading the manuscript to Barbara Branden's biography of Ayn Rand. Rand's former assistant, Bob Hessen, called me up saying he heard I had the manuscript. He wanted to read it. I put him in touch with the publisher. At the time he was the official bookservice for the rump of Rand's Objectivist movement. A few months later, when the book was published, I brought Barbara into town to speak and to promote her book. For the first time in decades Bob Hessen saw Barbara again and even introduced her to the audience.

Of late some individuals, each with their own personal agenda, have tried to denigrate Barbara's biography. Well, Hessen has defended the biography reminding people he was there and knew the facts from first hand experience.

I remember having the manuscript sitting on a table one time at work. A woman came in off the street and saw it. She sat down and started reading. And kept on reading for over an hour. She left and in minutes was back and spent several more hours reading. And then she came up to me: "I was there," she said. She then recounted how she attended meetings in Rand's apartment and witnessed the things discussed in the book. She confirmed that the book matched her experiences and was accurate.

Ayn Rand could be brillant and frustrating. She did more to inspire people toward liberty, and turn them off from it, than any one person I can think of in recent decades. My appraisal is that Barbara's book is about as accurate as one can expect. I know Barbara to be someone deeply appreciative of Rand, and if anyone has the right to be bitter, it is she. I may not always agree with her, and have had some strong disagreements, but I believe she is a honest observer who writes as factually as possible when describing what she herself witnessed. I don't think she has an agenda. I can't say the same thing for some of her critics.

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