Review: Facets of Ayn Rand: Memoirs

Facets of Ayn Rand: Memoirs Facets of Ayn Rand: Memoirs by Mary Ann Sures
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review is focused on both the book and audiobook. When you mention the name Howard Roark, Dagny Taggart, or especially John Galt, some people’s ears perk up, and devoted Ayn Rand’s fans stand to attention. These are the pillars of Rand’s two famous novels, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” These books formed the basis of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, objectivism. But what do we know of Ayn Rand, the person; not the demigod?

“Facet of Ayn Rand,” delivers a very personal venture from Mary Anne and Charles Sures, close family friends of Ayn Rand for many years. In this interview format audiobook, Charles and Mary Anne talk about their life with Ayn through a series of questions asked by a representative of the Ayn Rand Institute. Through their answers, listeners are given new lessons, new perspectives and some fun anecdotes in which add light to one’s view of Ayn.

Now fans and devotees of Ayn Rand will not necessarily love or hate this book. They will learn many things about her ideas and her personal life, but also may be bored with the more mundane details. For instance, the audiobook spends a decent amount of time talking about Ayn Rand’s cats. While pets can shed interesting light on people, extensive details about the care and life of a cat seem a bit excessive. The Sures’ spend too much time on Charles and Ayn’s stamp collection and how they sought stamps at stamp conventions. Getting to know the individual in detail is the purpose of a memoir like this, but to go into such inane detail about stamps or Mary Anne’s typewriter seems to be a bit excessive.

But Sures share some really great moments in this audiobook too, such as the night, Mary Anne Sures waited with Frank O’Connor and others in the living room, as Ayn Rand wrote the last page of “Atlas Shrugged.” She finely details the evening and listeners can truly delight in discovering what Ayn did during and after finishing her defining book.

The Sures also show a side of Rand that none of us have the opportunity to witness. We listen to the Sures talk about Rand cooking meals and making beds. They show us the profound love between Frank O’Connor and Ayn Rand. The Sures also talk about the effect of becoming a celebrity had on Ayn Rand.

Since the Ayn Rand Institute backed the project, the interviewer made no inquiries about the 15-year love affair between Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden. While the book should not fixate on scandals, avoiding all inquiries deprives listeners of a true depiction of the icon. Ayn never considered it scandalous.

The reader, Susan O’Malley, captures the both Charles and Mary Ann’s voice fantastically. She reads each response with a passion that followers of objectivism will relate to and admire. In addition, she properly places emphasis on certain passages adding a compelling feature to this audiobook often found lacking in other biographies.

While Rand went on to write other books about the philosophy of objectivism, she never really captures what it means to live with the philosophy on a day to day basis. In this, the Sures shine through by giving the listeners intimate details about Ayn’s daily actions and how she conducted herself both during intimate settings and while in the public eye. Through them, one learns certain subtleties of objectivism and how they can be used in everyday life. Several times, Mary Anne relates her discussions with Ayn about hard abstract concepts. Often, Ayn would break down such concepts right on the spot and through Mary, show listeners how they can best apply her philosophy.

The four hours of this audiobook has lots of information. Some of it will thrill fans and some should have been omitted, but the audiobook does do justice to its title. The listener learns about different facets of Ayn Rand rather than just sticking with a particular theme or storyline. Through Mary Anne and Charles, one gains a better understanding of Ayn Rand and greater insight and appreciation of her work.

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