St. Francis of Millbrook; Ayn Rand (Hour 3)


Growing up gay: Luke Simcoe loved growing up on a farm. But he also loved Madonna and his belly-button ring, which didn't sit well with his father. Kevin Sylvester travelled to the village of Millbrook, Ontario, to talk with playwright Sky Gilbert about his new play, St. Francis of Millbrook. It chronicles growing up gay in rural Canada.

Ayn Rand: Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right tells Michael Enright why the most idiosyncratic defender of capitalism still holds sway for millions, including the current Republican vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

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Ayn Rand

Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan may be the newest face in the race for the White House, but it's his zeal for Ayn Rand that has shocked - and delighted - so many in the United States.

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg in 1905, the daughter of Zenovy and Anna Rosenbaum. She was a wilful and truly intelligent child who endured in anguish as her family was crushed by the Russian revolution of 1917.

The experience of watching her entrepreneurial father lose all he had built up over the years eventually turned her into one of the twentieth century's fiercest critics of communism. But before that all happened, there was emigration to the U.S., a name change to Ayn Rand, a successful career in Hollywood as a screenwriter, and the publication of two novels that arguably changed U.S. politics, economics, and philosophy.

Her fans adore her, her critics are apoplectic. Depending on where you fit, fan or foe, her novels and essays are unreadable drivel - or the most compelling, inspiring and life-changing writing imaginable.

To outsiders, Rand, her supporters, and the objectivism movement have all the hallmarks of a cult. To believers, they are the vanguard of a true capitalist revolution. When Ayn Rand died in 1981, most believed her philosophy would die with her, but the sceptics are being proven wrong. 

In 2008, the novel Atlas Shrugged, a one-thousand-page celebration of the virtues of capitalism, sold 200-thousand copies in the U.S. alone. In 2009, sales were triple that, and it briefly eclipsed Barack Obama on the bestseller list. Not bad for a book that's been in print since 1957. 

Today, Ayn Rand is enjoying even more of a resurgence. Her books continue to sell, there are at least two new biographies - and she's the intellectual hero of a guy who could be the next vice-president of the United States. 

Jennifer Burns is an assistant professor of history at Stanford University, and she's the author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. She spoke with Michael Enright in February, 2010.

Music in Hour Three

Summer Afternoons, by Richard Moody

Indian Summer, performed by the Hot Club of Calgary

Old Panama, by Heillig Manoeuvre

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