My Housemate Explains THE FOUNTAINHEAD to Me

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Alex Acks

Contributing Editor

Alex Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. They've written for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Alex lives in Denver with their two furry little bastards, where they twirl their mustache, watch movies, and bike. Twitter: @katsudonburi Website:

the fountainhead by ayn rand coverI’ll admit it. When I saw the news that Zack Snyder is going to make a movie of The Fountainhead cross my Twitter stream, I did some loud, awful hyena-laughing. If you’ve watched many of his movies, his love affair with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism (particularly the rational self-interest and capitalism bits) has been there all along, lurking just below his trademark timeline ramping in action scenes. I thought he’d hit Peak Objectivism in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice when he finished his character assassination of the Kents by having Martha Kent say: “Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be…or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.”

But now he’s making the honest-to-goodness Ayn Rand film he’s always wanted instead of reminding us constantly that he doesn’t understand Superman as a character, so I guess that’s good? Only I haven’t read The Fountainhead, because I believe in practicing self care, so I wasn’t sure if the book could really provide the level of explosions and still-shot-ready action sequences that we’re used to getting from Zack Snyder.

So I decided to ask my housemate. To be fair to her, she is also not a fan of Ayn Rand. (Boy is she not.) But she read The Fountainhead when she was a teenager, for the same reason teenagers read a lot of books that they end up wanting to set on fire: her English teacher made her.

And what is The Fountainhead about? Take it away, housemate:

The Fountainhead is about an architect named Roark, and I only remember his name because people keep naming their fucking pit bulls after him. He is the first “modern” architect—think Frank Lloyd Wright, at least who that’s based off of. He has a friend, Utterly Forgettable Dude, who only bases his stuff off of older work, because he has no creativity. Utterly Forgettable Dude keeps getting hired by really big businesses to make their great buildings. He does it, but he always has to get his work checked by Roark, who cleans it up and makes it more presentable. So he becomes very successful, but he knows it’s based off a little fraud, because he stole all his good ideas from Roark.

I mean, don’t we all have terrible coworkers who are a little like this?

Meanwhile, Roark takes single commissions for very unique buildings. And he does them in a way that blows everyone’s minds! A lot of people don’t like it, but some really love it.

The middle of the book is kind of a blur. Roark continues to eat, despite not getting very many commissions—somehow he can still turn down work when it’s not to his artistic vision. I think he has a rich patron?

Something something capitalism something, I suppose. This is the natural state of artists, being showered by the gifts of the rich because our genius shines through and people, as we know, love giving artists money. (They don’t.)

At this point, I will note, housemate is clenching one of her hands in a fist as she continues to narrate into the depths of this book.

Utterly Forgettable Dude gets lots of work and becomes very rich. But none of his work is…original. Somehow, he gets commissioned to build a landmark, low-income housing thingy. He comes up with some really terrible concepts for it. And one final time, he asks Roark for help. Roark says, “I will do it, but it must be exactly the way I plan it. No variation allowed!”

Housemate is now clenching both of her hands. Her brows draw together in displeasure.

Roark designs an amazing, efficient, cost-effective, low-incoming housing building. Utterly Forgettable Dude presents it to his superiors, who accept it with some minor change…I think they want to put Greek columns on it or some shit. Utterly Forgettable Dude bows to pressure. It is built.

The day before it opens, Roark sneaks on site and lays down explosives…I think he does actually blow up the building. I think he exposes Utterly Forgettable Dude as a fraud? But I don’t really remember. Everybody acknowledges Roark’s amazing genius.

Well, now we know where Zack Snyder will get his one explosion for the movie. I hope he milks it for all it’s worth. I can only guess all the other timeline ramping will happen during intense scenes of architectural drawing, where perhaps Roark dashes his blue pencils and architectural scale to the floor, frustrated that no one understands his genius.

The moral of the story is: some people are inherently better than others, and you should just let them do their thing. Never ask them to compromise. And also destroying housing for poor people is a good thing? As long as it’s not aesthetically everything you want.

Imagine me staring into the camera here like I’m on The Office.

Housemate notes that this book is also 700 pages long, and that there were probably other characters, but they were even more forgettable than Utterly Forgettable Dude.

I count my lucky stars that I didn’t go to the same high school as my housemate. And that I will never feel the need to read this book, not that I did before.

ninefox gambitBut hopefully her suffering will save others from her fate. Read a better book. My housemate recommends, her hands and voice shaking with passion, that if you want to read about a character who is The Best at something but isn’t a total annoying turd, go for Nine Fox Gambit, or failing that, “literally any other book ever.”

(If you would like to commiserate with my housemate or gently pet her hair while telling her that objectivism is all a bad dream and can no longer hurt her, you can find her on Twitter at @zeteram.)