Two Authors: Big Impact

January 24, 2018


 When I read Ayn Rand’s first major literary success, The Fountainhead, many years ago, I was overwhelmed. It was published in 1943 and is still selling like hotcakes. “It’s reprinted regularly,” said the young sales clerk at Barnes & Noble as he showed me shelf-after-shelf of her books on the fourth floor of the Union Square store.

Originally, the book was to be published by Knopf, but Rand couldn’t finish it quickly enough to meet their deadline. Archibald Ogden, an editor at Bobbs-Merrill, risked his job to get the powers that be to accept it (the book had been rejected by twelve publishers).

It should be noted here that twelve major publishers in England rejected the first Harry Potter book before it was accepted by Bloomsbury, a leading independent publishing house.

I remember that Rand’s 752-page book was a formidable challenge, but I hung in and read the entire saga of the brave, visionary architect, Howard Roark, (really Frank Lloyd Wright) who refused to compromise. Rand created a strong-willed character that would never bend to others – risking everything. In 1949, the book was made into a black-and-white film featuring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. Of course, Ayn Rand, a tough-minded Russian-American, who had a worldwide audience, wrote the screenplay.  


I hadn’t thought about Ayn Rand, her books or teachings for years. And then in a November 2016 issue of Vanity Fair I came across an article that stopped me cold. (My research system for ADEA is this: I rip, snip and click everything of interest. Then I chuck all of it into a huge envelope – totally disorganized, but it works for me.)

The title of this piece is The Rand Pack and the author is Nick Bilton. This is his story. “I had a meeting with Jack Dorsey shortly after he had been kicked out (for the first time) of his startup, Twitter. He was close to broke. Then at Burning Man,” Bilton relates, “I was introduced to a Travis who, I was told, worked for a new startup called Uber. This company is now worth $68 billion, while Dorsey runs two public companies and sits on the board of Disney. In Silicon Valley, things happen fast.”


Bilton reports that Steve Wozniak has suggested that Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was one of Steve Job’s “guides in life.” And, for a time, Travis Kalanick’s Twitter avatar featured the cover of The Fountainhead.

Later, I was taken aback when I read this anecdote about Peter Thiel, whose battle with Gawker led him to underwrite a lawsuit that killed the site. It seems he is also a Rand devotee. Her beliefs state that it’s okay to have a win-at-all-costs mentality. To rephrase: The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. Or, according to the creator of Facebook, “Move fast and break things.”


 Billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal


Sixty years ago, Simon & Schuster published Eloise, a marvelous tale about a precocious six-year-old who lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Now, this tome is like an oil well. It just keeps going year after year after year. The author, Kay Thompson was a singer, dancer, vocal coach and actress who lived at the Plaza and created the character that was brought to life by the incredibly talented Hilary Knight’s illustrations.

Hilary Knight with his most famous creation – the delightful Eloise

My curiosity was peaked when I came across a book titled, Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise by Sam Irvin. In the forties she had a club act that was a “must see” among the industry’s “who’s who.” Then she became an author with her best-selling Eloise series (a total of four books). She also appeared in the movie Funny Face (1957) in a role inspired by real-life editor, Diana Vreeland.


These two authors are very different but, they do have one thing in common: both have written books that have been in print for well over 50 years – and may go on for another 50.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick 

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