Ayn Rand Ideal: The Novel and the Play

ISBN 13: 9781504644044

Ideal: The Novel and the Play

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9781504644044: Ideal: The Novel and the Play
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[Read by Christopher Lane and Robin Field]

[Introduction by Leonard Peikoff]

Author Ayn Rand's novel Ideal, in print for the first time ever -- a landmark event for fans of the groundbreaking philosopher.

Originally conceived as a novel but then transformed into a play by Ayn Rand, Ideal is the story of beautiful but tormented actress Kay Gonda. Accused of murder, she is on the run and turns for help to six fans who have written letters to her, each telling her that she represents their ideal -- a respectable family man, a far-left activist, a cynical artist, an evangelist, a playboy, and a lost soul. Each reacts to her plight in his own way, providing a glimpse into their secret selves and their true values. In the end their responses to her pleas give Kay the answers she has been seeking.

Ideal was written in 1934 as a novel, but Ayn Rand thought the theme of the piece would be better realized as a play and put the novel aside. Now both versions of Ideal are available for the first time ever to the millions of Ayn Rand fans around the world, giving them a unique opportunity to explore the creative process of Rand as she wrote first a book, then a play, and the differences between the two.

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About the Author:

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was born in Russia, graduated from the University of Leningrad, and came to the United States in 1926. She published her first novel in 1936. With the publication of The Fountainhead in 1943, she achieved a spectacular and enduring success, and her unique philosophy, Objectivism, gained a worldwide following.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

“If it’s murder—why don’t we hear more about it? If it’s not— why do we hear so much? When interviewed on the subject, Miss Frederica Sayers didn’t say yes, and she didn’t say no. She has refused to give out the slightest hint as to the manner of her brother’s sudden death. Granton Sayers died in his Santa Bar­bara mansion two days ago, on the night of May 3rd. On the evening of May 3rd Granton Sayers had dinner with a famous—oh, very famous—screen star. That is all we know.

“Sorry we can’t give you any lower low-down— but we can suggest a few questions—if they have not occurred to you al­ready. It would be interesting to know where that enchanting siren of the screen was on the night of May 3rd—after dinner. Or where she has been ever since. And if—as Miss Frederica Sayers maintains--there is nothing to whisper about, why are there such persistent rumors linking that certain famous name with the death of the great oil king of the West? All of which leaves Miss Frederica in the position of the West’s oil queen and sole heiress to the Sayers millions—if any.

“Now, to change the subject. Many readers have called in inquiring as to the present whereabouts of Kay Gonda. This lovely lady of the screen has been absent from her Hollywood home for the last two days and the studio moguls refuse to re­veal the why and the where. Some suspicious persons are whis­pering that the said moguls do not know it themselves.”

The City Editor of the Los Angeles Courier sat down on the desk of Irving Ponts. Irving Ponts wore an eternal smile, wrote “This and That,” star column of the Los Angeles Courier, and had a stomach which interfered with his comfort when he sat down. The City Editor trans­ferred his pencil from the right corner of his mouth to the left, and asked:

“On the level, Irv, do you know where she is?”

“Search me,” said Irving Ponts.

“Are they looking for her?”

“Ditto,” said Irving Ponts.

“Have they filed charges against her in Santa Barbara?”


“What did your police friends say?”

“That,” said Irving Ponts, “wouldn’t do you any good, because you couldn’t print where they told me to go.”

“You don’t really think she did it, do you, Irv? Because why the hell would she do it?”

“No reason,” said Irving Ponts. “Except, is there ever any reason for anything Kay Gonda does?”|

The City Editor called Morrison Pickens.

Morrison Pickens looked as if in the sparse six feet of his body there were not a single bone, and only a miracle kept it upright, preventing it from flopping softly into a huddle. He had a cigarette which only a miracle kept hanging listlessly in the corner of his mouth. He had a coat thrown over his shoulders, which only a miracle kept from sliding down his back, and a cap with a visor that stood like a halo halfway up his skull.

“Take a little trip to the Farrow Film Studios,” said the City Editor, “and see what you can see.”

“Kay Gonda?” asked Morrison Pickens.

“Kay Gonda, if you can,” said the City Editor. “If not, just try to pick up something about where she is at present.”

Morrison Pickens struck a match on the sole of the City Editor’s shoe, but changed his mind and threw the match into a wastebasket, picked up a pair of scissors, and cleaned his thumbnail thoughtfully.

“Uh- uh,” said Morrison Pickens. “Shall I also try to find out who killed Rothstein1 and whether there is any life after death?”

“Get there before lunch,” said the City Editor. “See what they say and how they say it.”

Morrison Pickens drove to the Farrow Film Studios. He drove down a crowded street of little shops, shrunken and dried in the sun, with dusty window panes ready to push one another out of the tight, grim row. Behind the panes he could see everything men needed, every­thing they lived for: stiff dresses with rhinestone butterflies, jars of strawberry jam and cans of tomatoes, floor mops and lawn mowers, cold cream and aspirin and a famous cure for gas in the stomach. Men passed by, weary, hurried, indifferent, hair sticking to hot, wet fore­heads. And it seemed as if the greatest of human miseries was not of those who could not afford to enter the shops and buy, but of those who could.

Over a little movie theater with a yellow brick front, a blank mar­quee, and a circle bearing a huge 15 cents in tarnished tinsel, stood the cardboard figure of a woman. She stood erect, her shoulders thrown back, and her short blond hair was like a bonfire snapped at the height of a furious storm— ferocious tangle of hair over a slim body. She had pale, transparent eyes and a large mouth that looked like the mouth of an idol of an animal that had been sacred. There was no name under the figure, but the name was not necessary, for every passerby on every street of the world knew the name and the wild blond hair and the fragile body. It was Kay Gonda.

The figure was half naked under its scant garment, but no one no­ticed that. No one looked at it conventionally and no one snickered. She stood, her head thrown back, her arms limp at her sides, palms up, helpless and frail, surrendering herself and imploring something far away, high over the blank marquee and over the roofs, as a flame held straight for an insight in an unknown wind, as a last plea rising from every roof, and every shop window, and every weary heart far under her feet. And passing the theater, no one did, but everyone wanted dimly to take off his hat.

Morrison Pickens had seen one of her pictures last evening. He had sat for an hour and a half without moving, and if breathing had re­quired attention, he would have forgotten to breathe. From the screen, a huge white face had looked at him, a face with a mouth one wished one could wish to kiss, and eyes that made one wonder— wonder which was pain—just what it was they were seeing. He felt as if there was something—deep in his brain, behind everything he thought and everything he was—which he did not know, but she knew, and he wished he did, and wondered whether he could ever know it, and should he, if he could, and why he wished it. He thought that she was just a woman and an actress, but he thought this only before he entered the theater and after he left it; while he looked at her on the screen, he thought differently; he thought that she was not a human being at all, not the kind of human being he’d seen around him all his life, but the kind no one ever knew—and should. When he looked at her, it made him feel guilty, but it also made him feel young—and clean—and very proud. When he looked at her, he understood why ancient peoples had made statues of gods in the image of man.

No one knew for certain who Kay Gonda was. There were people who said they remembered her when she was sixteen and working in a corset shop in Vienna. She wore a dress too short for her long, thin legs, with sleeves too short for her pale, thin arms. She moved behind the counter with a nervous swiftness that made people think that she be­longed in a zoo, rather than in a little shop with starched white curtains and a smell of stale lard. No one called her beautiful. Men never ap­proached her and landladies were eager to throw her out when she was behind in her rent. She spent long days fitting girdles to customers, her thin white fingers lacing strings tightly over heavy folds of flesh. The customers complained that her eyes made them uncomfortable.

There were also those who remembered her two years later when she worked as a maid in a disreputable hotel on a dark side street of Vienna. They remembered her walking down the stairs, holes glaring in the heels of her black cotton stockings, an old blouse gaping open at her throat. Men tried to speak to her, but she did not listen. Then, one night, she listened. He was a tall man with a hard mouth and eyes too observant ever to allow her to be happy; he was a famous film director who had not come to the hotel to see the maid. The woman who owned the place shrugged with indignation when she heard the maid laughing loudly, brutally, at the words the man whispered to her. But the great director denied vehemently the story of where he had discovered Kay Gonda, his greatest star.

In Hollywood she wore plain, dark dresses designed by a French­man whose salary could have financed an insurance concern. Her man­sion was entered through a long gallery of white marble columns, and her butler served cocktails in tall, narrow glasses. She walked as if the carpets and the stairs and the sidewalks rolled softly, soundlessly, from under the suspicion of her foot’s touch. Her hair never looked combed. She shrugged her shoulders with a gesture that was a convulsion, and little bluish shadows played between her shoulder blades when she wore long, backless evening gowns. Everyone envied her. No one said she was happy.

Morrison Pickens swung his long legs over the side of his open roadster and shuffled up the polished steps to the reception desk of the Farrow Film Studios. He said to the young man behind the desk, who had a face pink and stern as frozen strawberry custard:

“Pickens. Of the Courier. Want to see Mr. Farrow.”

“Did you have an appointment?”

“Nope. That won’t make any difference—today.”

It didn’t.

“Go right in, sir,” said the young man eagerly, dropping the receiver on the answer of Mr. Farrow’s secretary.

Mr. Farrow had three secretaries. The first one sat at a desk at a bronze railing, and she smiled icily, swinging the bronze gate open into an archway with a desk with three telephones and a secretary who rose to open a mahogany door into an office where a secretary rose to say:

“Go right in, Mr. Pickens.”

Anthony Farrow sat at a desk lost in a vast, white ballroom. It had leaded windows the height of three floors. It had a white statue of a Madonna in a niche. It had a huge crystal globe of the world on a white marble pedestal. It had a white satin chaise longue which looked as if no one had ever approached it; no one had. It was Mr. Farrow’s prize possession—and it was reported to have adorned, in days gone by, the boudoir of Empress Josephine.

Mr. Farrow had brownish-golden hair far at the back of his head and brownish-golden eyes. His suit matched the darkest thread of his hair, and his shirt—the lightest. He said: “Good morning, Mr. Pickens. Please sit down. I am delighted to see you,” and extended an open box of cigars with a gesture worthy of the best close- p in a film of high society.

Mr. Pickens sat down and took a cigar.

“Of course,” said Mr. Farrow, “you realize that it is nothing but a lot of preposterous nonsense.”

“What is?” asked Morrison Pickens.

“The gossip to which I owe the honor of your visit. The gossip about Miss Gonda.”

“Oh,” said Morrison Pickens.

“My dear fellow, you must know how utterly ridiculous it is. I had hoped that your paper, a reputable paper like yours, would help us to prevent the spread of these totally unfounded rumors.”

“That’s easy, Mr. Farrow. It’s up to you. The rumors being totally unfounded, you know, of course, where Miss Gonda happens to be, don’t you?”

“Consider for a moment that wild story, Mr. Pickens. Granton Sayers—well, you know Granton Sayers. A fool, if I may be permitted to say so, a fool with the reputation of a genius—which is always the case with fools, isn’t it? Fifty million dollars three years ago. Today—who knows? Perhaps fifty thousand. Perhaps fifty cents. But cut crystal swimming pools and a Greek temple in his garden. Ah, yes, and Kay Gonda. An expensive little plaything or art work—according to how you want to look at it. Kay Gonda, that is, two years ago. Not today. Oh, no, not today. I know for certain that she had not seen Sayers for over a year previous to that dinner in Santa Barbara we’ve all heard about.”

“So the romance was all over? Cold as ice?”

“Colder, Mr. Pickens.”

“Sure of that?”

“Positive, Mr. Pickens.”

“But perhaps there had been a quarrel between them, some quarrel which . . .”

“None, Mr. Pickens. Never. He had proposed to her three times to my knowledge. She could have had him, Greek temple and oil wells and all, any day she wished. Why would she want to kill him?”

“Why would she want to disappear?”

“Mr. Pickens, may I reverse the procedure of an interview with the press—and ask you a question?”

“Certainly, Mr. Farrow.”

“Who in . . . who on earth started those rumors?”

“That,” said Morrison Pickens, “is what I thought you could tell me, Mr. Farrow.”

“It’s preposterous, Mr. Pickens, worse than preposterous. It’s vi­cious. Hints, whispers, questions. All over town. If I could see any point in it, I’d say someone was spreading it intentionally.”

“Who would have a reason to do that?”

“That’s just it, Mr. Pickens. No one. Miss Gonda hasn’t got an enemy in the world.”

“Has she a friend?”

“Why, of course, why—no,” said Mr. Farrow suddenly, his voice earnest and puzzled by its own statement, “no, she hasn’t.” The way he looked at Morrison Pickens was real, simple helplessness. “Why did you ask that?”

“Why do you answer it like that?” asked Morrison Pickens.

“I . . . I don’t know,” said Mr. Farrow. “I’d never thought of it be­fore, it just struck me suddenly that she hasn’t really got a single friend in the world. Unless it’s Mick Watts, who nobody could call a friend to anybody. Oh, well,” he added, shrugging, “perhaps it’s only natural. How can you think of friendship with a woman like that? She looks at you, but doesn’t really see you at all. She sees something else, no one can guess what. She speaks to you—when she speaks, which isn’t often— and you don’t really know what she’s thinking. Sometimes I’m sure that she doesn’t think what we think at all, you and I. Things don’t mean the same to her as to the rest of us. But what they mean and what she means— ho can tell? And, actually, who cares?”

“About seventy million people or so, judging by your box office re­ports.”

“Ah, yes. Which, perhaps, is all that matters. They worship her, millions of them. It’s not admiration. It’s not just fan enthusiasm. It’s much more than that. It’s worship. I don’t know what she does to them all—but she does something.”

“And how will her public react to—murder?”

“It’s incredible, Mr. Pickens, it’s fantastic. How can anyone believe it for a moment?”

“No one would believe it for a moment if Miss Gonda hadn’t disap­peared.”

“But, Mr. Pickens, she hasn’t disappeared.”

“Where is she?”

“She always wants to be alone when she’s getting ready for a new picture. She’s at one of her beach homes, studying her new part.”


“Really, Mr. Pickens, we can’t have her disturbed.”

“Supposing we were to try and find her. Would you stop us?”

“Certainly not, Mr. Pickens. Far be it from us to interfere with the press.”

Morrison Pickens got up. He said:

“Fine, Mr. Farrow. We’ll try.”

Mr. Farrow got up. He said:

“Fine, Mr. Pickens. I wish you luck.”

Morrison Pickens was at the door, when Mr. Farrow added:

“By the way, Mr. Pickens, if you are successful, could I ask you the favor of letting us know? You understand, we wouldn...

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