Dedication To Ayn Rand
Every novelist, it seems, has a mentor, dead or alive. A man or a woman whose literary accomplishments and personal influence lit the fire within and kept it burning through trial, error and insensitive reviews.
Ayn Rand was very much alive during the period of my life when I first considered transitioning out of the practice of law into full-time writing.
It was during the 1960s, roughly six years after my husband and I had graduated from New York University Law School, that we represented Ayn Rand. Due to the unorthodox nature of that representation (professional consultations at her apartment during the evening instead of normal business hours at our midtown Manhattan office), what would start out as a down-and-dirty session dissecting legal problems invariably would end in fascinating discourses by Rand on the art of fiction writing — her own and others she admired.
At some indefinable point during these ongoing sessions, the hours we spent on the law became, for me, far less scintillating than the ones devoted to fiction writing. More often than not, a discussion begun at eight in the evening would break up at three or four in the morning. Even at that ungodly hour, my state of exhilaration was such that my husband practically had to drag me home as a still-animated Ayn saw us to the door.
Eventually, I summoned the audacity to probe, bombarding the ever-patient Ayn with specific questions about all four of her acclaimed novels: Anthem, We The Living, The Fountainhead and especially Atlas Shrugged. It was my good fortune that I got much more out of this phase of Rand’s mentoring than I’d bargained for: a thorough indoctrination in the four elements that are crucial to the well-constructed novel: theme, plot, characterization and style.
It was all over for me, the law.
But you don’t walk away from a hard-earned advanced degree and a carefully honed professional skill without, as we lawyers are fond of saying, due deliberation. So for awhile, I continued to practice law with my husband, Hank, even as I tried my hand at writing — both fiction and nonfiction.
It would be years before I mastered the principles gleaned during those electrifying evenings spent at Ayn Rand’s eastside apartment and dared to strike out on my own; still more years before I completely abandoned a profession that had become far too tame and ponderous — too lacking in drama. I’d found a career that I loved, and in the process, I had found myself.
It is to Ayn Rand, novelist, that I acknowledge a profound literary debt.
But for you, Ayn...