Literary stars Ayn Rand and Patricia Highsmith both published blockbuster works in the 1950s (Atlas Shrugged and the Talented Mr. Ripley), securing their place in the boys’ club of fiction’s elite. Fittingly, each gets the biographical treatment this year in Ann C. Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made and Joan Schenkar’s The Talented Miss Highsmith.
The World She Made traces Rand’s life, from her childhood in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution to her years as a screenwriter in Hollywood, blockbuster novelist and center of a cult following. Heller uses original research in Russia and dozens of interviews with Rand’s acquaintances to create this eye-opening portrait.
Rand went on to sell more than 12 million copies of Atlas and
normal">The Foundtainhead, earning a cult following for her objectivist philosophies about capitalism and individual rights as well as mainstream appeal reaching as far as the White House.
Miss Highsmith unveils the author’s secret life before her literary success thanks to unprecedented access to her archives, journals, love letters, personal possessions and intimate friends. We learn here that Highsmith was a clandestine comic books scriptwriter who penned thousands of stories and then destroyed all evidence of her comics career after writing Strangers. Schenkar also illuminates Highsmith’s strange self-exile in Europe.
Both books offer new and fascinating insight into the lives of two literary greats.