John Chamberlain (1903–95) was a leading conservative columnist and literary critic. His reviews of Atlas Shrugged in the New York Herald-Tribune and The Freeman were generally positive but faulted the novel for its advocacy of selfishness rather than Christian morality.
November 27, 1948
Mr. John Chamberlain
Time & Life Building
New York, N. Y.
Dear John Chamberlain:
Thank you most sincerely for the last paragraph of your article, THE BUSINESSMAN IN FICTION, in the November issue of FORTUNE.[*] It was wonderful of you and I am deeply grateful. I am going to live up to it, too. Mr. Tinker won’t be disappointed.[**] My new novel, in effect, has to blast away the accumulated smears of a century. It will.
From a political and literary viewpoint, I must thank you for the whole article, of course. It is excellent. I read it with great pleasure and also with furious anger at the sordid parade of pink brains that you presented so expertly. It was really a ghastly procession to see all at once. Reading it, I wished somebody would wipe the whole rotten bunch off the face of the earth. So it was the more startling and thrilling for me to find myself named as the antidote and the avenger.
I was struck particularly by one observation of yours: “Indeed, the latter-day novelists are not only anti-business; they are also anti-fecundity and anti-life.” You have hit the heart of the whole issue. That, precisely, is the basic theme of my new novel—that those who are anti-business are anti-life.
I wonder whether you still intend to write the article about THE FOUNTAINHEAD which we discussed in New York, or whether you have given up the idea? The reason for my asking is that THE FOUNTAINHEAD has been produced as a movie, to be released early next year, so the book will be timely news again. If you still want to do the
Mr. John Chamberlain -2- November 27, 1948
article, I thought that that would be a good time for it. My experience with the movie has been perhaps even more miraculous than with the book. I wrote the screenplay myself, preserving my theme and philosophy intact. For the first time in Hollywood history, the script was shot verbatim, word for word as written. I had no legal control over the production, yet the picture was made as faithfully as if I controlled it. This in Hollywood—where they ruin and distort every story they buy, particularly every serious story, and where they are scared of the faintest suggestion of a controversial subject. The first picture ever shot here verbatim will be—not some weak, compromising, middle-of-the-road script—but the most uncompromising, most extreme and “dangerous” screenplay they ever had. I think this is an illustration of the power of an honest idea to reach people and to accomplish things which no amount of force or collective pressure could accomplish.
The studio heads may still lose their courage and ruin the picture in the cutting, but it does not appear likely now. If the picture is released as is, it will be the atom bomb of the movie industry. Then, I think, somebody should tell the public the story and the meaning behind it—and I wish it were you. If you care to do it, let me know and I will give you all the details about it. No hard feelings on my part, of course, if your plans have changed and you find that you cannot do the article now.
With best regards,
*The last paragraph read: “Certainly no novelist who prides himself on being an original, a pathfinder, can go on repeating forever the same old clichés about the businessman; someday a novelist will go forth into the market place and use his eyes. To come down to one current case, there are rumors that Ayn Rand, author of The Fountainhead, a powerful allegory of individualism, is at work on a business novel. . . Maybe her story will mark a new beginning. If so, Mr. Tinker will think at least a little better of Ayn Rand’s tribe.”
**Mr. Tinker was Chamberlain’s fictional character derived from Booth Tarkenton’s The Plutocrat.