Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cult Fiction: The Fountainhead

Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead is one of the most iconic titles that falls within the category of cult fiction. It's publication history reiterates the publication pattern of many cult fiction novels.

Although Rand's first novel, We the Living, had been published by Macmillan, the company rejected The Fountain head when Rand insisted on more marketing for her second, more ambitious novel. Subsequently, Knopf agreed to publish the novel but balked after reading the first chapters. A total of twelve publishers rejected the novel before publisher Bobbs-Merrill accepted it.

The book was published in May of 1943, but sales were slow. It finally made the New York Times bestseller list in 1945. Currently, the book has sold nearly seven million copies, and Ayn Rand readers are fiercely loyal to The Fountainhead and all of the book's in Rand's cannon.

The book's protagonist is Howard Roarke, an idealistic young architect who is expelled from the Stanton Institute of Technology for his non-traditional adherence to new designs. He later leaves the firm of Francon & Heyer because he refuses to employ traditional architectural modes in order to please clients.

This theme of individualism in the face of great persecution is a hallmark of many cult fiction novels. When one considers the theme in conjunction with Rand's difficulty finding a publisher and the novel's initial track record of sluggish sales, it fits the criteria of cult fiction perfectly. The final variable in the equation for this book is the huge following Rand acquired over the years and the status of The Fountainhead as one of American literature's most popular titles.

Individualism (or "man against society") is one of the most prevalent themes of cult fiction. In John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe, Lennon's independent-minded artistic qualities and his anti-establishment posture on a variety of issues are crucial to that novel's plot.

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