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L. Neil Smith's
Number 756, February 2, 2014


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Judgment Play: A Spoof for All and None
by Gnat Bloominthrall

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

A long time ago in a location far, far away, I wrote a little book entitled Judgment Play: My Years With Ayn Rynd.

Judgment Play had been conceived in response to Nathaniel Branden's 1989 memoir Judgment Day: My Years With Ayn Rand. ([hardback] and [paperback]). Branden's compelling blend of pomposity, indelicacy, and bitter swipes at former associates seemed ripe for parody.

After I had gotten about halfway through my retelling of the memoir's epic events, though, I set the effort aside for a little while. Suddenly, it was 2014. Among other depressing features of life in the world of January 1, 2014, the socialist Obamacare had arrived, the flying antigrav cars had not, and drafts of Judgment Play were still gathering dust in subdirectories of my various computers.

One excuse for not finally finishing and releasing my parody had come in 1999 with the publication of the second, revised, cleansed edition of Branden's memoir, entitled simply My Years With Ayn Rand. This version reportedly deletes much of the vindictiveness and perhaps other indiscretions of the original, making Judgment Play even more pointless than before unless one enjoys this sort of thing and has access to library systems and second-hand books or vaguely remembers a book read 25 years ago. So perhaps I should have just let my manuscript molder along with all the other manuscripts moldering in subdirectories of various computers.

However, I kind of like it myself; and this being the age of the Internet and e-books, which are even groovier than flying antigrav cars, it is easier than ever to inflict dubious reading matter on the public. So here we are.

Following is the introduction. If you are curious to read more, an inexpensive edition is happily now available for your Kindle or free Kindle app at

* * *

ON THE night that Ayn Rynd died at the age of 77—March 6, 1982—I was in my Southern Californian mansion sipping wine and munching grapes when my sister called to tell me what had happened.

I listened, thanked her, and hung up the phone, gripped by a hairball of emotions that was sweeping through me like a scythe through an Amish corn field. I felt giddy, lighthearted, somber, sad, exhilarated, joyous, bitter, pompous, bored, and sleepy, in that order.

It did not surprise me. The complex, contradictory feelings possible to the human mind when dealing with loss were old news to me. I had experienced it all before—a few hours before, in fact, when I had heard about Belushi.

I plucked another grape and chewed it meditatively.

The phone call was to be the first of many. On a night like this one I was bound to receive more than my usual quota of evening telephone calls. The fact did not surprise me. For as a result of my investigations into psychology, I knew how the human psyche is likely to impel one to lift that handset during times of crisis. I introduce the concept to my clients as Being Through Calling.

I also knew that it would be impossible to predict the exact sequence in which the calls would come.

And yet, I never doubted that causality governed the universe.

Lo and behold my first wife, Babs, who had shared so much of the pain and the joy of our tumultuous and dramatic (and how!) years with Ayn Rynd, was on the line. It did not surprise me. Babs was one of the people who would naturally give me a ring on a night like this. When I heard her voice I felt confirmed and validated in my intuition, as well as a little annoyed.

Had I heard the news? she wanted to know.

"Yes, yes, I heard," I snapped. Of course I had heard! Why would I not have heard? Such a question!

Once again I was flabbergasted by the extent of the woman's Bambi-like na├»veté. Did she really suppose that the knowledge of Ayn's death could have been kept from me?

Babs was droning on and on about the sadness of the event, how it was the end of an era and so forth. She seemed to want to re-establish the intimate personal context of yore.

And while I, too, in some minimal extent, wished to regain a thread of the connection which Babs and I had once shared—there was too much static on the line. "I can barely hear you, Babs! Speak up a little!"

"I want to attend her funeral," Babs was saying, a little louder now, a little more assertively. "I know all the things you could say but—well, I do feel sad about her death. I still love her."

I rolled my eyes. "Don't be so freaking sentimental. Anyway, Lenny Placator will never let you into that event. He's the official defender of Objectionableism now, and you're 'the enemy.'"

"Still, I want to go."

Talk about stubborn!

Later I heard that Lenny had hired some Nicaraguan contras to keep me and Babs out of the funeral. Not that I had ever wanted to attend, myself. It was not within the compass of the rational.

I had been associated with Ayn Rynd for almost twenty years, in one way or another, most publicly as the second-foremost exponent of her philosophy, until our dramatically explosive parting of the ways in 1968. During those years we had felt almost every emotion for one another that it was possible to feel, including admiration and affection. So why would I want to attend her funeral?

Still, my reluctance to publicly mourn her was no reason not to explore the relationship that Ayn and I had had. Ergo I decided to write a book about it. To afford the widest possible scope for the drama of those years, I conceived the project as a memoir in the form of a novel in the form of a memoir in the form of a novel in the form of a memoir. If you wish to understand the literary method of the book, this is the key.

Later that evening, I began scribbling in my journal, using the kind of self-accepting handwriting that with its rococo loops and whirligig whorls would maximally enhance the eloquent synergies of the values and conflicts which they expressed. I plunged deep into my memories of those years, deep into my feelings, going deeper and deeper, and then deeper and deeper, and then still deeper, and then deeper, deeper, deeper, all the while imagining I was floating on a big white fluffy cloud drifting across the clear blue sky and that I had not a care in the world, becoming more and more relaxed, going deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper still, falling, plunging, diving, until finally I had reached the very most melodramatic feelings, the ones that would form the substance of the account you are about to read. Let's just say it got pretty deep.

The preliminary process of exploration went on for several more days.

On the seventh day, I rested.

Gnat Bloominthrall is the author of Judgment Play: My Years With Ayn Rynd.

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