Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
What follows is the first chapter of
Play: My Years With Ayn Rynd, my 25-years-too-late parody of
the Nathaniel Branden’s 1989 memoir
Day: My Years With Ayn Rand (not to be confused with the
second and more restrained edition,
Years With Ayn Rand). The introduction to
Play was published in the February 2, 2014 issue
of The Libertarian Enterprise.
* * *
MY CHILDHOOD was so fascinating. Let me tell you about it.
It began when I was fourteen and I overheard some girls reading aloud
from what was, apparently, a rather dramatic novel. They were
giggling and excited. To my age-fourteen self, their behavior seemed
foolish. I felt lordly, superior and disdainful, as if I had attained
a pitch of maturity that they could never hope to match.
When they had left the room I plucked the volume up. The
Funnelhead by Ayn Rynd, were the words gracing the cover. Hmm. I
began to read.
“Howard Hunk laughed.” That was how it began.
It was the story of a lone individualist who fought for his vision
with a fearless integrity against the collectivist mob. A man who pursued
his own happiness as his highest moral purpose. A man with strangely-hued
hair and a strange girlfriend.
...She stood, as insult to the place below and to all of existence.
Her dress, the color of pale orange rind, too simple and too expensive,
its pleats like the knife edges of shards of orange-colored glass—
her thin heels like spikes as daggers to stab the traitorous earth—the
fragility of her body against the harsh lemon sky like a wind-whipped
stem against a yellow background—added up to an emblem of grace,
of protest and of doom that was both song and scream—not at all
evocative of the fastidious drawing rooms she’d hailed from.
She looked down. Her eyes stopped on the orange hair—which also
resembled orange rind, incidentally—of the incredibly sexy and
dynamic man working hard in the quarry below who raised his head and
looked at her. Their glances locked in a dynamic interplay of
sexually-charged mutual cognition.
“Are you looking at me?” she inquired, harshly.
“You don’t have any sexual interest in me, I hope?”
The man had gaunt, hollow cheeks and a severely pitiless cast to the
planes of his countenance. Immediately she wanted to destroy him.
“Yes, I am looking at you,” he said contemptuously,
tossing a chunk of granite out of the way of his drill. He turned off
the drill. “Unless it bothers you.”
“It does bother me.”
He looked away and started up the drill.
“Hey you!” she shouted. “Mister!”
He turned off the drill. “Yes ma’am?”
“You needn’t call me ma’am. I’m Francine
Dominant. My father owns this quarry.”
“Goodie for you.”
Her eyes became two narrow slits of gray; gray as the gray of the
quarry granite. “You want something, don’t you? What do you
“I want to take you sexually by force. Okay with you? I know
you’re the type of dame who won’t put out for just anyone.”
“Goddamn you,” she hissed. “Submit the appropriate
forms to the Ministry of Rough Romantic Foreplay.”
She whirled and was gone.
She wants it, Hunk thought: she wants to be “taken by force,”
so to speak, or she wouldn’t have asked me to file an MRRF form
when I mentioned my intention to do precisely that.
Hunk didn’t think actually filing the forms was strictly necessary.
But that night he did so anyway, making sure to send Francine’s
copy to her by certified mail, and keeping another copy for his
files. Better to cover your ass in these kinds of cases, he
When he had finished filling out the forms Hunk felt tired, very tired.
Dropping the forms off at the post office the next day was like a
point reached for him—a stop. He waited in line with the rest
of them. Then he had to get up early the next day to go back to the
quarry. He picked up the drill.
I’m getting too old for this shit, he thought.
After several more carefully choreographed encounters, Francine
presented Hunk with a notarized affidavit declaring that she wanted
him to come fix the damaged marble of her fireplace; that she had
scratched the marble herself as a way to request his presence and to
attempt, and fail, to humiliate him; that Hunk hereby had her
permission to damage the marble work further as manifestation of
masculine contempt for her feckless desire to humiliate him, as
prelude to her being taken by him by force; and that she would
provide him with further instructions at that time. Hunk was to be
paid his normal wage for the work.
After Hunk had initialed the affidavit, Francine walked away,
disappointed. She felt that their secret understanding was lost. He
had complied with her demands as if but a simple job plus sexual
adventure were involved that she would have offered to any other
rippling-muscled, orange-rind-haired workman.
Then she felt the sinking gasp inside, that feeling of shame and
pleasure which he always gave her: she realized that their
understanding had been more intimate and flagrant than ever—in
his natural acceptance of an unnatural offer; he had shown her how
much he knew—by his lack of astonishment.
She turned. “Do you realize the shame and pleasure you are
giving me by this unnaturally natural acceptance of an unnatural
offer?” she asked him.
“Yes I do,” said Hunk. “My contemptuous indifference
to your overtures will be followed by violently taking you by force.”
“I will send you an engraved invitation,” said Francine,
Hunk received the engraved invitation by certified mail the next day.
When Hunk came by to fix the scratch in the fireplace he said,
“Good evening.” He walked with the relaxed, muscle-bunched
gait of a cougar approaching an easy kill.
She said: “Good evening.”
Hunk walked straight to the fireplace.
“I see the inconsequential scratch,” he said.
“Well...guess I’ll go ahead and create some damage.”
He struck the fireplace with a sharp tool. “Okay...now it’s
damaged and has to be replaced. That what you wanted?”
She asked calmly: “Know what kind of marble this is and how
to get another piece like it?”
“Sure toots.” He went to work removing the marble.
“Got anything else to say?” she asked finally.
“Yes. This is an atrocious fireplace.”
“What would you know of architecture?” she sneered.
“Well, I’m an architect. Actually, I worked for your
father once. He fired me, because of my integrity. Have you seen my
work? It’s quite good. I’m a genius.”
She shrugged. “So you have integrity, eh?”
“Lots of it. Like you.”
“I don’t believe in integrity. At least not in any
physical manifestation. The world destroys it. I destroy things
myself, to protect them from being destroyed by others. It’s my
hobby. For example, I threw a beautiful statue down an elevator shaft
so it would smash to pieces and no one else would ever get to see it
and thereby sully its magnificence. If we ever fell in love, I would
have to protect you. I would do so by obliterating you like a gnat.”
“Now why would you want to do a fool thing like that?”
“It’s too complicated to explain. I’ll send you
several recent volumes of my diary though and you can....”
“Okay, send me the volumes,” said Hunk, realizing this
was not going to be such an easy lay after all. “The marble can
be replaced within a few days. I will be sure to get exactly the same
kind. You know, I hope, that this type marble is created by suppressed
pressures bubbling up to the surface, much like the suppressed
pressures of our psychologies, eager to erupt all over the place, via
sperm and so forth.”
“The replacement marble will arrive in two or three days.”
Hunk turned to leave.
“Wait!” yelped Francine, her hair swaying like liquid
“Will you set the new piece yourself?”
Hunk froze. He had wanted it to be a surprise.
“No,” he said slowly. “No...I won’t.
Somebody named Pasquale Orsini will do it.”
A few days later Pasquale Orsini showed up to set the new marble.
Francine was furious that Hunk had not been the one to come.
“Damn him!” she said. And yet, she had known ahead of
time that it would be Pasquale Orsini who would come.
“Red down at the quarry, he said you wanna I setta the
“Yes yes,” she said.
Immediately she shot off a telegram to Hunk: DO NOT BE IN QUARRY
WHEN I ARRIVE EARLY WEDNESDAY EVENING 6:32 PM STOP BE ON HORSE PATH
NEAR WILLOW TREE AT THIRD BEND STOP I WILL LASH YOU WITH TWIG AS I
GALLOP PAST STOP DO YOU AGREE STOP IF SO SIGN ATTACHED AND RETURN
Early the next day she received the signed permission.
That evening she struck him across the face with the twig.
“Ouch!” he said.
She had struck him much harder than was necessary.
“Here to ‘rape’ me?” she asked when Hunk
arrived “unexpectedly” at her home the next day.
“What do you think?” asked Hunk, reaching into
his back pocket.
But he had left the engraved invitation back at the cabin.
Damn. Damn damn damn.
“Uh...I’ll be right back,” said Hunk....
All my ideas changed.
Everything about The Funnelhead fascinated me. I wanted to
be just like Howard Hunk. Someday, I vowed, I would be.
I WAS what you might call a normal teenager with pretensions to
godhood. Part of my context at the time was that my parents were
middle-American, or in this case lower-Canadian, members of the
bourgeoisie with psychiatric problems of the sort endemic to the
modern age and which perplexed me. I felt alienated from them and
from the world. To add insult to injury, I was living in Canada, not
the most glamorous country in the world.
Many-a-day I felt: what kind of universe is it in which I am based
in Canada and surrounded by ordinary people who do not subordinate
themselves to my every whim?
Despite my ennui and frustration, however, I did not succumb to the
malevolent-universe premise. Instead, I decided I needed to
understand people better so that I could effectively manipulate them
for their sake and for my own.
I decided to become a psychologist.
The little detail that Howard Hunk did not go around manipulating
people unfortunately eluded me at the time. Many years later I would
come to regret my innocent misinterpretation of Rynd’s novel.
My fascination with The Funnelhead disturbed my parents, who
fretted that my reading was becoming limited to this one book. My
mother called in a specialist on such matters. The specialist could
not know that my psychological understanding of myself was far
superior to her own. Nevertheless, I was eager for her opinion of the
book. But the specialist took one look at some of the sex scenes and
said, “Why, this is nothing new. Pure anarchism all the way.”
I looked up anarchism in the dictionary and concluded that though
Rynd’s novel was not anarchistic per se, anarchism was indeed
the way to go: the optimal social system.
Foreshadowingly, my adolescent self wondered what Ayn Rynd would
have to say about that.
I continued to re-read the novel for the next several years, still
stuck in Canada. By the time I was eighteen, I had absorbed The
Funnelhead so thoroughly that a person could quote to me any
particular sentence from it and I would have been able to repeat
verbatim all the sentences following as well as all the ones preceding.
The first and last lines of the book—“Howard Hunk
laughed” and “Howard Hunk laughed again”—were
especially soldered in my mind as kinds of book ends to the book.
My profound knowledge of the text, including the psychodynamics of
the sex scenes, would come in handy later, when I was to have an affair
with the author. (That’s right! An affair! With Ayn Rynd! Keep
But another woman would enter my life first. For at just about this
point in my context, a friend of mine brought me to meet a girl he
knew who had also memorized The Funnelhead. Her name, he said,
was Babs Wannaman. Would I like to meet her?
Indeed I would.
It was to be an encounter that would change my life.
ONE DAY, my friend and I went to her home as had been previously
We knocked on the door.
We waited for the door to open.
We heard footsteps coming toward the door.
We waited some more.
And then still more.
Then, a young woman opened the door.
She was beautiful—in an innocent, submissive kind of way that
I found very congenial.
“Babs,” our mutual friend said, “I’d like
you to meet...Gnat Bloominthrall!”
The woman to whom I was being introduced looked singularly impressed.
Gnat Bloominthrall is the author of
Play: My Years With Ayn Rynd.