The Art of Nonfiction
By Ayn Rand
Edited by Robert Mayhew
Blackstone Audiobooks, Inc., (2004)
An Unabridged Audio Recording on CD
This book is also available in standard print.
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - January 11, 2010
Ayn Rand, the famous author of Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead and other books, and the founder of the philosophy of Objectivism, offered oral lectures to her followers on the art of writing nonfiction. Robert Mayhew rearranged the tapes of these lectures into a readable and helpful guide for writers and readers of nonfiction.
Rand stresses clarity more than anything else. Writing skills, she says, are not mysterious. If people follow about a dozen rules and practice writing, they will write competent articles. Writers need to focus on their subject and theme. Then, before writing, compose an outline of what they intend to say.
The subject must be stated simply, preferably in a single sentence. "I am going to write about… ." The theme is "What do I want to say about my subject and what is new about what I am saying?"
Beginners must use a written outline of what they want to say and how it will be presented. Even experienced writers need an outline; however, it can be mental. The outline should address what their audience is interested in reading.
Rand emphasizes that ideas come from the subconscious, Once writers know what they want to say, start writing and "let the words come automatically. Do not think over your sentences and do not (stop and) censor yourself…trust your subconscious. Give your subconscious the standing order that you are concerned only with your subject and the clearest presentation of it possible, and let that be the absolute directing your writing." Then, "In editing, you do the opposite: the dominant process involves your conscious mind."
Rand emphasizes that the style and rhythm of writing is also subconscious, and is frequently ruined by conscious attempts at improvement in the initial process which should only be to get the ideas on paper.
Rand mentions many things that authors should avoid. Writings should not be filled with generalities; it needs specifics. Readers should be able to see what you are mentioning through details, rather than being told about it. Writings should not preach, say something in a complicated fashion, and use hundred dollar words, pejorative adjectives, sarcasm, inappropriate humor, bromides, and unnecessary synonyms.
Rand spices her book with examples from her writings and includes many interesting thoughts, such as: "the whole history of philosophy is a duel between Plato and Aristotle." Plato's thinking was somewhat other-worldly and mystical, while Aristotle, like Rand, focused on the facts of this world.
Ayn Rand followed her teachings and presents a clear, detailed, down-to-earth guide for excellent writing.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.