The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand Bobbs Merrill 'I offer my profound gratitude to the great profession of architecture and its heroes who have given us some of the highest expressions of man's genius yet have remained unknown, undiscovered by the majority of men.' So wrote Ayn Rand on March 10, 1943, in the epigraph to her second novel, The Fountainhead. Rejected by 12 houses, it was only published when a young editor, Archibald Ogden, threatened to resign if his employers did not accept the manuscript. The Fountainhead has since sold about seven million copies. The subject of architects and architecture was first suggested to Rand by Cecil B. DeMille. Rand began her literary career as a screenwriter, and was hired by DeMille to write a script called Skyscraper. DeMille rejected her treatment (the film was nevertheless made in 1928), but he had planted a seed. Over the next decade, she constructed a narrative that expressed her faith in individualism through her hero, Howard Roark. The story begins in 1922 with Roark, naked and laughing, standing on the edge of a cliff having just been expelled from the Stanford Institute of Technology. His crime is his idiosyncratic designs: 'They were sketches of buildings such as had never stood on the face of the earth ... The buildings were not Classical, they were not Gothic, they were not Renaissance. They were only Howard Roark.' Roark makes his way through life on his terms. He is hired and fired a great deal. Employers recognise his genius for design but quickly learn Roark's ideas are almost impossible to control or realise. Much the same can be said for Roark himself. Dominique Francon, the daughter of an architect, takes a fancy to him. Bad move. Their flirtation ends in an encounter that sounds eerily like rape: 'She fought in a last convulsion. Then the sudden pain shot up, through her body, to her throat, and she screamed.' Except, in Rand's telling, Roark's obscene act is a philosophical fable rather than a crime: 'the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted'. Eventually, Roark's genius is discovered by the architectural world and by Dominique, who marries him and performs a kind of coronation atop a massive (and unmistakably phallic) skyscraper. For Rand, Roark embodied the spirit of Romanticism - the sole artist pitting his imagination and courage against an indifferent world. Others have read her reverence for 'Roark the Superman' as fascism in all but name. Whichever side you choose, you'll need all of Roark's granite determination to read The Fountainhead's 726 pages without a skyscraper filled with caffeine.