Literary Advice: Ask Howard Roark

We’re a month into our literary advice column (the last time was Dean Moriarty from On the Road), and our next character to offer guidance is Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s 1943 proto-libertarian screed, The Fountainhead. The enigmatic architect answers your questions below, providing uncompromising recommendations for you to take or leave, not that he really cares either way. (Just asking for help implies that you’re a second-hander, right?)

Dear Howard,

I’m desperately in love with you. You are a god to me, and I obey everything you say, wholly, completely. But my wealthy husband is risking everything he has to save you — his company, his reputation — everything. He doesn’t know he’ll lose me if you’re saved. What should I do?

Sincerely,

Dominique

Dearest Dominique,

Which will be worse for him — to lose you or to lose his crusade? You understand, don’t you? You’re only a hollow, two-dimensional character anyway, and didn’t have any real feelings or desires until I came along. And yet, I have given you, not my sacrifice or my pity, but my ego and my naked need. (That’s the highest compliment I am able to give you, by the way, because I am a callous bastard.) Also, to be fair, do you really care about Wynand, or is this all just a ham-handed way for our author to create more dialogue between us in order to move the plot along by creating tension?

##########

Dear Howard,

A new client came in the other day and wanted my firm to build a bizarre modern building for his company. What he’s asking for is unconventional, that’s for sure. Should I tell him that we can’t do it, or should I push the envelope a bit and draw up a few slightly risqué plans with Doric, not Ionic, columns instead?

Sincerely,

Mr. Francon

Dear Mr. Francon,

I don’t blame you for the things you’re doing, and I have no right to express objections. But this time, the client is asking for it. You’re risking nothing. He wants it. Think of it, there’s a man, one man who sees and understands and wants it and has the power to build it. Are you going to fight a client for the first time in your life — and fight for what? To cheat him and to give him the same old trash, when you have so many others asking for it, and one, only one, who comes with a request like this? If you can’t build it, I will. It’s not a threat — it’s merely a statement.

##########

Dear Howard,

I am a sycophant, a second-hander. My designs are unoriginal and yet I am constantly promoted, easily making my way up the corporate ladder as you struggle below me. I’ll tell you a secret, though — always be what people want you to be. Then you’ve got them where you want them. I’m giving it to you free because you’ll never use it. You’ll never know how.

Sincerely,

Peter K.

Dear Peter,

I think you’re drunk. Why don’t you sober up and start drawing again? Oh, wait — you can’t. It’s too late for you. At the end of this book you’re a broken man. I, however, end up being a noted architect… and I get your girl. I even rouse a courtroom of callow Americans with an awesomely bloated speech that goes on for way too long about how important the ego is to understanding the self. No compromise! That’s the only real advice I can give. Oh, also: I plan to marry the Wyndham building once it’s completed. I hope Dominique doesn’t mind, not that I care anyway. Viva objectum sexuals!