I don’t have the kind of interest in Ayn Rand or objectivism any more that will make me want to read any of her non-fiction books. I read all of her fiction novels in high school, other than this one play, that I actually didn’t know existed – along with the Virtue of Selfishness from her non-fiction. The play is called Night of January 16th.
Bjorn Faulkner, the heart of the gold industry of the world, meets a gruesome death by falling/jumping off the top of a building. Karen Andre, his secretary and mistress is on trial for his murder. The entire book is a courtroom play, with the two sides represented by Karen Andre and Bjorn Faulkner on the one hand; and Mrs. Faulkner and her father, John Graham Whitfield, a prominent banker, on the other.
To someone who hasn’t read Ayn Rand before, it might be hard to figure out Bjorn Faulkner – the hero whom we actually never get to meet. To those who have read Ayn Rand before, every character including Bjorn Faulkner is like every other character of hers.
But, this book isn’t about Bjorn Faulkner as the ideal man. In fact, Bjorn Faulkner is not the ideal man. The story is about Karen Andre – his secretary-mistress, and what she feels for her ideal man.
Ayn Rand’s characters are black and white – so, even as I was reading the prologue of the book, I knew the end. The end of the play is the verdict: IS Karen Andre guilty or not? And the entire play is written in a way to convince the reader that she is not. Though the factual evidence for and against seems to have been “approximately balanced”, the writing clearly suggests that Andre should end up not guilty. When the play is performed, however, it will be entirely dependent on the credibility of the actors. Which brings me to the reason I would want to watch this play, rather than read it: the jury gimmick.
Most people I know either like Ayn Rand or they don’t. There’s usually no halfway. I guess that’s the reason why the “jury gimmick” worked, during the performance of the play. The jury was actually picked out every time from the actual audience, and the verdict was in their hands. Depending on the outcome, guilty or not, the end of the play was performed. But, of course, whatever the verdict, Karen Andre came off looking stubbornly “not guilty”.
Actually this play would have worked for me much better, if it had a story preceding and following it – like Roark’s trial in The Fountainhead or Rearden’s in Atlas Shrugged. Also, I’m no expert, but I don’t think Rand pulled off the courtroom action all that well.
The play had its flaws, yes – but I still found it pretty okay. It was also the first play I have ever dared to read, and if not anything else, it did ensure that I’ll read other plays, now that I managed and liked reading one.