The Book of Ayn by Lexi Freiman: book review

The Book of Ayn by Lexi Freiman 

Overview: Anna's book was panned by the New York Times, and she got cancelled. Feeling lost, flustered, and alone, she falls into the philosophy and books of Ayn Rand and clings onto these ideas as a means of healing. She decides to write a book and then a television show about Rand as she endeavors to live in a Randian fashion. From New York to LA to Greece, Anna can't quite get a foothold on figuring out life. Overall: 2.5

Characters: 3 Anna is funny and sharp and absurd for most of the book. She isn't a likable character, but she is interesting. The whole point of her existence is to live patterned off the classic image of a male artist or celebrity living selfishly and dating young men in the fashion that male celebs always go for nearly teenage girls while they're in middle age. She has good lines and observations that make you want to follow along on her downward spiral. There's a certain amount of care for Anna you develop at the start, but her character ultimately devolves into a flat and repetitive person who only wants to hook up with the next young guy instead of experiencing any dynamics or growth. Anna loses all of her steam midway through the book and never finds it or a meaningful commentary on the loss of it for the rest of the book. 

The rest of the characters exist as punchlines and to fill space in Anna's world. Some of them have proper name, others (notably the love interests) are given nicknames because Anna can't pay attention long enough to care about what certain people are called or how things are named. 

Plot: 2 The book starts strong. Anna has to dig herself out of rock bottom both emotionally and in the public eye. It's interesting to hear her muse about her cancellation and watch her fall in with the Randians by chance. But there's something in her character that makes you want to keep reading, the jokes land, and the satire works. In Los Angeles, the wheels start to get looser. She struggles to write the pilot and doubts whether the source material is even good. But as the section goes on, it becomes less about Rand or writing or cancel culture or introspection and more about her weird fascination with sleeping with her younger neighbor that creates lots of looping, repetitive scenes. That's when I started picking up the book less often. 

Then she flees that life and goes to a cult in Greece where she's supposed to learn about ego death. This section hardly makes sense, there's nothing driving it, the voice goes flat, and there's no purpose. She's ditched Rand (and seemingly writing) and is adrift with nothing to tether to. It becomes another section that's just about seducing an older teenager. I started skimming and then skipping through last pages in a desperate attempt to finish the book before I DNF'd it with so little left. I had about 30 pages left at this point and couldn't bring myself to keep reading every word. The wheels totally fall off the bus as soon as the story shifts to Greece, and I'm not alone in thinking of that if Goodreads is to be believed.

Writing: 3 Freiman clearly has talent. There are some great quotes and lines, and the New York scenes are bright and vivid and alive. The LA scenes are less so but still worked in places. It just felt like she got tired as the book went along and, like Anna, lost sight of why she was writing it at all. 

We never get answers to any of the questions the book poses at the beginning; not because we're meant to decide for ourselves but because Freiman completely abandoned the original conceit of the book by the end. The writing gets flat and boring and lifeless. There's no forward momentum, and it feel like you're suddenly reading a very different, not as good, book. This book was a solid 4 for the first 50 pages. I had a certain number of reservations from the beginning, but the implosion of the ending makes it not feel worthwhile to get into my smaller complaints. I would skip this one. 

More on Reading, Writing, and Me:

LA Times Festival of Books Recap

Hearing Test review

The Age of Magical Overthinking Nonfiction review

Worry review


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