Freddie deBoer (h/t Andrew Sullivan) has this to say about Ayn Rand:
People far abler than I have prosecuted the case against Rand,and I don't intend to rehash it here. But this tendency of her writingsand her philosophy to compel people to slap concrete on the foundationof their own ideas, to build a moat around their intellectual life, tocategorize the whole world into the tiny fraction who are worthy andthe great horrid mass that are simply not to be listened to in anycircumstance... this is the greatest failing of the woman and herteachings. There are a worse things to inspire people towards--genocide, war, ethnic cleansing-- but still, a philosopher whosegreatest contribution is a vast incuriosity is a dismal thing.
Emphasis mine. What a beautiful turn of phrase, and a beautiful metric by which to judge an author's efficacy: can they really turn their prose into something concrete, through the minds of the assembled?
What's interesting about this is that it points out something to me that has always been fascinating about Ayn Rand. I find her literary style -- not just her philosophy -- to be alienating and abhorrent. I dislike the way she renders characters, and the quality of the worlds she inhabits. But I have seen her prose transform other people in ways that very, very few other fiction writers have. She really was the L Ron Hubbard of her times. Her words carry a power that, to this day, still holds people in her sway. I wish she had chosen a more positive way to make her impact.