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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Strange Interlude - Eugene O'Neill [1927. A motel room somewhere in America. A very young AYN RAND is sitting on the bed, impatiently glancing at her watch. We hear a key turning in the door, then EUGENE O'NEILL enters, carrying a briefcase]

RAND: Well?

O'NEILL: I did it. I rewrote it the way you said. It's right here.

[He pats the briefcase. RAND throws her arms around him]

RAND: Darling!

O'NEILL: Do you want to read it?

RAND: No, no, I'm too excited. Tell me what happens.

O'NEILL: Well, there's this beautiful woman, Nina. She's in a black depression because her fiancé Gordon has been killed in the war.

RAND: Uh-huh.

O'NEILL: Now there's this guy Charles who's in love with her. But he doesn't dare tell her how he feels. And there's this doctor, Ned, who's physically attracted to her, but that's all. And there's this third guy Sam, who's kind of a dope and wants to marry her.

RAND: Sounds okay so far.

O'NEILL: You don't think I need more men who are helplessly smitten with Nina and worship the very ground she walks on? I could easily--

RAND: No, three's enough. So what happens next?

O'NEILL: Well, Nina's kind of crazy because Gordon is dead. She gets a job as a nurse at a hospital for wounded servicemen, and she starts sleeping with the patients. Charles is pretty worried about her. He wants her to be happy, and he thinks the best thing is for her to marry Sam, who seems like a normal kind of guy. So he persuades her to do that, despite the fact that he's in love with her himself.

RAND: He's going to regret it, right?

O'NEILL: Oh yes, absolutely. So Nina marries Sam. She doesn't love him, but Charles has convinced her that marrying him will settle her down, and she thinks that once she has a child she'll feel better. She makes sure she gets pregnant right away.

RAND: And then?

O'NEILL: So she's pregnant, and she meets Sam's mother for the first time. Now Sam doesn't know she's pregnant yet, but she tells the mother.

RAND: I don't see where you're going yet--

O'NEILL: Give me a minute. Sam's mother says she has something very important to tell her. Sam's father died insane, and so did his grandfather and his aunt. There's heriditary insanity in the family.

RAND: But why didn't Sam know about--

O'NEILL: His mother kept it secret from him because she wanted him to be happy. Anyway, now she says Nina has to get an abortion right away. Nina's broken up. She loves her unborn child more than anything in the world. She tells the mother that she doesn't love Sam, she only married him to have a child. If she needs to have an abortion, she's leaving him.

RAND: That's good! Nina should just have done what she wanted to do. It's better to be selfish, right? So what happens next?

O'NEILL: Sam's mother tells her she can't leave her husband, it would drive him insane for sure. And she has to get an abortion, but she also has to give him a child. She needs to find someone else to be the father and pass it off as Sam's. Even though all of this is killing her.

RAND: So who does she pick?

O'NEILL: She remembers Ned, the doctor. She has her abortion, then starts an affair with Ned and gets pregnant again.

RAND: But doesn't Sam--

O'NEILL: Sam doesn't suspect a thing. He's a dope, right?

RAND: Okay, so now what?

O'NEILL: Well, Nina has fallen in love with Ned. She wants to leave Sam to be with him. But Ned knows it would destroy him, and he sacrifices his happiness and Nina's so that--

RAND: Right, I get it. Same deal again, they should just have selfishly done what was going to make them happy.

O'NEILL: [Beaming] I thought you'd like that.

RAND: Well yeah, I guess I do in a way. I mean, it's swell that you read my little essay on Objectivism and all. But--

O'NEILL: But what?

RAND: But, why's the plot so dumb? You're this great playwright. It's, I dunno, kind of clunky.

O'NEILL: Look, I--

RAND: I mean, do you like it?

O'NEILL: Ah, no, not really. You're right. I guess I mainly did it for you.

[A terrible silence. O'NEILL suddenly realizes what he has said]

RAND: You just did it to make me happy. You haven't understood anything, have you?

O'NEILL: Look, in a way I was being selfish, I was hoping you'd--

RAND: Get out. Now. And take your dumb play with you.

[She reaches into the bedside table and pulls out a gun. O'NEILL backs towards the door, still stammering excuses, and leaves precipitately. RAND stands there for a moment looking after him, then shrugs, moves to the phone and dials a number]

RAND: Hello? I'm at the motel. Yeah, come on over. But I'm warning you now, I'm in not in a good mood.