The edition of Ideal by Ayn Rand which I read included the previously unpublished novel followed by the play. I read them one after the other.
The story tells of a beautiful, tormented and elusive Hollywood actress, Kay Gonda, whose character was inspired by Greta Garbo. Kay Gonda is presumed to be a murderess (I’m using the term ‘murderess’ because the story was written in the 1930s) after a man with whom she dined was found dead and she couldn’t be found. While the police, studio bosses. movie producers, scriptwriters, publicists and journalists are looking for her, Kay Gonda visits six fans who have written a fan letter to her. Each of the letters writers tell Kay Gonda that she represents an ideal to them.
The first fan, George S. Perkins is a middle-aged married man willing to hide Kay Gonda until his wife tells him that she will pack her bags and take the children if George doesn’t tell the actress to get out of their home. George complies with his wife and Kay Gonda leaves.
In the second fan letter, Jeremiah Sliney tells Kay Gonda that he and his wife wish she was their daughter and they willingly offer her shelter when she arrives at their home. The Slineys are about to lose their home because they can’t pay their mortgage and when Kay Gonda hears them whispering that they would earn a monetary reward if they were to turn her in to the police, she sneaks out of their home.
The third fan is an artist who recreates Kay Gonda’s face and figure in every artwork he creates, but he does not recognise her when she comes to him in person. He turns her away when she asks him for help.
The fourth fan is a failed minister of religion who tries to convince Kay Gonda to turn herself in, knowing that the glory of her seeing the error of her ways will reflect well on him.
The fifth fan is a playboy, a failed dreamer who says he will protect her, then tries to rape her.
The sixth fan is Johnnie Dawes. He is the only fan whose behaviour is true to his fan letter to Kay Gonda. Johnnie believes he has a purpose in life, but he does not know what it is, but realises it when he believes Kay Gonda is in danger and he acts to protect her.
Ideal is a terribly cynical story. I couldn’t understand why Kay Gonda’s fans both loved and hated her, and since this idea is so central to the book, felt that another rewrite or two might have made a massive difference to the story.
The play is different to the novel in that several of the character’s storylines were altered or condensed. Reading them together was interesting. I haven’t read anything else yet by this author, but if it turns out that I love her better-known works, I won’t have to come back to Ideal and be disappointed…