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What Am I Reading: Carlo Massoud

STIR looks into the reading habits of leading creatives – Lebanese product and interior designer Carlo Massoud indulges in the modern classic, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

by STIRworldPublished on : Sep 12, 2022

Name of the book you are currently reading.

Carlo Massoud: La Source Vive (The Fountain Head)

Who is the author?

Carlo: Ayn Rand

What is the genre?

Carlo: Novella, pyscological and philosophical fiction. The story is about this young architect, Howard Roark, a character famously modelled after American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Carlo: Sometimes. But I don’t believe it’s a driving factor for me to pick up a book. I would rather delve into a book that I find interesting with a conventionally 'boring' cover than one which has a flashy, visually gripping front, but fails to move me.

What made you pick it up? Can you highlight any notable aspect of the book's design aesthetics, typography, images…

Carlo: I had heard so much about it, and finally got around to reading it because my brother recommended it, and I am glad for that. It turned out to be 700 pages of pure joy! Roark battles against conventional, orthodox standards of ideating and creating, and refuses to compromise with an architectural establishment that is unwilling to accept originality or any new innovation. When it was released, and all these years later, The Fountainhead has garnered acclaim as much as critique, and has had an immense impact on the public perception of architects and the discipline of architecture.

Beirut based designer Carlo Massoud reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand | What Am I Reading: Carlo Massoud | STIRworld
Beirut based designer Carlo Massoud reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand Image: Courtesy of Carlo Massoud

Did you gain any insight or did it help you unwind? 

Carlo: Yes, to both, but mostly the former. This quote, among many, made me think: “To say "I love you" one must know first how to say the "I".” When you compare the lives of the characters to your surroundings, you see a lot of similarities between the story that is taking place at the beginning of the last century, and today. There are innovators and radical designers wanting to change the status quo, for the better, (or for worse), but geared up to experiment, but so much of how the world functions right now makes it challenging to do so. People are afraid of change, of those who think different and swim against the tide, who are willing to put themselves out there for the new. It unsettles them, and makes them uncomfortable.

Another excerpt from the book that reiterates my thought - “Listen to what is being preached today. Look at everyone around us. You've wondered why they suffer, why they seek happiness and never find it. If any man stopped and asked himself whether he's ever held a truly personal desire, he'd find the answer. He'd see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He's not really struggling even for material wealth, but for the second-handers delusion - prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded. He can't say about a single thing: 'This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbours gape at me/. Then he wonders why he's unhappy.”

A page from The Fountainhead by Russian born American writer Ayn Rand | What Am I Reading: Carlo Massoud | STIRworld
A page from The Fountainhead by Russian born American writer Ayn Rand Image: Courtesy of Carlo Massoud

Your favourite lines to quote from the book. 

Carlo: For me, the most beautiful parts were the values and determination of the protagonist – “But you see," said Roark quietly, "I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”

Some other quotes that stayed with me are:

“The hardest thing to explain is glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.”

“To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That's what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul - would you understand why that's much harder?”

At what time of the day do you read? 

Carlo: Usually after work, or at night in bed, before sleeping. It allows me to disconnect from reality and travel into a new adventure, one that I am choosing for myself.  

Hard books, e-books or audio/video books?

Carlo: Hard books, always. They are the only way for me to truly disconnect, I need to have a physical copy in my hands to peruse. I spend too much time on screens otherwise, and I have set apart this aspect to be screen-less, it's important to me. It's also much more comforting.

One book or book adaptation as a film that you always want to go back to, and why?   

Carlo: The entire Harry Potter series by JK Rowling! The stories, the plot lines, the imagery, the creativity and the characters are simply incredible.

Look up more such interesting reads from the series ‘What Am I Reading’ and watch out for more.

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