Review: Night of January 16th

(It was obvious that I had to read it all tonight.)

CLERK: You solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?

KAREN: [Calmly] That’s useless. I’m an atheist.

Above is one of my favourite lines from the play. I really enjoyed it, it’s probably the first time I’ve finished a ‘book’ in one sitting. Considerably easier/faster to read than a novel, I admit, which I am ultimately glad for. Obviously, as a work of Ayn Rand, it featured many from the typical array of characters: the boldly intelligent mistress [Karen Andre, on trial for the alleged murder of her lover]; the great businessman [Bjorn Faulkner, initially revealed to have fallen from his New York building on the eponymous date], who people mainly disliked but who had standards and was pretty cool; the evil wife [Mrs. Nancy Lee Faulkner]. Also in the play were the ordinary members of the courtroom: the Defence counsel, Prosecutor, Clerk and Judge.

Night of January 16th is based around the dubious suicide of a high-ranking businessman, whose business empire crashed following his death due to a web of unrepaid loans. His mistress Karen Andre is on trial for his alleged murder, from the penthouse (in which she lived) atop one of Faulkner’s buildings; she is claimed to have pushed him to his death. We hear individually the testimonies of various figures providing evidence in either direction. At the end of the play, the jury (traditionally composed of members of the audience, when played out) decides the verdict, and the play is concluded simply in two possible directions with only a handful of lines at the end of act three provided to conclude the drama, in either case. It was not even halfway through the second of three acts that I’d formed the majority of my own judgement, although the ‘story’ as it were – the entirety of the play takes place within the court – continued to gain interest and complexity, eventually resolving everything, to my own mind at least, satisfactorially by the conclusion of the third act. I would recommend this book to anyone who might be intrigued by an unconventional courtroom drama that makes a good attempt to make philosophical suggestions in its portrayal of characters. Certainly an enjoyable read for anyone familiar with Rand’s other work, although this is a decidedly more vague and symbolic, rather than explicit or finely illustrative statement of her philosophy.

Post-review Scriptum: I temporarily gave up reading The Waves! My gosh that was hard to read; perhaps I’ll choose an easier of Woolf’s books to start my experience with that particular author. To make up for this, I’d started another book instead, however, so the next review I’ll do, rather than Woolf’s as I originally wrote, is for Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray.

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