Now that I’ve read Michael Crowley’s cri de weein The New Republic (it was side-splittingly entitled "Michael Crichton: Jurassic Prick"), as well as the original piece Crowley wrote about Crichton, I can say with certainty what I only suspected last night: Anne Lamott got it right, and complaining you've been the victim of a fictional drive-by can only make you look small.
To review: Crowley, a reporter for TNR, trashed author Crichton in a 3,700 word cover story in The New Republic, a magazine with a tiny but influential subscription base best known, these days, for its plagiarism scandals.
Crowley’s piece derided Crichton as a “pulp novelist,” who is guilty of writing “for the coach-class set,” a “plot machine” with risible visions of being taken seriously, a Bush administration anti-intellectual lap dog and, worst of all, a man who turned his back on Harvard Medical School because he “couldn't resist cranking out sci-fi thrillers.” (Those sci-fi thrillers! They’re like crack with words!)
Crichton allegedly battled back with a character named “Mick Crowley," who shows up in his current novel. Mick has a small penis. Mick rapes a two-year-old. This doesn’t seem to trouble his alleged inspiration as much as the small-penis part, or that Mick is a pharmaceutical industry profiteer (insert your own aristocratic har-har-har here).
Amusing as it is to watch Crowley play the virgin at the key party, fluttering for his smelling salts, aghast at the way he’s been violated, he shouldn’t be surprised that he was attacked by an author with a reputation for salving his hurt feelings by savaging his opponents in print.
You can’t call a man a hack who writes for the masses while foolishly yearning “for intellectual stature beyond the realm of killer dinosaurs and talking monkeys,” and expect his next novel to be made up of mash notes. (In fact, I actually think Crowley got off easy. Crichton might have made his fictional doppelganger a poorly-endowed pedophile, but at least he didn’t send him to a state school).
And here’s the thing: would anyone have connected Mick Crowley, baby-buggerer, with Michael Crowley of The New Republic unless Crowley had gone tattling to Teacher? Doubtful. As Crowley himself would probably hasten to point out, there is little overlap between TNR’s erudite readers and those coach-class-flying boobs who put Crichton’s books on the best-seller lists.
“I confess to having mixed feelings about my sliver of literary immortality,” Crowley allows. “It's impossible not to be grossed out on some level--particularly by the creepy image of the smoldering Crichton, alone in his darkened study, imagining in pornographic detail the rape of a small child.”
True enough – but is it really that much creepier than the image of a smoldering Crowley, alone in his own darkened study, frantically Googling “small penis law?”
“And,” Crowley continues, “I'm looking forward to the choice Crichton will have to make, when asked about the basis for Mick Crowley, between a comically dishonest denial and a confession of his shocking depravity.”
I don’t think readers will Crichton’s depravity quite as shocking as Crowley does, given that his own article mentioned numerous instances of Crichton attacking fictional versions of his foes.
Nor do I think Crichton would have any trouble should the question come up. If it were me, I’d just smile and say, straight-faced, “The character has nothing to do with Michael Crowley. Michael Crowley is enormous. Why, after that piece he wrote about me, I could barely walk for a week.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer Hudson is earning raves all over the place for performance as Effie in “Dreamgirls.” The Times’ A.O. Scott writes it’s not often you go to the movies and see a big-boned, sexually assertive, self-confident black woman — not played for laughs or impersonated by a male comedian in drag — holding the middle of the screen. And when was the last time you saw a first-time film actress upstage an Oscar winner, a pop diva and a movie star of long standing? Ms. Hudson is not going anywhere. She has arrived.”
But here’s my question: now that she’s arrived, where does she go next? Where are the parts in Hollywood, or even on Broadway, for an actress like Hudson, in an era where Kate Winslet’s being cast as the mousy best friend?
I hope I get to see more of her. I worry that I won’t.
Update: I’m writing, and Lu is supposed to be napping, in preparation for our latke bash tonight, but I don’t think she’s asleep, given that she just called down the stairs, “Mommy? What are Cinderella’s sisters names?”
“Anastasia and Drizella!” I called back.
Happy Hanukkah to everyone who's celebrating tonight.