In honor of Valentine’s Day, it is apropos to reflect on an essay Michael Crichton wrote in 1988 titled “Love is…”
In the first part of the essay, Crichton distinguishes how what many people think of as romantic love is based on self-centered needs and the desire to possess. He writes:
There are ways to know real love. It feels calm. It's steady, and it can easily last a lifetime. It's nourishing — people grow under its influence. They become who they really are, and now what someone expects them to be. Real love isn't blind; on the contrary, people feel understood, accepted for who they really are. It's healing. People recover.
Crichton concludes the essay by defining love as:
An emotion of deep caring that asks nothing in return, an emotion that is fulfilling without any expectation at all, is so rare that most people in our society can't imagine it. They can't imagine feeling it, or receiving it. They may even come to believe it doesn't exist. But it does.
And it's the best thing there is.
The Crichton website notes that the essay, published in the February 1988 issue of Redbook, “brought more reader mail than anything the magazine printed in a year.”
When I read the essay again today, two things came to mind.
One is a quote from the Bible which my friend Liza posted in celebration of St. Valentine’s Day:
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things…
--1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I was struck by the similarities in what Crichton wrote to what the Bible says. But the other thing about this essay is how unusual it is as a work by Michael Crichton. It shows a sweetness and vulnerability that I haven’t seen in any of his other works.
With one exception. Crichton’s second novel, Scratch One, which he wrote under the pseudonym “John Lange”, contains a genuine love story, which I found surprising and very touching. The main character, Roger Carr, falls in love with a woman named Anne Crittenden and the story is told from his point of view. Here are some of the passages describing his growing feelings for Anne:
“He liked to listen to her talk, and enjoyed the way she put things.” p. 90
“They had discussed everything, and he had become increasingly astonished at her…She was quick, she was witty, she was gorgeous, and Carr found himself entranced.” p. 96
“He enjoyed being with her, doing almost anything with her. Nothing else seemed to matter.” p. 110
“He realized that he had been treating her with caution, with a care and delicacy that was not usual to him.” p. 134
“That day and the next were like a dream to Carr. He wandered around the villa grounds, hand-in-hand with Anne. Sometimes they talked, but often they spent hours without passing a word; it was as if they had no need to speak to understand what the other was thinking….Carr was blissfully, peacefully happy with her. He felt as if he had found something he had needed for a very long time.” p. 162
“He could not quite comprehend that Anne was being taken from him; the realization came slowly, and very painfully. He did not want it to happen.
He could not allow it to happen.” p. 167
While it is not unusual for Crichton’s characters to become romantically involved, Scratch One is the only novel in which the character’s feelings are deeply described. And it is also unusual that the woman Anne is both worthy of and reciprocates Roger Carr’s feelings. Feminine betrayal is much more the norm in the John Lange novels.
One interesting detail about Roger Carr—he shares Michael Crichton’s October 23 birthday. When reading Crichton’s novels, I often wonder how much of certain characters reflect what was inside of the writer himself.
Links and more info on Michael Crichton at: