Friday, February 25, 2011

Michael Crichton on Being Tall

Michael Crichton was 6’9” tall, a fact that was mentioned frequently in articles about him.

His height was not a comfortable experience for him. Crichton was 6’7” when he was 13, and he wrote in his autobiography:

“I am the tallest person in the school, taller even than the teachers. Everybody laughs at me.” (Travels, p. 340)

As an adult, Crichton found being tall made it difficult to hear people speaking to him if he was standing. (New York Times) But meeting Wilt Chamberlain, who at 7’2” topped Crichton by five inches, gave him a different perspective.

"To my surprise, I found myself standing on a step to make myself taller….I was so uncomfortable that, after a half-hour, I had to leave. When my therapist asked me why I wasn't happy not to be the tallest, weirdest person in the room, I had to admit that a part of me is proud of what makes me different." (Los Angeles Times)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jasper Johns Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

On February 15, 2011 artist Jasper Johns received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. At the 6:08 mark on the video of the ceremony, President Obama talks about Johns, saying:

“Like great artists before him, Jasper Johns pushed the boundaries of what art could be and challenged others to test their own assumptions.”

At the 27:00 mark, the official citation is read after which Johns receives his medal. I noted this sentence in particular:

“By asking us to reexamine the familiar, his work has sparked the minds of creative thinkers around the world.”

One of those creative thinkers was Michael Crichton.

In a 2008 speech Crichton said:

"I have an unusual experience of Johns because I have looked at him as a writer and because he has been such a profound influence on me for so many years."

In 1977 Crichton published a book about Jasper Johns, which he revised and published in 1994. In the preface of his autobiography Travels, Crichton cites Johns as someone who had had “a major influence on my thinking”. (p. xiii)

Congratulations, Jasper Johns. And thank you for the inspiration you gave to Michael Crichton.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day!

Enjoy this post from last year about Michael Crichton on love.

Nook Wifi - 300x250

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Researching Pirate Latitudes

As I have mentioned in a prior post, I very much miss the presence of a bibliography in Pirate Latitudes. As I am currently preparing to do a discussion and analysis of the novel, a bibliography would have been very helpful. But as Pirate Latitudes was in the works for more than 30 years, Crichton may not have had a list of sources compiled. Fortunately, there is a great deal of information about Caribbean pirate history. Plus many of the characters had real-life historical counterparts (Captain Hunter was based on Henry Morgan; Lazue was based on Mary Read).

So I am researching various topics related to Pirate Latitudes: English and Spanish colonial history, privateering, the history of Jamaica and Port Royal, 17th century sailing and navigation, ship gunnery history and tactics, etc.

It’s fascinating work, but the challenge will be knowing when to stop. I read one interesting book, which references another book, which I end up reading, which references another book, ad infinitum.

The challenge will be to boil the discussion and analysis down to the most important aspects. I’m making a list of questions to answer about Pirate Latitudes.

If there is any question or topic you would like covered, please post it in the comments or email me – kahlessa at gmail dot com.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Michael Crichton’s First Article

What was Michael Crichton’s first published article?

Some sources claim it was a travel article, “Climbing Up a Cinder Cone”, about Sunset Crater National Monument, which was published in the New York Times on May 17, 1959.

Crichton tells the story in his autobiography Travels. His exact words are “…I sold a travel article to The New York Times when I was fourteen.” (p. 71)

The operative word here is “sold”. While Crichton may have sold the article when he was fourteen, it wasn’t published until May 17, 1959. As Crichton was born on October 23, 1942, that would have made him sixteen when the story was published.

This would not have been unusual. Newspapers often purchase stories that are not timely, especially travel and other feature articles, and hold them until a story is needed to fill a space. Sunset Crater is centuries old and had been a national monument since 1930, so it was safe to assume it wasn’t going anywhere.

In interviews and in Travels, Crichton is careful to say only that the article was sold when he was fourteen. He does say that the New York Times ran it but he doesn’t say when. Crichton was not being misleading; people who are unfamiliar with how newspapers operate would be confused by the delay.

Crichton wrote:

“Years later I discovered that the travel editor, Paul Friedlander, lived near us and his daughter Becky was in my class at school, so he probably knew a kid had written an article, and he was probably amused to publish it. But at the time I thought I had sneaked past the system, and had done a grown-up thing, and it gave me tremendous encouragement to continue writing. After all, I had been paid sixty dollars, which in those days was a lot of money for a kid.” (Travels p.72)

Crichton goes on to say that he started working for the local newspaper, so it’s possible that another of his articles was published before the New York Times piece.

“Climbing Up a Cinder Cone”, which can be purchased for $3.95, is an impressive article for a 14-year-old. Even though I’m certain it would have been edited before publication (every writer gets edited), it remains an amazing achievement.