Michael Crichton Dies

So Michael Crichton died on November 4th.  I surprised myself, thinking back, by how many of his (to be honest) workmanlike and often plodding novels I’ve read in my life.  I feel comfortable calling him ‘not a very good writer’ now that he’s dead; doing so when he was alive was a more precarious business, as the following story makes plain.  This is by way of saying to CW students studying here: we do not advise you to try the following.  [The story is reported from this account in the Fordham Law Review]:

In 2006, New Republic columnist Michael Crowley authored a critical profile of author Michael Crichton. Shortly thereafter, Crowley noticed a strong resemblance between himself and the character “Mick Crowley” in Crichton’s latest novel, Next. In addition to having nearly identical names, both Crowleys are graduates of Yale University and political journalists in Washington, D.C. In the novel, Mick Crowley’s appearance is brief but notable. He is a pedophile on trial for sodomizing a two-year-old child and, Crichton writes, his “penis was small.” Crichton has apparently resorted to employing the small penis rule, a “sly trick” used in publishing to ward off defamation lawsuits. Assuming no man would come forward claiming to be a character with a small penis (or would invite such an inquiry), the scheming author simply depicts his target as less than fully endowed. The author then defames as he pleases and hopes his subject forgoes legal action due to the possible embarrassment of coming forward. Thus, the small penis rule is not really a rule, merely a tactic for discouraging litigation. In the end, Michael Crowley [was] disinclined to file suit. Although “grossed out,” Crowley says that he was “strangely flattered” by his “sliver of literary immortality.”

[AR]

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