the polymathic man
I just found out (while reading Lynn Neay's reflection) that Michael Crichton had died last week.
Growing up I was introduced to Michael Crichton by my best friend K. It was the spring of 1993, I was 12 years old and hopelessly looking for something good to read. I had read through much of the teen books we had at our library and most of the books I found at home. I was delving into the adult section of the library, looking for something that I could enjoy. It was around that time that my best friend--after much hemming and hawing on my part--convinced me to read Jurassic Park. And that is all it took. It was that simple. I read the book and loved it.
Loved that Crichton's, John Hammond, had created this whole Park for me to enter into that spring, as 7th grade dragged on, and summer vacation seemed ages away. Loved that the bully dinosaurs; the raptors and the T-rex were something I had to avoid (like my tormentors at school), alongside Drs. Grant and Sattler. And I loved the movie too. K and I sat in the front row of our small town theater, with its sticky floors and stationary seats; munching popcorn and sucking down pops, waiting for the moment when the T-rex would make an appearance.
After I finished Jurrasic Park, I contined reading; liking Crichton's ability to suck you in with his page turning stories, I read more. The rest of that spring, summer and following fall I devoured Crichton, spending time between classes, on lunch breaks, every Saturday afternoon pouring over: The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Sphere, Rising Sun, and then Disclosure. And then just as quickly as I fell in with Mr. Crichton, I fell out.
Spring of 1994 found a teenage eighth grade me, preparing for high school and desperately trying to read all the classics that I was sure would be required later. My Crichton and Grisham paperbacks found themselves now on the bottom shelf of my bookshelf; replaced by Austen, Harper Lee, Steinbeck, Twain and other giants. The dinosaurs and lawyers (equally frightening creatures) were replaced by Mr. Darcy, the monster of Dr. Frankenstein and Boo Radley.
While these new authors were boxed up and went to college with me; some to be read and reread, disected and dichotimized over and over again for class; Crichton and Grisham remained, guarding my old room, stationary in their sentinel watch from my lowest shelf.
As the likes of Twain, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman tried to hide their excitement as I planned a move to New England, and repacked them yet again, Crichton and Grisham gathered dust. Upon my eventual return back to my home state, a sullen Poe rested heavily a few books away from a bawdy Seamus Haney. Delicate Austen now enjoyed the company of Alcott and her gaggle of girls, while Plato, Nietzsche and St. Augustine (it might be guessed) were discussing something of a serious nature. Both Crichton and Grisham, it will be noted, had passed on to other family members and then been sold off at multiple garage sales over summers now gone.
It is something I had not thought on until I heard of Crichton's death.
In the movie, "Stand By Me," (based on the Stephen King book, The Body), the voice of the narrator (played by Richard Dreyfuss) says, "I never had any friends later on, like the ones I had when I was twelve...Jesus....does anyone?" And though I have long since hung out with the likes of Michael Crichton, there is much to be said of those weekends spent in worlds and places that he fashioned. There is likewise much to be said of those friends we have when we are twelve.