Michael Crichton to critic: You have a small penis.

The New York Times takes Michael Crichton to the woodshed for basing a child-rapist who makes a two-page appearance in his new novel, NEXT, on a writer who was critical of his previous novel about global warming:

““Next,” Michael Crichton’s new novel about the perils of biotechnology, has not proved as polarizing as his previous thriller, “State of Fear,” which dismisses global warming. But one of the new book’s minor characters — Mick Crowley, a Washington political columnist who rapes a baby — may be a literary dagger aimed at Michael Crowley, a Washington political reporter who wrote an unflattering article about Mr. Crichton this year.”

The article doesn’t condemn Mr. Crichton too harshly. It actually paints him as more of a sad figure lashing out at a critic like a bully sulking after a grown-up reprimands him. I don’t care if Mr. Crichton did base the literary Crowley on the literal Crowley (in fact, I think he did). I do like the reference by the article’s end to the “small penis rule:”

“Mr. Crowley contends that Mr. Crichton has tried to escape public censure for his literary attack by hiding behind what has become known as “the small penis rule.”
The rule, Mr. Crowley writes, is described in a 1998 article in The New York Times in which the libel lawyer Leon Friedman said it is a trick used by authors who have defamed someone to discourage lawsuits. “No male is going to come forward and say, ‘That character with a very small penis — that’s me!’ ” Mr. Friedman explained.”

I would think that the “small penis rule” (or SPR) would only really be used in cases where the author is trying to be subtle about his literary swipe at an enemy. I don’t see that here, the names and details are too similar to think that Mr. Crichton is doing anything buy giving Mr. Crowley a huge middle digit salute.
But, I do think that the Times missed a larger picture. This is nothing new. Authors have been placing their enemies, large and small, in their writing since cave painting. In fact, that was the origin or the SPR, when one cave-man depicted another hunter in less than flattering terms causing quite a spat which led to a great deal of mud-slinging (and I do mean actual mud). Shakespeare used to do it. So did Shakespeare’s contemporaries. And one of the masters was Dante who put all of his family’s enemies in the various levels of Hell, suffering for all the “wrongs” they did against his family (such as real estate deals gone wrong and perjury).

Leave a Reply