Apparently blockbuster novelist Michael Crichton, not content with making up science to debunk global warming, is now taking literary swipes at journalists who write stuff about him that he doesn't like. In his new book, Next, he introduces a character called "Mick Crowley" — a Washington political columnist who rapes a two-year old boy. Funnily enough, Crichton was the target of a highly critical New Republic cover story earlier this year....by Washington political writer Michael Crowley, who often goes by "Mike." Which sounds an awful lot like "Mick."
Crichton's literary hit can be found on all of two pages in his book, but it's memorable. Here's an excerpt:
Alex Burnet was in the middle of the most difficult trial of her career, a rape case involving the sexual assault of a two-year-old boy in Malibu. The defendant, thirty-year-old Mick Crowley, was a Washington-based political columnist who was visiting his sister-in-law when he experienced an overwhelming urge to have anal sex with her young son, still in diapers.
Charming! It's minds like that which merit private sit-down meetings with the President of the United States. Crowley — the real, non-raper of babies Crowley, that is — is pretty sure that Crichton meant the allusion as a dig, calling it "a literary hit-and-run" on today's TNR.com and confirming that at least some of the details about the fictional Crowley dovetail with the original: Both are Washington political writers, both went to Yale, both are in their 30s, both seem to not be Michael Crichton's favorite people.
There is one detail, however, that Crowley singles out as telling: The fictional Crowley is characterized as having a small penis (this detail is important to the narrative insofar as it show's Crichton's disturbing attention to detail). Crowley addresses this point head on by raising the little-known "Small Penis Rule," sourced to a 1998 New York Times article:
[I]t is a sly trick employed by authors who have defamed someone to discourage their targets from filing lawsuits. As libel lawyer Leon Friedman explained to the Times, "No male is going to come forward and say, 'That character with a very small penis, 'That's me!'"
Crowley, however, sees smallness not in his own penis, but in Crichton's heart, taking the literary low-blow as the highest compliment: That he was right. Says Crowley:
Call it the small man rule: If someone offers substantive criticism of an author, and the author responds by hitting below the belt, as it were, then he's conceding that the critic has won.
There's a "Penis, Mightier Than The Sword" joke in here somewhere.
NB: Crowley is a frequent guest on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" and is a warm acquaintance of mine whom I've never met, in Washington, Malibu, or anywhere else.