The press is flooded today with tributes to Michael Crichton. Many marvel at the breadth of his accomplishments.
("He has written eight novels, four works of nonfiction – ranging in subject from Jasper Johns to 'electronic life' – and has directed the movies 'Westworld,' 'Coma' and 'The Great Train Robbery.' On top of all that, he graduated Harvard Medical School and, in 1969, was a post-doctoral fellow at the Salk Institute in La Jolla,' " marveled an interviewer writing in the Los Angeles Times.)
That was 16 years ago in 1992 – when Crichton was only 49.
And of course some are critical. "Reviewers often complained that Crichton's characters were wooden, that his ear for dialogue was tin and that his science was suspect. Environmentalists raged against his skeptical views on climate change, first expressed in the 2004 novel "State of Fear" and subsequently in various public forums," notes the International Herald Tribune.
But some of the most memorable involve personal reminiscences. Many who interviewed Crichton in person noted his height (some say 6' 7", others insist he was 6' 9"), his good looks, and his shyness. But others note his deep interest in everything around him – including other people.
On NPR's website, Linton Weeks recalls a morning meeting with Crichton in Manhattan in 1999. The two ambled up the Upper West Side together to Cafe des Artistes. "In a gray suit, dark tie and wire-rim glasses, Crichton was dressed like an off-duty professor, which he was in a way," remembers Weeks. "He stooped a little as we ambled along — so I wouldn't feel too short. He was softspoken and courtly. "
But what Weeks remembers best is his curiosity. "Some of us reporters who spend our days listening to other people describe their lives and dreams are struck when a subject asks questions about us," he notes. "It's a rare occurrence and, for efficiency's sake, not to be indulged. But it does separate the curious from the merely vain. Crichton was super-curious and asked all kinds of questions."
On the Macworld website there is also a nice remembrance from Rob Griffiths who recalls a 2001 e-mail exchange with Crichton. They had never met in person, but Griffiths at one point founded a website with hints for using the then-new Mac OS X. The website was popular and eventually expensive to maintain, so Griffiths (who was doing it as a hobby) decided to ask users for contributions.
One of the first to e-mail and volunteer a check was Crichton. Unsure that the e-mail was really from THE Michael Crichton, Griffiths asked, half-jokingly, for an autographed book along with the check.
"No problem," said Crichton, who shortly sent along an autographed copy of "Timeline." Crichton had also taken a moment to write and insert a card.
"Today, seven years on, I still have the book and card, and now, with Michael’s passing, will treasure them more than ever," writes Griffiths. "Michael, thank you for the wonderful entertainment you provided over the years – and for the individual support you provided to some guy running an OS X Web site as a hobby back in 2001. The world has lost a great talent, and you will be sorely missed."