Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Race for the Prize: On Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland

We'd be forgiven for wondering today what the whole thing could have possibly meant, even if back then it seemed like it meant everything. When her editors at the New York World asked Nellie Bly to write about a trip around the world, they were really just boomeranging back an idea she’d thrown their way a year earlier. Back then they’d believed that, as a woman, Bly wouldn’t be safe making such a trip, and, anyway, wouldn’t a woman require too much baggage? (They meant baggage in the literal sense — it was 1889.) Anyway, her editors did end up promising that if they sent anyone, it’d be Bly.

Jasper Johns as Michael Crichton Knew Him

Charlie Rose once asked Michael Crichton — in that way only good friends can get away with — why he’d never written characters as interesting as himself, and Crichton responded — in that way only good friends can get away with — by ducking the question. That’s too bad, because Rose’s question was an excellent one, as anyone knows who’s readTravels (1989), Crichton’s picaresque memoir of psychological discovery by means of geographic exploration. He climbs Kilimanjaro; swims with sharks; beholds the pyramids; directs Sean Connery in Ireland in The Great Train Robbery (encountering a cool demeanor grounded in personal ethos that Crichton can’t help but admire); deep-sea dives for a wreckage in Bonaire (and nearly dies); goes hiking in Baltistan (and nearly dies); encounters gorillas in Africa (and nearly dies). Plus there’s medical school and psychoanalysis and L.A. and the death of his father and psychic experimentation (everything from seeing auras to bending spoons with his brain).

Read the rest at The Millions