Saturday, May 10, 2008

State of Hypocrisy

I have long condemned Crichton's novel State of Fear as a long, drawn out anti-environmentalist rant poorly disguised as a novel. "Paugh!" I said, (that's to be pronounced phonetically, with the 'augh' involving a stereotypically German level of phlegm.) "Doesn't he have the creativity to write a real work of fiction, instead of a redundant neocon editorial disguised as a thriller?"

Recently, a friend of mine has been actively pursuing my recommendations on novels, particularly the serious reading, as opposed to the fluff. For this reason, I've been confronted with my taste for Dystopian novels, cautionary tales, and social commentary. (Feed, The Handmaid's Tale, and, of course, Fahrenheit 451 number amongst my favorites, in case you were interested).


Yes. While more sophisticated than Crichton's lambast of the environmental movement, each of these novels is, essentially, a rant (or social commentary, if you prefer) delivered via fiction. That is, the novel is a platform for these authors to express their political views. Now, this is somewhat less obvious in my favorite novels, since the politics espoused tend to be somewhat more transcendent than Crichton's 600 page jab. However, literary merit and staying power aside, Crichton and Bradbury appear to be utilizing their fiction in a similar manner - as a platform for their soapbox preachings about social ills.

Can then, the difference between my feelings toward Atwood and Crichton be reduced to mere political differences? My goodness, that makes my earlier criticisms somewhat hypocritical, does it not?

Well, yes and no.

My earlier criticisms are certainly less valid in light of my own literary preferences, but, the more I consider it, the less I think that hypocrisy was my problem (sheesh, rationalize much?). Instead, I appear to have misunderstood exactly what it was about the novel that raised my ire. Obviously it wasn't the politicization of fiction, since that's exactly what some of my favorite novels do. Instead, I'm becoming more convinced that I'm offended by the co-opting of science.

Part of why State of Fear is such a long novel is Crichton's extensive use of footnotes, charts, graphs, etc. They make the novel feel less like a novel, and more like a patronizing speech - thus my original complaint. However, I think my real problem is Crichton's pretension of scientific expertise. I don't think I need to really delve into why such a delusion is foolish as well as pretentious, but there's one part of his novel that really sums it up.

He finishes State of Fear with an afterward. In the afterward Crichton explains to us why the book's heavy-handed message is, in fact, true. So here Crichton is frankly and openly admitting that he believes the thematic basis of his book, a theme that he supports with what is essentially fake evidence.

In fact, Scientist Peter Doran wrote "... our results have been misused as “evidence” against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel “State of Fear."

Hopefully this prolonged rationalization session has been successful. Perhaps I've convinced you, along with myself, that not only am I not hypocritical, but I'm also justified in my righteous indignation.

Take that, Crichton!

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