I have a difficult time finishing books. I always read, and I always read books, but after a few chapters I get bored and I find another book, or I put the book for a few weeks, start another book, then come back to the first book. It is not uncommon for me to have 6 or 7 books going at a time, and to take months (or years) to finish one, if at all. But I am continuing to prod through Michael Crichton’s very very good autobiography. Some highlights from memory of this week’s reading (I am a slow reader and am little more than half way through):
He visits an ancient Mayan ruin, dated back to the 10th century. But this is not just a ruined pyramid, but a beautiful Mayan city that was carefully built and then all traces of its occupants lost. He finds this perplexing and disturbing, that things can be lost in time like that. (The European conquerers destroyed countless historical records, so I find it not surprising at all — but very disturbing — that we know nothing about this city). While reading this, I remember our day of visiting southern Mexico, how flat and jungle-like and peaceful it was. THat portion had been created by the asteroid that destroyed the dinosuars, the impact had literally lifted this shelf from the ocean, and you literally could tell.
He climbs Kilamanjaro!! His guides had a bet going that he would not make it, but after five days of hell he did. I didn’t know this, but it is 19,000 feet tall and consists of multiple volcanos with a shelf (“the saddle”) between them. It is the tallest volcano outside of South America (Everest is created by colliding continents). They had to be careful of altitude sickness, which kills several people a year (I learned that separately), and the main symptom is a dry cough. The climb consists of climbing through rain forest (with lots of streams and waterfalls!), alpine meadow, then up into the mountain. The top you are hiking through ash, which is like climbing vertical sand, and the hike was excruciating. It was tempting to quit, but they made it, and it takes less than a week. He doesn’t talk much about it, but it was something he was proud of himself for doing.
While making a movie, he visits a psychic research center (or something like that). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a member, and was prone to believing in wild claims related to the supernatural. Crichton feels there are similarities with Doyle — both were doctors turned writers — and didn’t want to fall prey to that. He finds that a number of psychics knew of things — specific things – they should not have known, that they seem to only see the past and not the future, and that they are translating what they see; it is like they have tapped into something that has happened, but not things that are going to happen. I am not a believer in psychics, but did find this interesting/compelling (I am remembering The Changeling, where the professor tells George C. Scott that when they test psychis that 99% are “utter frauds, but the 1% — astounding””).