I read Jurassic Park when I was ten. Fourth grade, Ms. Stevens. She and my dad had taken a partnered, special interest in my reading and I had followed suit by polishing it off in just under a week. Had to make the deadline of the movie’s release, dontcha know. But I skipped whole parts and didn’t really get the concept of Malcom’s iterations and whatnot. Blank spaces being filled in with whatever DNA was at hand… That Summer was a watershed for me. I remember walking down to McDonald’s many a time to get a large fry and to collect whatever new dinosaur cup was a being offered by way of toy/prize. Also, my baby brother was in utero. Life was going from cool to cooler in spite of the heat. I digress. Dinosaurs! So I read it again prior to The Lost World’s (book) release. Read it in full, I did. The one thing that dismayed me a tad was the fact that I couldn’t then displace Sam Neill’s portrayal of Grant in my mind’s eye. It bothered me that I couldn’t dredge up my internal visual representation of Grant from Reading Jurassic Park 1.0. But I moved forward and enjoyed the sequel all the same.
Contrast the above with Paulo Coelho’s irreducibly complex Alchemist and you’ll see that the boy of the tale is a tabula rasa for you. Not one word is given as to his personal appearance and I find that refreshing. Just under the cusp of gimmick, as it were. Truly brilliant as a literary device, if I may. But moving forward, how do I reconcile all the above with the intensity of a person like Tom Cruise who went on to portray Lee Child’s Jack Reacher? Having never read the series but who from a distance I feel would have been best served by someone like Clive Owen sans British accent or Liev Schreiber in a strong-but-wounded masculinity? God knows. When I read (or heard, not sure) that Child, screening the film, was actually impressed—more so than he’d thought, I find it remarkable that a real person could unseat the image of a character in even the creator’s mind. At least, this is my interpretation. Weird.
I read about half of James Thackara’s Book of Kings in my early twenties. Quite a tome with successive layers of flashback requiring an older, more focused mind than the one I then possessed. One day in the newsstand of my local Barnes and Noble, I came upon a cover to Spin or some such featuring The Strokes in all their heyday. And I was gently struck dumb with the appearance of Justin Lothaire in the person of Albert Hammond Jr. That was a new one.
In closing, William Gibson has recently edged out (by several orders of magnitude) Crichton as my all-time fave fictioneer. A strong kernel as to why this is true (there are many, many) is due to his creation and development and portrayal of the character of Milgrim. Introduced in Spook Country and wholly rounded-off in the excellent Zero History, Milgrim is described by Heidi thus: “You couldn’t find a whiter guy” (p. 386). This says volumes, to me, and while he is generically unremarkable in appearance, it’s his mind. His mind belied behind his easily flaccid exterior. While Alchemist’s protagonist didn’t do much for my personhood in spite of the book’s being a beautiful bildungsroman, Gibson’s Milgrim has given my adult life and mind a mirror from which to further actualize.