These things do happen, and perhaps more than we realize. Not long ago I was reading a book and came across a word I had never seen before. Wouldn’t you know I came across that word again that very afternoon? In class last week, we were finishing up Lolita. In the back of my mind was a mental note to tell the students that a great new pizza place, Otto, had opened in Harvard Square, and that if they found themselves in that part of the woods, they should be sure to check it out. But our discussion of the novel pulled me far away from my note. Then bingo! On the next to last page of the novel, Humbert informs the reader that “There are in my notes “Otto Otto” and “Mesmer Mesmer” (alternative names). I looked up and told the students about pizzeria Otto.
To a writer, coincidence can be a way to free yourself from a trap. Dickens has been accused of using it too much, and John Irving, who fancies himself a latter-day Dickens, goes a bit overboard himself in using the trick. Television uses it all the time. Critics deplore its use, but such critics, I would claim, are actually ignoring reality. And critics don’t write novels, do they? Coincidence is a big and mysterious part of our lives and no less a person than Aristotle gave the subject considerable thought. Speaking for myself, I like it. Already, I am using it—too much—in my current novel. I might even make it a character, give it some lines and a hat.
Today’s guest blogger