Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The coincidence: Me, The New Yorker, Mindy Kaling and J.D. Salinger

Are there such things as coincidences? Yes. They happen to me on occasion. But I have never known what they mean, if anything.

Chilean novelist and poet Roberto BolaƱo said, “Coincidence obeys no laws and if it does we don't know what they are.” If you go to the Internet you get a couple of dozen quotes about coincidences, a lot of which contradict each other. Some people see coincidences as part of a grand plan of God’s, others as interesting, yet random happenstance.

What I know about coincidences and me is that they come to me out of the blue. I may go months without noticing anything particularly coincidental, and then get a surprise.

The surprise happened to me yesterday morning. I have been reading a book, About Town, The New Yorker and the World It Made by Ben Yagoda. In a section about author J.D. Salinger I read that Salinger , “. . . wisely chose not to reprint [his story] “Hapworth”* in book form, and as a result many libraries’ bound New Yorker volume containing the June 19, 1965, issue is missing pages 32 to 113, their removal effected by some fanatic devotee of the author’s.”

 The famous issue.

I put the book down and read my newspaper. With the paper is a supplement magazine, American Profile, that comes out on Monday. In an article called “Christmas Memories of the Stars” I read a quote by actress Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) of a favorite gift: “I am a huge J.D. Salinger fan. I had a boyfriend who gave me all the uncollected J.D. Salinger stories that were published in magazines but were not compiled into book collections. That was a nice Christmas present.”

Now that I resoundingly claim as a coincidence.  It also explained who had been cutting up the New Yorker!

Did anyone ever ask Salinger how he felt about coincidences? Or cutting up the New Yorker, for that matter?

Because of the aforementioned unknown nature of coincidences it could be months or years before I am surprised by another. As to whether a coincidence means anything, I will leave that for someone else to figure out.

*The story, “Hapworth 16, 1924” is, as I write this, available in both the New Yorker archives (you have to be a subscriber to the magazine to read their archives) and a convenient PDF at GoingWiMax.com. If you click on the link and get an error then the link has been taken down. Sorry, but it wasn’t me who did it.


Kirk said...

I've written about coincidence-as-God on my own blog. When I was a kid in the '70s, the comic books would carry these ads for a Lincoln penny with the Great Emancipator's head on both sides. In a sidebar there was a list of Abe Lincoln/JKF assassination coincidences (both had vice-presidents named Johnson, both elected in years that ended in 60, one assassin shot in a theater and hid in a warehouse while the other shot form a warehouse but hid in a theater, etc)and I was awestruck by what I was sure was the hand of God. Now I look and think, why in the world would God want to off two presidents 100 years apart? If he was trying to send a message, no one's yet figured out what it was. And, of course, only those around for the second assassination would have even known there were coincidences, and thus divine intervention in human affairs, in the first place.

Postino said...

Kirk, I was struck by the assassination coincidences, just as you were. You hit the nail on the head, wondering why God would stage manage such events 100 years apart. Unlike friends of mine who were convinced there was some sort of supernatural mystery connecting both events, I didn't think they were a message from God . My friends and I had some conversations, sometimes heated, about the similarities. The whole thing is a good example of the very human ability to connect the dots, even dots that are only in our heads. Thanks for your note.