Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Wee Coincidence

Coincidence has always flowed through literature like a convenient stream for thirsty readers. In earlier centuries, of course, in those Dark Ages before smart phones and GPS and being in touch 24/7, writers needed coincidence--sometimes in major doses--to make sure the plot reached the resolution they wanted.

Think about the pirates in Hamlet, the pirates who appear just in time so that Hamlet can get back to Elsinore to see the burial of Ophelia, to have a little sword play with Laertes, to dispatch a murderous King, etc.

One of my favorites, though, is in David Copperfield when David's long-time friend, then betrayer, James Steerforth, washes up at David's feet on a beach where our hero is looking at a shipwreck. Here's the moment--from Chapter 55:

… a fisherman, who had known me when Emily and I were children, and ever since, whispered my name at the door.

‘Sir,’ said he, with tears starting to his weather-beaten face, which, with his trembling lips, was ashy pale, ‘will you come over yonder?’

The old remembrance that had been recalled to me, was in his look. I asked him, terror-stricken, leaning on the arm he held out to support me:

‘Has a body come ashore?’
He said, ‘Yes.’

‘Do I know it?’ I asked then.

He answered nothing.

But he led me to the shore. And on that part of it where she and I had looked for shells, two children—on that part of it where some lighter fragments of the old boat, blown down last night, had been scattered by the wind—among the ruins of the home he had wronged—I saw him lying with his head upon his arm, as I had often seen him lie at school.

Ah, coincidence meets poetic justice! (This dude has asked for it!)

Anyway, I was thinking about coincidence today because of two books I am reading. Yesterday, I started reading Arthur & Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes (2017) by Michael Sims. I've just barely started--have read only about 25 pages. I am sort of a Holmes-freak--not full-blown, not at all. But I've always liked the stories, have read lots of Holmes-related stuff. So ... this one looked interesting. I bought it. I started reading it.

Then, this morning, I started reading the next Michael Chabon book on my list (I'm reading all the ones I've not read previously); it's a 2004 mystery novella called The Final Solution (which alludes to the title of a very famous Holmes story, "The Final Problem"--link to the story--and, of course, to the Holocaust). I read the first 50 pages of Chabon's book this morning, and it's very clear that it's about the very elderly Sherlock (as yet unnamed--but it is he!), who, in the early years of WW II is called by some local authorities to help with a puzzling murder case involving an African gray parrot and a little boy, a Jew recently rescued from Germany.

So ... the two books I just happen to read are about Holmes ... well, one of them, of course, is obviously about the sleuth-in-the-deerstalker.

But still ...

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