Coincidences don’t have much of a place in fiction, as I tried to explain in this post. But surely they have a place in life. After listening to the This American Life podcast about coincidences, I tried to think of any of them in my life. Couldn’t come up with any. But then…
Two nights ago my wife and I were watching a bit of a James Taylor/Carole King special on TV, and at the same time I was reading Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue. Carole King starts to sing “It’s Too Late,” a song that was everywhere in the early 70s but that I haven’t thought about in decades. And at the same moment I start reading a passage in Telegraph Avenue that describes a memorial service for a recently deceased black jazz organist where “It’s Too Late” is played; turns out this was his signature tune.
The next day I was reading the news about the FBI knowing who stole the paintings from the Gardner Museum 23 years ago. Then I returned to Telegraph Avenue, and sure enough:
He remembered taking Julie to the Gardner Museum on a trip to Boston a few years earlier, seeing a rectangle of paler wallpaper against the time-aged wall where a stolen Rembrandt once hung, a portrait of the very thing that perched atop the stool where Mr. Jones [the dead organist] used to sit: emptiness itself.
Those coincidences certainly aren’t good enough to get me on This American Life. But they’re odd and somehow meaningful, at least to me. They entwine my life and experiences with those of Michael Chabon and his characters. I’ve heard that Carole King song countless times. I have stared at the wall in the Gardner where the Rembrandt used to hang. It’s all connected,
So now I’m going to entwine you. Here’s the song, sung with James Taylor in the documentary I was watching while reading Telegraph Avenue:
Here’s the stolen Rembrandt:
And here’s the empty space where it used to hang, not exactly as Chabon described it, but close enough:
By the way, if you happen to know where that painting is, please let the FBI know. I’d love to see it again.