Fiction and Synchronicity

I went to hear Tony Vigorito read tonight. I hadn’t heard of him before seeing the advertisement for the reading. I was charmed by the Dostoevsky quote used as the epigraph from his first novel, Just a Couple of Days [Life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we refuse to see it. If we would, we should have heaven on earth the very next day. ] and by his relaxed approach to the reading. He recounted a surreal experience which occurred over the weekend involving a dubious stranger disemboweling a deer which his vegetarian girlfriend had accidently struck and killed with her car.

He talked about his first novel being about language and his recently completed novel, Nine Kinds of Naked, being about synchronicity. He read from the manuscript of this newer work which will be published next spring. He told us about strange coincidences related to it the work and his approach to it. (This reminded me of a Jeffrey Eugenides essay about writing Middlesex.) He asked us if we wanted to share any synchronicities from our personal experience. I nervously tried to recount a story about a fortune cookie.

When I got home, I went in search of my journal from that time to compare my memory with the facts.

January 2004

Lunch at Asia Wok with Connie. My fortune cookie said, “The only way to catch a tiger cub is to go into the tiger’s den.” Hers was something about if metal is ground down repeatedly it becomes a fine point. I didn’t know what my message meant and was convinced our wires had been crossed since I’d just returned from a meditation retreat. Connie takes these things seriously and refused my offer to help sort out fate by trading.

Before going to bed, I read through my email. An email from Writer’s Almanac from the day before mentioned Haruki Murakami (born 1/12/49), saying, Widely considered one of Japan's most important 20th-century writers, he is heavily influenced by American culture, and has been criticized by some Japanese for being too westernized. He said in an interview, "I write weird stories. Myself, I'm a very realistic person. ... I wake up at 6:00 in the morning and go to bed at 10:00, jogging every day and swimming, eating healthy food. ... But when I write, I write weird."

Clicking on the link embedded in his name, I was taken to a Salon.com interview which said that his writing was considered confusing, which connected back to developing skill at reacting to confusion with equanimity which had been a significant topic during the retreat. I popped open a browser to reserve The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle from the library. The interview was three pages long and I kept reading it in spite of being sleepy. The interview concluded with:

Q. It sounds like when you feel scared about writing something, you decide to pursue it.
A. You can't escape from that. There is a saying in Japan: "When you want a tiger's cub, you have to enter the tiger's den."

I ran downstairs to look in the trash for my fortune. I couldn’t find it, but felt relieved Connie could vouch for me.

The next day, squirrels got into our trash and scattered what failed to interest them around the backyard. Among the litter I discovered my fortune, folded in half and lying on the frozen, snow-covered grass. [I taped it into my journal.]