May’s “Coincidence Corner”

“Coincidence Corner” is my light-hearted description for what has become a monthly look at the themes, stories or references that recur if you keep your eyes and ears open, no matter what you read, watch or listen to. They’re not really coincidences, though some people might see them that way, and they’re based on what I have read, seen and heard over the last month. (There are links to earlier pieces at the end of this one.)

Much of my viewing this month has been Shakespeare-related – the four plays compressed into the second series of “The Hollow Crown”, “Theatre of Blood”, the new BBC2 comedy “Upstart Crow” – so the Shakespeare references that have occurred daily as I go about my business can hardly be counted as coincidences.

I read four complete books this month (and therefore managed to keep up the 50 pages a day that I have written about elsewhere): “Room” by Emma Donoghue (about five years after everybody else read it), “Rogue Male” (a re-read, which I wrote about here), “The Norm Chronicles” (as mentioned in this piece) and “Vanity Fair”, the first Victorian novel that I have read for at least 20 years (apart from re-reading “Great Expectations”).

“Vanity Fair” is full of Shakespeare references, though only “Macbeth” is mentioned by name. Characters in “King Lear”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “The Tempest”, “Othello”, even “Cymbeline”, are mentioned and if you’re not familiar with the plays you might need the endnotes to explain that these plays feature (respectively) Goneril, Titania, Sycorax and Caliban, Desdemona and Cassio and (from “Cymbeline”) Iachimo. It also refers to characters from “The Arabian Nights”, which have greater resonance for me now after I came across them repeatedly in April.

The references that struck me as closest to coincidences were from the start and end of the month. This Guardian Technology piece about Apple mentioned Dave Eggers’s book “The Circle”. Within an hour of me reading that piece a friend sent some photos of books (duplicate, or no longer wanted) that he was going to give to charity, to see if any of them appealed to me. “The Circle” was in the first photo, and because it had just been mentioned in that Guardian article his copy now sits unread on my one of my shelves.

While planning what to read in June I picked up a copy of Dodie Smith’s “I Capture the Castle” and read the introduction, by Valerie Grove. She writes, “I have never met a reader who wanted this book to end”. I read that within a few hours of re-writing this piece about Starters and Finishers, which contained these words:

When describing a book or a movie I have never used the expression, “I didn’t want it to end”. I always want it to end, and move onto something else. For favourite books and movies I go back and read or watch them again.

I hope to read “I Capture the Castle” in June and will either join Valerie Grove’s readers who didn’t want it to end or will carry on as before, looking forward to when the book is finished so that I can go on to something else.

Also, having just started “Gut” by Giulia Enders, I recognized the name of Glauber, mentioned in an endnote in “Vanity Fair” which I read a day earlier: Glauber’s Salt (a laxative) is mentioned in the former, and alluded to in the latter.

On a musical note, two successive guests on “Desert Island Discs” in May (Inga Beale and then Berry Gordy) chose Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five’s “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”, the only occasions in over 1,500 episodes that this song has been chosen.

Finally, those links to earlier pieces about “coincidences”:

April’s “Coincidence Corner”
March’s “Coincidence Corner”
February’s “Coincidence Corner”


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