Do you see, nothing is surprising but a coincidence. A fact is not surprising,
a coincidence is surprising and that is the reason that crime is surprising.
There is always a coincidence in a crime.
There are so many ways in which there is no crime.
Blood On The Dining Room Floor
Here's a coincidence. I've been thinking a lot about these things—coincidence, surprise. The latter as positive aesthetic value. It's one of those days composed of rushing here and there for reasons instantly erased by the completion of each task. I turn on my car radio just in time to hear a woman's voice saying, Complex thought in writing is always surprising. Does she mean it both ways—complex thought always surprises; it's surprising to find complex thought in writing? We intuitively know that everyday life doesn't conform to the simple outlines of well-made stories. In fact the story as story is radically surprising only to the degree that it transgresses its own generic expectations. When it really does this, disrupting the calculated turns of an artful plot, it's instantly recognized as at least a misdemeanor.
Is there always a coincidence in a crime? Of course, everything is of course coincidence, but the literature that incorporates the kind of coincidences—the unsettling ones, the dissonant juxtapositions—one notices is surprising and therefore a crime unless/until those dissonances become familiar, naturalized. A densely polyglot world, overflowing with disparate perceptions, intentions, desires, is one in which the kinds of coincidence we call transgressions (border incidents) are more likely to occur. The literatures of high-profile coincidence cause generic border incidents even as they explore the patterns of a complex reality. It's ironic that their dissonant contiguities, juxtapositions, incoherences, permeabilities seem gratuitously haphazard when the extratextual world is so much like that. The formal principles of these literatures raise difficult questions about making meaning in a world whose borders exist primarily to locate scenes of transgression while transgressive fluidities are forming our interconnected realities. It might seem that all this should pose more difficulties for the traditional storyteller as guardian of narrowly sequential logics, logics of identity, narrations of continuity in a world whose vulnerabilities have more to do with contiguity. Contiguity is the spatial dimension of coincidence, and it is the illfitting coincidence-contiguity of our reciprocal alterities that continually disrupts longings for the harmonies and smooth transitions of self-assured narrations. If literature is an engagement with possible forms of life—as all language games must be—there are perhaps too many ways in which there is no crime.
This speculation comes as a surprise only because we live in a culture of literary institutions (and markets) that have constituent needs to erase difficulty. But, wait, this is itself beginning to look suspiciously like a story—story of early, middle, or late capitalism reinscribing its brutally fetishized commodification and reification of— If I don't stop the momentum right here and now it might prematurely ejaculate its own conclusion. Stein stops me. Stein writes in her seven-page, four-chapter "Superstitions Of Fred Anneday, Annday, Anday A Novel Of Real Life" (1934): "Do not bother. Do not bother about a story oh do not bother. Inevitably one has to know how a story ends even if it does not."
Virginia Woolf, the great and hesitant storyteller, self-interrupter of stories, thinks about the problem of the story as form in her novel The Waves. Throughout, the quasi-character, quasi-narrator Bernard engages in an intermittent, ruminative soliloquy on the relation of language
Now to sum up.… Now to explain to you the meaning of my life …. But in order to make you understand, to give you my life, I must tell you a story—and there are so many, and so many—stories of childhood, stories of school, love, marriage, death, and so on; and none of them are true. Yet like children we tell each other stories, and to decorate them we make up these ridiculous, flamboyant, beautiful phrases. How tired I am of stories, how tired I am of phrases that come down so beautifully with all their feet on the ground! Also, how I distrust neat designs of life that are drawn upon half sheets of notepaper. I begin to long for some little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words, like the shuffling of feet on the pavement. I begin to seek some design more in accordance with those moments of humiliation and triumph that come now and then undeniably. Lying in a ditch on a stormy day, when it has been raining, then enormous clouds come marching over the sky, tattered clouds, wisps of cloud. What delights me then is the confusion, the height, the indifference and the fury. Great clouds always changing, and movement; something sulphurous and sinister, bowled up, helter-skelter; towering, trailing, broken off, lost, and I forgotten, minute, in a ditch. Of story, of design I do not see a trace then.
What does such a literature look like? One that does not deny the inarticulate, the confusing, the fragmented, the lost, the loss, but instead brings it into the form? There are many examples in modern and post- modern poetry, drama, even fiction (although less there). Samuel Beckett searched for a form that would admit what he called "the mess," "the chaos": "What I am saying does not mean that there will hence- forth be no form in art. It only means that there will be new form and that this form will be of such a type that it admits the chaos and does not try to say that the chaos is really something else …. [T]o find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now."