Overlaps

Do you know this feeling of serendipity, when your reading list starts talking to itself, books doing a tango in your brainpan? I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes right now (which is awesome), and in the story “Family Affair,” I read this passage:

We talked for a while about airplanes. Having just read several books on the crash in the Andes, I brought up that topic.

“When they ate human flesh, they would roast it in the sun on pieces of aluminum from the airplane.”

My sister stopped eating and glared at me. “Why do you have to talk about such awful things at the dinner table? Do you say things like that when you’re eating with girls you’re trying to seduce?”

Ordinarily I would simply think oh, one of the books he’s talking about is probably Alive. But then I just finished Amy Hempel’s The Dog of the Marriage (which is also awesome), so reading the above immediately made me go back to a passage in the story entitled “Reference #388475848-5,” which goes like this:

I’m not like the guy at the film festival yesterday who asked the French director in the Q and A after his film was shown, “Are we going to get our money back?” I hadn’t even wanted to see the film; before we went, I told my date what I did want to see, and he said, “They stole the idea from that other one, the one where they ate each other.” And I said, “No, that was the plane crash; this is the two guys who had the mountain-climbing accident. It’s a documentary.” And he said, “What isn’t?”

This made me so happy, in spite of the grim subject matter. I love the connectedness, the overlappingness, not to mention the smart dry humor. I also love the thought of something like Touching the Void, a movie that came out only a couple years ago, slipping so easily into a book of short stories that came out only a few months ago.

The analog-hugging side of me is also pleased that it seems highly probable that no computer, no matter how sophisticated, will ever be able to get such references, such oblique citations, or experience pleasure at such correspondences. Probably won’t, anyway. Right?