What a strange synchronicity. I recently finished The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, a book about, many other things, the appearance of coincidence, and how it’s not really a coincidence at all. At least that’s what the two or three “miracles” in the closing chapters of the novel strongly suggest. A coincidence is but a dimly perceived providence. This is Graham Greene talking. Not me. But I respect him all the same. A damn fine writer. Anyhow, I just finished his book (and will have something more to say about it in the coming days) and cast my eyes about the library to see what I might read next. Books I’ve shortlisted are pulled halfway out, ready at hand. Dalva is pulled halfway out, for instance, as are a handful of other books, by Beckett, Dickens, Eliot, P. Mathhiessen, A. Ohlin and others. My hand reached for a book and grabbed the spine of a novel not sticking halfway out. I was just as surprised as the book, Angels by Denis Johnson. Now that’s a providential-sounding title, no? Right on the heels of The End of the Affair? Where an absent God works through corrupted saints disguised as people. Angels. I opened the first few pages, even smelled them, an idiosyncrasy of mine formed in grad school when I couldn’t afford every book I wanted to possess. The next best thing, I suppose. Here’s the epigraph I found in Angels. “I accused her as though her prayers had really worked the change: What did I do to you that you had to condemn me to life?” Have you already anticipated me? The quote comes from The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Coincidence? Probably. After all, I’m a rationalist in mystic clothing and my clothing is easily changed. But I do like how this synchronicity provides a striking confirmation of the opening line in The End of the Affair, “A story has no beginning or end.” And here I am proving Greene’s point by reading his words at the “beginning” of a story he didn’t write. Time to get my Angels on.
an affair with an angel