Paul Auster on Coincidence in Fiction

Paul Auster on coincidence in fiction ( From “Interview with Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory,” The Art of Hunger, pages 287-288):

“From an aesthetic point of view, the introduction of chance elements in fiction probably creates as many problems as it solves. I’ve come in for a lot of abuse from critics because of it. In the strictest sense of the word, I consider myself a realist. Chance is a part of reality: we are continually shaped by the forces of coincidence, the unexpected occurs with almost numbing regularity in all our lives. And yet there’s a widely held notion that novels shouldn’t stretch the imagination too far. Anything that appears “implausible” is necessarily taken to be forced, artificial, “unrealistic.” I don’t know what reality these people have been living in, but it certainly isn’t my reality. In some perverse way, I believe they’ve spent too much time reading books. They’re so immersed in the conventions of so-called realistic fiction that their sense of reality has been distorted. Everything’s been smoothed out in these novels, robbed of its singularity, boxed into a predictable world of cause and effect. Anyone with the wit to get his nose out of his book and study what’s actually in front of him will understand that this realism is a complete sham. To put it another way: truth is stranger than fiction. What I am after, I suppose, is to write fiction as strange as the world I live in.”

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