I have been fascinated for a long time by coincidences and the meaning sometimes attached to them. Some people see coincidences as simply what the dictionary says: a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection. But some people do see a causal connection. On the more extreme end of that are those who believe there are no coincidences, and perhaps related are those who believe in synchronicity. On the very far end of all this is a belief in fate or destiny, which is a predetermined course of events.
You break up with a longtime mate and the next day while visiting a city you have never been to you run into someone you were briefly in love with ten years ago who has also never been to that city. Coincidence? Fate? Kismet? Destiny?
A few coincidences popped up in my reading of an almanac post for December 11. That is the birthday of novelists Thomas McGuane and Jim Harrison. That’s not much of a coincidence, but there are more.
McGuane went to the University of Michigan and his birthday brother Jim Harrison was a classmate. they were both aspiring writers and they became lifelong friends.
Eventually, both writers moved to Montana.
An event in Harrison’s life when he was 25 years old might be described as a coincidence or fate. He was supposed to go on a hunting trip with his father and sister, but for whatever reason, he decided not to go with them. A few hours later, his father and sister were killed when they were hit by a drunk driver.
He originally wanted to be a poet and his first publications were three collections of poetry. But then Fate stepped in. Maybe.
While he was out hunting, he fell off a cliff and hurt his back badly enough that he was bedridden for months. Thomas McGuane told him to try writing a novel while he was lying in bed. Harrison wrote Wolf: A False Memoir and next published the novella he is probably best known for, Legends of the Fall. The book got more attention because of the film version of this story about three brothers and their father living in Montana (played by Brad Pitt, Henry Thomas, Anthony Hopkins and Aidan Quinn) who struggle to stay together when a woman comes between them.
Harrison published a dozen novels and two dozen novellas before his death in 2016.
McGuane moved to Montana in 1969. His first novel, The Sporting Club, was published that year and from the sale of the film rights, he bought a Montana ranch. The novel also was adapted into a 1971 movie.
McGuane’s first three novels—The Sporting Club (1969), The Bushwhacked Piano (1971), and Ninety-two in the Shade (1973) are all stories of men living in a kind of isolation. Many of his ten novels are set in Montana.
In 2019, he published Cloudbursts: Collected and New Stories.
Both men were very much outdoorsmen. When McGuane wasn’t writing, he was probably fly fishing or riding horses.
Thomas McGuane Remembers His Friend, Jim Harrison