Having read Fr. George W. Rutler’s books and column in the past I knew I was sure to enjoy his latest book Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections and ordered it as soon as it come out. The book contains fifty columns that originally appeared in Crisis Magazine and while I had read some of these columns before I enjoyed reading all of them together. Plus the lengthy preface was fun to read itself and provide a good introduction to these short essays.
The types of coincidences Fr. Rutler has detailed are not the sort that make conspiracy theorists shout Aha! They are instead the more mundane type of linking births, deaths, anniversaries, etc with other people and events. Each essay is built around a topic and you are soon immersed in a roller coaster ride through history. His command of history is breathtaking as he relates stories of people and events and links them together, albeit loosely, through coincidences of dates and even the numeric addition of the numbers in a date. Each essay runs about four pages and I kept telling myself that I would just read one more for now and then just going on and reading the next. His wit sparkles through and I found myself laughing over and over.
The annoying thing about the book is that it sharply illuminated how little I know about history, especially world history. Though I suspect a history professor might also feel a bit ignorant reading through this book. I would certainly have enjoyed to have had Fr. Rutler as a history professor instead of the social studies teachers that had little zeal for illuminating the grand adventure of history.
Here is one example of his style of writing and wit in this book:
Different hemispheres of the brain govern the propensity for intuitive artistry and inductive science. Extreme atrophy of one of the lobes can cause exaggerated aesthetism or nerdish scientism. Acute distinctions between the arts and sciences are artificial and unscientific. One dead lobe creates the National Endowment for the Arts and another dead one creates Planned Parenthood.
All of the essays are enjoyable, but I especially loved the one called “My Million Man Speech.” Louis Farrakhan gave a very strange speech where he took off on the coincidences of numbers such as the height of the Washington Monument. Fr. Rutler gives his own take in a perfect-pitch parody on coincidences in numbers.
This is quite an enjoyable book on so many levels and I highly recommended it.