Have you ever been reading and the word you’re reading is also mentioned by someone nearby or by someone on TV at the same time? It’s just one of those strange instances when you see or hear the same thing repeated again at the same time or shortly afterward.
It happened to me recently when reading or listening to two very different books. Both contained strange random facts about the same thing.
I’ve just learned that there’s a name for this occurrence: Baader-Meinhof. It’s the phenomenon where one happens upon some obscure piece of information—often an unfamiliar word or name—and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.
I was listening to Zac and Mia by A. J. Bett’s (2014), one of SYNC’s summer selection of audiobooks a few weeks ago. The main character, Zac, who’s got leukemia, is a bit of a nerd when it comes to knowing strange stats about how people have died. He’s trying to get to know a fellow patient in the hospital named Mia. In trying to take her mind off her own diagnosis, he tells her about all the strange and unbelievable ways people have died. One of them was a man from NJ who died in 2009 by falling into a vat of hot chocolate.
Now, not only did that get my attention, because I love chocolate and couldn’t believe that anyone would actual die in such a bizarre way, but because I live in NJ and didn’t remember hearing anything about it at the time.
Then, a few days after finishing listening to Zac and Mia, I started reading the galley of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s upcoming (Jan. 2017) middle grade book called Short. It’s about a girl named Julia who is grieving her beloved dog’s recent death and spending the summer playing a Munchkin in a community theater’s production of the Wizard of Oz. Their director has accidentally fallen off a ladder and broken his coccyx. One of the adults in the production, also playing a Munchkin, tells Julie that falling can be very serious. He then mentions the same case of the NJ man falling and dying in the vat of chocolate.
Even though the books weren’t written at the same time, or by the same authors, it’s just a bit strange that two different people would write about the same incident and I’d be reading about both instances at around the same time.
Has this kind of synchronicity ever happened to you? If so, what were the books and what were they describing?
I wonder whether the authors have an interest in these odd facts and try to find a way to incorporate them into the text, or do they present the facts more organically through the plot and development of their characters? I’m curious.
Now I’m reading Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti (2016) (current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee) and I just finished listening to SYNC’s summer offering of Chris Weitz’s audio edition of The Young World (2014). Guess what book the characters from both of these books really like? From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg!
Just one of those things, I guess.
— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti and listening to My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows