A 2001 interview with W. G. Sebald (put online by the New Yorker) makes me want to read his work (which I have still not gotten around to); this paragraph, in particular, resonates strongly with my own feelings about how to navigate life:
But I never liked doing things systematically. Not even my Ph.D. research was done systematically. It was done in a random, haphazard fashion. The more I got on, the more I felt that, really, one can find something only in that way—in the same way in which, say, a dog runs through a field. If you look at a dog following the advice of his nose, he traverses a patch of land in a completely unplottable manner. And he invariably finds what he is looking for. I think that, as I’ve always had dogs, I’ve learned from them how to do this. So you then have a small amount of material and you accumulate things, and it grows, and one thing takes you to another, and you make something out of these haphazardly assembled materials. And, as they have been assembled in this random fashion, you have to strain your imagination in order to create a connection between the two things. If you look for things that are like the things that you have looked for before, then, obviously, they’ll connect up. But they’ll only connect up in an obvious sort of way, which actually isn’t, in terms of writing something new, very productive. You have to take heterogeneous materials in order to get your mind to do something that it hasn’t done before. That’s how I thought about it. Then, of course, curiosity gets the better of you.
His thoughts on coincidence are also right up my alley:
Yes. I think it’s this whole business of coincidence, which is very prominent in my writing. I hope it’s not obtrusive. But, you know, it does come up in the first book, in “Vertigo,” a good deal. I don’t particularly hold with parapsychological explanations of one kind or another, or Jungian theories about the subject. I find those rather tedious. But it seemed to me an instance that illustrates that we somehow need to make sense of our nonsensical existence. You meet somebody who has the same birthday as you—the odds are one in three hundred and sixty-five, not actually all that amazing. But if you like the person then immediately this takes on more . . . and so we build on it, and I think all our philosophical systems, all our systems of our creed, all constructions, even the technological worlds, are built in that way, in order to make some sort of sense, when there isn’t, as we all know.
(Via wood s lot.)