The research process and serendipity – excerpt from Alison Lurie’s “Foreign Affairs”

Another excerpt from Alison Lurie’s brilliant “Foreign Affairs” – this time Vinnie (academic) and her non-academic acquaintance Chuck, who is looking up his family tree… Nice on how research can be a coming-at-it-sideways thing…

He had a real productive trip to South Leigh this time, Chuck tells her, putting away two-thirds of the Indian dinner and most of the beer as he talks. ‘Y’know, this research, it’s not like business. Sometimes you do a hell of a sight better if you don’t try to zero in on a problem. You start looking for one thing, you come across something else important by accident.”

“Serendipity,” Vinnie says.


She explains.

“Yeah, that’s what I said. I didn’t know there was a word for it.” Clearly, he feels not much is gained by this knowledge.

“Anyways, I was kind of browsing around in the library there, y’know?”

“Mm.” Vinnie imagines Chuck as a large cow – no, a bull – roaming the stacks of a provincial library, munching on a page here and there.

Page 165-6

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