Sorry, two posts back to back.

Day 2

Share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul.


This is ridiculously difficult. How to narrow down? Especially in the book realm. And I'm not going to claim a life-changing power for any of these things. It's more that these are works whose influence I consciously recognized or that were among the millions of things shaping my taste and personality. (I'm including one for each category, because why not?)


Book - In my early 20s, I fell absolutely, swooningly in love with Virginia Woolf, and the thing that cemented it were her diaries. I read all of them, all her letters, all her reviews, most of her novels. I read biographies. I consumed everything I could find concerning Bloomsbury until it was coming out of my ears. The first Woolf books I purchased came from a small used bookstore in the Castro district of San Francisco, staffed by a charming gay man named (I kid you not) Ulysses. It doomed me to craving a literary life, in devotion to which I kept myself on a downwardly mobile path. That literary life eluded me, but I don't blame Virginia, and I certainly don't blame books.

Song - Oh dear, embarrassing confession time. Back in the day, I was in love with my best friend, the one who'd introduced me to the works of Stephen Sondheim, and Sondheim had become yet another of my obsessions. When "Sunday in the Park with George" was released (on vinyl! OMG), of course my friend and I had to get together to discuss it, because that's what we did. Our friendship was one long conversation about books, music, movies, and religion (she was, I wasn't). There's a song in that musical called "Finishing the Hat," which inspired both deep emotional recognition and (this is the embarrassing part) overidentification in me. It's a song about choosing between art and life.

In the show, the original George chooses art.

The song sounded to me like a wake-up call. I could easily imagine myself doing exactly that, only I wasn't (I already knew this) a genius in my field. This wasn't helped by the fact that the friend I was in love with was already in a relationship, and in effect I'd cast a romantic spell on myself that prevented me from moving on to someone/something else. (There's another song in the show about a comparable dilemma, appropriately titled, "Moving On.") Because of my overreaction to "Finishing the Hat" and this worry about my ascetic streak, I eventually got myself embroiled in a relationship that messed things up for me something fierce. I chose "life."

I still love that bloody song, and I still recognize what it's saying. And if I had it to do all over again, I would choose differently.

Movie - Hm, relationships are a theme here. In this case, it's Children of Paradise/Les Enfants du Paradis, which I saw at the perfect age of 16, in a borrowed classroom with a drop screen and a projector, on a junior college campus. It's a very French-Dickensian sort of movie, in beautiful, grainy, mysterious black-and-white, without a happy ending but with a tremendous sense of life. I staggered out of that story cave into the sunshine, transported by a sense of tragic romance and the human carnival, and utterly in love with everyone and everything. (Did I mention I was 16?)

Fast-forward many years on, and I'm walking down a street in my low-income neighborhood, every nerve on fire because a relationship I had no business being in has just ended, and it hurts like blazes, never mind that the ending was overdue. So I crest the hill, and the north side of the city spreads out before me, a broad, quasi-Victorian panorama, and it's as if something unlocks in my chest (okay, so maybe Chest Monsters aren't utterly rubbish) and a sense of the whole rich, teeming, amazing spectacle of life suffuses me. And I remember where I've felt this before, and it tells me quite clearly that intense experiences end, and life goes on, and the richness of life is the point, really, and I'm just one story among many. And it feels marvelous, in an extremely painful way, and very open and electric.

And life does go on. And for years I struggled not to lose that perspective.

TV Show - Star Trek: the Original Series. I watched it at the age of 11, and I intuitively understood the slashiness of Kirk and Spock. Of course, I didn't use the terminology then; that came later. But I absorbed that sense of "they belong together" with ease, and carried the assumption that of course gay men and lesbians exist into my school life. I probably had an unarticulated understanding of queer people in the world prior to that, but I think Star Trek brought it closer to the surface and in a way made me expect it; and made me expect that other people would know, too, and accommodate our existence via the same spark of recognition.

Needless to say, those expectations weren't always met.

Fanwork - Either Corvus Corone or The Onopordon Acanthium were my introduction to one of them most important people in my life, the writer who lured me closer to the heart of fandom, who wrote stories that gave me joy and slipped past my shyness to persuade me to leave comments, the friend who shared her brilliance with me and encouraged my first tentative fic-writing impulses, and who has been a lifeline to me during the past few years, which have been the darkest of my life. Without fandom, and fanfic, and the stories that caught my eye and heart, I might never have met Rinsbane, and that is unimaginable to me.
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