Someone asked me for a list of the books that have influenced me the most. I suspect he's looking for a list of books that more or less explain my philosophical and political positions--but a different list emerged. When I think of books that most influenced me, I think of Children of the Dust, which I picked up in middle school and could barely stand to finish reading. Somehow when I started it, I believed it a history. It played exactly into my parents' end-times survivalism, it complimented the gruesome but fascinating imagery of "events leading to the second coming," and it was terrifying. It may well be the source of a lifetime of nightmares about nuclear war. . . well, you know. That book, and reality.
That's influence. And why limit it to books?
When I was twelve, I'd learned repeatedly that sex was about shame, pain, coercion, more shame, and at best insanity-producing-guilt filled pleasure. I walked through the Smithsonian, saw a bronze copy of Rodin's the kiss, and it was revelation. Angels sang. Like a switch turning on the sun outside a dark cathedral, for the first time I got it--I finally understood it wasn't a lie, sex could be about love.
I read Ciardi's poetic interpretation of Dante's seventh circle and felt not quite so alone.
I saw Requiem for a Dream at a film festival, walked out alone in the middle of the night with the clear understanding that film could overwhelm my sensitivity to violence, and that this was worth being careful of.
I walked into the national gallery in London out of the gray rain, saw Van Gogh's Sunflowers against the blue wall, and understood for the first time why one travels thousands of miles to see a painting on the original canvas.
And after a summer of crying alone days and working nights--the summer of rape crisis training--David made me a scarf to help me not wear mourning. It drapes like a thneed, the color is like a sky so intense it's burning through your eyes, dashed with robin's egg--and when you touch it, it feels like kittens. Honest to God, kittens.
(Cue ________'s disturbing kitten joke here.)
Anyways, that other list is worth writing. . . but so, this.