A book, a movie, a story, an image that you saw at the right time, and that helped make you who you are today.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
We’ve all had that in our past, some piece of art that helped make us who we are. Sometimes it’s as simple as discovering a work or an artist at just the right age. I myself first saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail at the age of nine, and you’d better believe that left an indelible mark.
The deepest impressions, though, were left by two great American stylists: Mel Brooks and Kurt Vonnegut. I rented History of the World Part One on a whim because I liked the title, and proceeded to devour Brooks’ entire filmography, including The Twelve Chairs. With Vonnegut, I picked up Jailbird at a garage sale for a quarter, and had my eyes opened to a vision of America where empathy and simple human kindness were our only defenses against our own rapacity and foolishness.
What were yours? Did you discover Public Enemy at just the right age? See Star Trek and join its community? What’s your story?