When i was 21, I decided(overtly, to myself; rather than in a vague, unexpessed kind of way)that I was gay. The next three years or so were rocky; but i remember quite well, that early summer of 1981, in Aberystwyth, (the city-in-miniature of West wales, where I went to University) a man who recommended books, such as the following, to help me accept my sexual orientation, in a still predominantly hostile society; books like:
Vidal. City and the Pillar
Renault. The Persian Boy
David Ireland.Who Lies Inside
Baldwin. Giovanni’s Room
Many Gay Mens Press Imprints, with many strong openly gay and bisexual characters
And though the positiveness of those role models varied, they DID give me role models, as well as my new, (self-acceptingly gay)small group of friends. I had to leave Aberystwyth a month later and return to Liverpool, and, for the next three years never quite got going again, because I was without a social context for my sexuality; but those books stayed somewhere, however vague and unknowable, in my heart. They were still there when I finally FULLY accepted that I was gay at the end of 1984 and got my own place in Liverpool. Now, I read gay fiction/books with same-sex love in them, yet I also read books that are not so sexual orientation specific, about MANY subjects. But then, in 1981,it was CRUCIAL I had these books to fall back on and realise I was not alone and never would be again.
In a different way- more subtle- reading WG Sebald has changed my life; or, in respect of this time, it would be more accurate to say, altered my perspective on the intertwined threads of life and literature, as a complex inter-relationship, with literature forever reflecting back on life