I'm sure I saw some good and lasting films, but the ones I remember best are the little didn't-quite-make-it movies: Morgan! from 1966, 1967's The Happening, the 1967 TV movie How I Spent My Summer Vacation and a weird little thing called The Picasso Summer. You never see things like this on lists of the top 100 films of all time.
These odd movies rest in my head alongside certain bits and pieces from my lifelong reading habit ... not the big novels that affected many, like Catch-22, Rabbit Run or A Separate Peace, but often obscure short stories and essays. The titles and authors of some of them are lost, but I remember a story about a woman spending a season recovering from her divorce; another about a small town's reaction to a free-spirited newcomer; and a number of sci-fi quickies in an anthology from my brother's bookshelf.
I also recall vividly the first time I read Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain," a short story in The New Yorker, and Roger Angell's pun-filled "The Turtletaub Incident."
I see some connections here, especially in anti-establishment themes and an interest in society's misfits, but there's more, too. These small, short bursts of fiction, more than all the classics and "big" movies, have shaped my own story-telling impulses.
When I think of these stories and films, I see specific images: Morgan in a gorilla suit thumping his chest, Jill St. John removing her sunglasses, a divorcee's meal of a Good Humor ice cream and a gin-and-orange.
Such specific images are also where I often start writing a short story. When an elderly island woman told me about placing one hand on each coffin when she had to bury two daughters who drowned together, that image stayed in my head and eventually led to my story "Chickens." The tattoo on a barmaid became "Remembrance," and seeing two girls with Afros heading off to classes at VCU was an image that led to my novella, "A Dose of Spirits."
I recently gathered my stories into a collection, which I've submitted to a fiction contest. While I have hopes for some recognition out of this, they aren't big ambitions, just as my pieces aren't big fiction. Maybe, though, one of my images will stick with someone, continuing the circle. Even if, in 45 or so years, he/she doesn't remember the name of the story or the author.