Book Review: Everything I Need To Know I Learned In The Twilight Zone

Everything I Need To Know I Learned In The Twilight Zone, by Mark Dawidziak

Having read two of the previous volumes of the author written about Mark Twain, I was curious to see what else my local library system had by the author and this was the only other book they had.  I must admit that I cannot remember having seen any episodes of the Twilight Zone myself, but without a doubt that as a writer of speculative fiction [1] from time to time the Twilight Zone has had an indirect influence on me at the very least.  “To Serve Man,” for example, has long been a source of pop culture references among the episodes of the seminal series.  Therefore, although I am perhaps not the ideal or intended audience for this book, which is really written for fans, I am certainly an appreciative reader of a series that I think I would like to know a lot better.  Although I am no big television watcher I would happily watch some episodes of the series, and I would definitely read the teleplays of the series, without a doubt.  I suppose I can be considered someone who appreciates the debt of honor that writers of speculative fiction with elements of horror and low fantasy and science fiction owe to the Twilight Zone.

This particular volume of about 300 pages consists of some opening essays that seek to present this book as a legitimate addition to the collection of works on the Twilight Zone (including a foreword by Anne Serling, daughter of the creator and main writer of the series), where the author also paints Serling as a moralist in disguise and compares him to Mark Twain.  The majority of the book consists of fifty lessons, some of them overlapping, where one sees the need to be careful bout contracts, keep alive one’s inner child while respecting honorable elders, not living in the past and being open to magic and keeping a balance between principled idealism and kindness to others and a certain degree of wary and cautious cynicism.  The lessons the author wishes to instruct are illustrated by one or more episodes from the series (about 100 episodes are represented, some more than one time) and discussion is made about the personal life of Rod Serling and the other writers and actors of the series.  In addition, there are guest lessons appended to the series from other people involved in the series (even as fans) who have thoughts to share about the series and its instructional value.

It should be fairly obvious that this is a Nathanish book that not everyone will appreciate.  There are some people (hopefully few) who have no appreciation for the joy of odd or unsettling speculative fiction that contains a great deal of divine providence and quite unsettling elements and the way that speculative fiction can often allow a writer the chance to deal with elements that cannot be handled straightforwardly because they are so contentious within society.  Serling died too young–at fifty–but he managed to pack a great deal of insightful writing into the short life he lived, writings that remain influential to this day as part of the golden age of early television in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  For those who are fans of the Twilight Zone or want to realize the moral importance of good television and the lessons taught by the series through the guise of compelling and sometimes creepy stories, this book is definitely one that you will not want to miss and that you will find very profitable and worthwhile reading.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/tag/la-hotel-espero/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/03/10/mapping-the-history-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/06/15/its-only-a-television-show/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/06/17/edge-of-fandom/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/07/21/the-madness-of-calculators/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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