Book Review: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in The Twilight Zone


New self help book ingeniously uses key The Twilight Zone episodes to navigate life’s problems

While reading the opening paragraphs of veteran TV critic Mark Dawidziak’s clever new self-help book “Everything I Need to Know Learned in The Twilight Zone”, I was struck by the author’s explanation of the genesis of the book, how he waited until his daughter was in her early teens to introduce her to the shadowy, cerebral and metaphorical world of Rod Serling’s landmark series The Twilight Zone. For a moment, I doubted my own parenting skills because I have been screening The Twilight Zone for my three children their entire lives. This is not a joke. We would watch Thomas the Tank Engine and chase it with an episode. My kids know the show inside out. They walk around the house whispering “Marsha…Maaaarsha!” (quoting the season one episode “The After Hours”) and my oldest son did an entire presentation on Serling for his very confused grade three class.

But I’m proud of my educating them on this show because always, without exception, after we watch an episode (and they have seen them all several times over) I would ask them “Now, what was that episode about…what was it REALLY about?” And we would then discuss the moral lesson that Serling and his cabal of like-minded writers were attempting – mostly successfully – to convey. The Twilight Zone has long been and will always be my go-to for my moral and social compass and I’m so happy to be able to share its wonders with whoever makes the time to listen, my children especially.

And so it is with Dawidziak. He’s cut from that same cloth and the results of his love practical life-use of Serling’s monochromatic universe has yielded this fine book. From the lovely and typically eloquent foreword from Rod’s daughter, the writer Anne Serling (whose memoir As I Knew Him is one of the most moving things I have ever read) to its many, sometimes tongue in cheek, observations about the series and how one can use its lessons to etch a better life, this book is passionate and unique. Certainly, if you’re a devout fan you’ve already either instinctually or by design employed some of your gleanings from The Twilight Zone to your life, but Dawidziak is such a fine writer that sifting through his work is nothing short of a joy. Each chapter isolates a vital life lesson and then backs up these essential cliches with ties to specific episodes. For example, the chapter titled “Never Judge a Book by its Cover” specifically discusses the season 3 classic “To Serve Man”, with its central bible being a covert cookbook with man as the main dish. “Be Your Own Person” uses the goofy “Mr. Bevis” and the dystopian “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” to prove its point and both these episodes also figure into another chapter called “To Thine Own Self be True”. I especially loved the passage called “Keep Your Inner Child Alive” which uses the horrific “Nightmare as a Child” as its foundation. Darkly funny stuff…

With this book, Dawidzak has created something sweet, intimate, witty and special. Rod would most certainly approve. “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in The Twilight Zone” is out now from St. Martin’s Press. Pre-order it here today!

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