In hundreds of scripts that mated the psychology of horror with the nuclear nightmare of postwar America, Rod Serling put the blame for the annellation that was just around the corner squarely where it belonged…. on us. “Rod Serling: His Life, Work and Imagination” (University Press of Mississippi) by author and “Twilight Zone” expert Nicholas Parisi is a new 500-page biography of the man whose name alone has come to distill the condition of something eerily out of whack with the rational. In it, he shines the spotlight on the episodes of the now 60-year-old television show that has resonated with millions, of every generation.
He also documents Serling’s contributions, in whole or in part, to other well-known material produced for film, television and radio. Among these works are “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” a drama from the so-called Golden Age of Television, whose only ethical character, a brain-damaged boxer, is destroyed by the manager he loves, and the 1964 Cold War-themed movie “Seven Days in May,” still capable of packing a thrill. Pursuing his career immediately after World War II, when the particularly brutal combat he experienced added to the dark vision of the world that he had formed during childhood, Serling left a considerable legacy behind when he died at the age of 50 in 1975.
On the “Twilight Zone,” man’s inhumanity to man occurs on a grand scale but starts small, with the seemingly inconsequential aggression of “the little guy.” Transported, as Sterling intones in his well-known introduction, to a “middle ground between light and shadow,” viewers recognized this place as being like, but not like, home. There, blindly solipsistic men, women and often even children who have faith in their own moral superiority, but little else, end up decimating, rather than repairing the world. Their smugness and ignorance lead to the subjugation of the vulnerable, the election of malevolent leaders and the trusting of hungry martians. Is there anyone capable of compassion or tenderness at all? In a recurrent theme, “The Twilight Zone’s” creator looks not to humans, but robots, to answer our longing. It is this inherent pessimism that places Serling within the 20th century Jewish literary tradition. For him, even the powerless determined their own destiny, and this time, their destiny was the apocalypse.
Special Judaica Collection to Make its New York Debut
The Barr Foundation of Virginia Beach, Virginia, has launched the first American tour of its impressive Judaica collection. The installation features more than 200 traditional and contemporary Torah pointers—an implement used by the reader to retain his or her place in the text of the assigned passage, in compliance with the prohibition of touching the Torah directly. Formerly on exhibit in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the show will move to New York City, where “Guiding Hands” will be on view from February through May 2019 at Temple Emanu-El’s Hector and Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The exhibit will be augmented by examples of Torah accoutrements from the New York synagogue’s own acquisitions.
Carved, cast and fabricated, the styles of these pointers, called the yad, the Hebrew word for hand, reveal a diversity of aesthetics, and most interestingly, their construction and materials are on occasion dictated by the settings and situations in which they were created. Dating from World War II, a yad from the South Pacific theater in the foundation’s collection was made from used shell casings, while a 19th-century gilded Austrian pointer embellished with turquoise and garnets was probably commissioned by a private patron, for worship in the home. Add to these the collection’s masterpieces of design by renowned artisans, including Wendell Castle’s three-part work, a stylized rendering of an elongated silver pointer finger, complete with one extra segment, nestling in the palm of a hand-shaped stand, itself resting on a wooden table, or Michele Oka-Doner’s Surrealist-inspired sculpture-pointer, whose multiplicity of corkscrew tendrils emanate like hair or tree branches from a bronze torso-shaped handle, and there will be much to make the exhibit a memorable one.
Cheryl Kempler is an art and music specialist who works in the B'nai B'rith International Curatorial Office and writes about history and Jewish culture for B’nai B’rith Magazine. To view some of her additional content, click here.
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