Monday, March 28, 2011

The Write Stuff

I have written here before of episodes from the Twilight Zone series remake in the mid–1980s.

And I have written of how I felt that some of my friends reached unfair conclusions about the series.

Some told me that the series didn't live up to the standards of the original.

I disagreed, and the episode that aired 25 years ago tonight supports my position admirably.

It is called "The Library," and it is the story of an aspiring writer who goes to work for a private library.

(I remember the night I saw it. I was working Wednesday through Sunday nights on the sports staff of a metropolitan newspaper in those days.

(Twilight Zone was on Friday nights. I would set my VCR to tape the show, which was an hour in length and usually had two — or even three — episodes in that hour, and then I would watch the tape when I got home from work, usually around 1 or 1:30 in the morning.

("The Library" was actually the third segment that particular evening, and the first two segments really weren't anything special. When the second one ended, I was seriously considering switching off the TV and going to bed, but something told me to continue watching. I did — and I was glad I did.)

After beginning work there, the woman is told never to look at the books; then, after inadvertently doing so, she discovers that the library is actually a collection of books on every person in the world. She gets the head librarian to admit that the books are constantly updated, telling the story of every living person as it happens — their hopes, their dreams, their experiences, their accomplishments, their failures. The most intimate details and the most trivial moments. Everything.

When someone died, that person's "book" was removed from the shelf.

The woman, as I say, is an aspiring writer, and, in her off time, she is trying to write a book, but, when she is distracted by a noisy neighbor, she decides to take advantage of her position and do some — shall we say? — creative writing in her neighbor's "book."

Oh, what a naughty girl!

Well, she didn't intend to be. She only wanted to make her environment quiet so she could write. That's reasonable, isn't it? And the change she wrote wasn't terribly radical — just guaranteed to make her life more peaceful.

Or so she thought.

She immediately discovered that you can't change one person's reality without changing everyone's. Whenever she changed something to benefit one person, even modestly, it adversely affected someone else.

No man is an island.

You probably won't recognize the actress who played the young woman, but you might recognize the one who played her sister — Lori Petty. She was one of the stars of "A League of Their Own" several years later.

There are other folks whose faces you might know but not their names. And people with longer memories may recognize German–born American actress Uta Hagen, who played the head librarian.

For the episode, Hagen, most of whose work was done on the American stage, resurrected the faux German accent she had used in her most noteworthy films — in reality, though, Hagen was brought up in Wisconsin.

And her accent wasn't terribly thick in this episode. In fact, there was just enough of it for the casual viewer to suspect that her life didn't begin in this country.

I guess you could learn the details if you located the book with Hagen's name on it.

But the episode clearly indicated to viewers that the "library" relocated rather suddenly, and nobody told them where it went.

Of course, they didn't know where the library was originally, either ...