As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling
by Anne Serling
Citadel Press Books
285 pages; hardcover; $25.00
With the death of the brilliant Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez, the recent sharp loss of storytellers in the post-modern era zooms into focus: Just as Bradbury, Matheson, and Márquez, Serling was one of those rare talents able to transmogrify the ordinary into the sublime, the mundane into the magical. Of course, enamored as we are by their gifts—and as unwittingly influenced by their insights as we doubtless become—it is sometimes hard to believe that there was once a world before they came along… Collectively, we are always shocked when the reality of their death brings home to us the fact that they are, after all, human, with all of the fragility, dignity, embarrassment, beauty, horror and other emotions that appellation implies.
In her poignant memoir/tribute to her late father, Anne Serling brings this sense of loss home in a very powerful, personal way. Demonstrating the old adage that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” we are shown through her moving and lyrical prose what we have always suspected about the dapper man in the suit with the clipped voice from the original Twilight Zone series—that not only was he a superlative talent, a giant of television with a big heart and social conscience, but also a loving husband, caring parent, and deeply introspective soul.
Some of the most revealing aspects of the book are her intimate revelations from Serling’s letters home to his parent during his time in the Pacific Theater in World War II. In these, there is little evidence of the talent or drive that would come bursting out of him through the new medium of television in just a few short years.
Throughout the book, readers are treated to a generous number of family photos and images of the letters penned by Serling as a young man. These underscore the wistful nature, as well as the playful side, of Serling, allowing one to consider not only his artistic legacy in a new context, but the very personal nature of Ms. Serling’s memoir. This is a book about an artistic genius, yes, part biography, part tribute, part historical overview, but, in addition, it is an “autobiographical biography” replete with stirring reflections, thoughtful reminiscences, and soul-baring grief. This is also catharsis for a devoted daughter who venerated a kind, loving father, and who has been able to harness her obvious literary skills and sharp critical insights into a lasting testimony that reaches far beyond celebrity and enters itself into another dimension.