“’71, that was my first year on the job. Bad year for libraries. Bad year for
– Lt. Bookman
Possibly the best episode of the series so far (in my top 3 with The Chinese Restaurant and The Pony Remark) and unquestionably the best of what is so far a very strong season 3, albeit we’re only 4 episodes in. The Library gives us the brilliantly named Lt. Bookman, a flashback to George and Jerry in high school (and still played by Jason and Jerry with wigs – And Jason’s may have later been used by Jeffrey Tambor in AD for those flashbacks for all I know, it’s that similar!), Kramer hooking up with a librarian, and about 3 or 4 of the series best monologues which I will try to transcribe in full (because I care!).
It starts with Jerry on the phone with the New York Public Library. In 1971 Jerry checked out Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and never returned it. Jerry is positive he returned it and recalls the details of that day very vividly to Kramer; he was with a girl named Sherry Becker who was wearing an orange dress.
Jerry, Kramer and George go down to the library to take care of Jerry’s overdue fine. Jerry and Kramer observe the librarian leading to the first monologue from Kramer:
“Look at her. This is a lonely woman looking for companionship. A spinster. Maybe a virgin. Maybe she got hurt a long time ago. She’s a school girl, there was a boy – it didn’t work out. Now she needs a little tenderness. She needs a little understanding. She needs a little Kramer.”
“Then she’ll need a little shot of penicillin,” Jerry replies. After getting the librarian’s attention Jerry passes her the notice he received in the mail. She tells him that his case has been referred to the library investigation officer, Bookman. “That’s like an ice cream man named Cone,” Kramer remarks.
George comes running in from outside setting up the B-story. He thinks he saw his and Jerry’s gym teacher from High School, Mr. Heyman, now homeless and outside the library.
In Elaine’s story, we finally get to see her work, Pendant Publishing, and her boss, Mr. Lippman, though he’s not played by Richard Fancy in this episode. Elaine’s co-worker didn’t ask her what she wanted for lunch, and in her neurosis, Elaine interprets that to mean that she may be on her way out of the company. She grills Mr. Lipman’s secretary who claims not to know anything. “I don’t know anything means there’s something to know. If you really didn’t know anything you would have said ‘you’re crazy.’”
At lunch George explains to Elaine what happened in High School. “He purposely mispronounced my name. Instead of saying Costanza he’d say ‘Can’t-stand-ya’! He made me smell my own gym socks once.”
“I remember he made you wear a jock on your head for a whole class,” Jerry piles on. George recalls the incident which led to Mr. Heyman being fired. “He gave me a wedgie.”
“Boys are sick,” Elaine responds. “Well, what do girls do?” Jerry asks. “We just tease someone until they develop an eating disorder.”
Jerry gets home from lunch to a waiting Lt. Bookman who Larry Charles based on Joe Friday (the second time he’s done that on the show. Recall Kramer in The Statue). Rather than describe the scene I’ll just let the words of Lt. Bookman (and a little bit of Jerry) speak for themselves:
“You got any coffee?”
“No, I don’t drink coffee.
“You don’t drink coffee? How about instant coffee?
“No, I don’t have-
“You don’t have instant coffee?
“Well I don’t normally-
“Who doesn’t have instant coffee?
“You buy a jar of Foldgers crystals. Throw it in your cupboard and forget about it. And later on when you need it it’s there. It lasts forever. It’s freeze-dried. Freeze-dried crystals.
“Really? I’ll have to remember that.
“You took this book out in 1971.
“Yes, and I returned it in 1971.
“’71, that was my first year on the job. Bad year for libraries. Bad year for
America. Hippies burning library
cards. Abbie Hoffman telling everybody to steal books. I don’t judge a man by
the length of his hair or the music he listens to. Rock was never my bag.
(sticking a finger in Jerry’s direction) But you put on a pair of shoes and
walked into the New York Public Library, fella.
“Look, Mr. Bookman. I returned that book. I remember it very specifically.
“You’re a comedian. You make people laugh.
“You think this is all a big joke, don’t you?
“No, I don’t.
“I saw you on TV once. I remembered your name from my list. I looked it up. Sure enough it checked out. You think that because you’re a celebrity that somehow the law doesn’t apply to you? That you’re above the law?
(sticking his finger in Jerry’s direction again)“Well let me tell you something funny boy. You know that little stamp? The one that says New York Public Library? Well, that may not mean anything to you but that means a lot to me, one whole hell of a lot! Sure, go ahead laugh if you want to. I’ve seen your type before: flashy, making the scene… Yeah I know what you’re thinking: why’s this guy making such a big stink about a library book. (again with the finger) Well, let me give you a hint junior, maybe we can live without libraries, people like you and me, maybe. Sure, we’re too old to change the world. But what about that kid, sitting down opening a book right now in a branch of the local library, and finding drawings of pee-pees and wee-wees in the Cat in the Hat and The Five Chinese Brothers. Doesn’t he deserve better? (finger!) Look, you think this is about overdue fines and missing books, you better think again. This is about that kid’s right to read a book without getting his mind warped. But maybe that turns you on, Seinfeld. Maybe that’s how you get your kicks, you and your good time buddies. Well, I got a flash for you, joy boy: Party time is over.
Talk about a writer and actor nailing a scene. Right as Bookman is leaving, the librarian, Marion, is entering Kramer’s apartment. She quickly ducks inside when she sees Bookman coming out of Jerry’s.
Jerry decides to track down his high school girlfriend, Sherry Becker. They meet at Monk’s. Sherry’s gained weight and her recollection of the day is very different from Jerry’s. She was wearing a purple dress and they were reading Tropic of Capricorn. Jerry then remembers that he loaned Tropic of Cancer to George in the locker room and runs out of Monk’s to go find him.
Kramer and Marion return to the library after hours but Bookman is waiting for them:
“I remember when the librarian was a much older woman. Kindly, descreet, unattractive. You didn’t know anything about her private life. You didn’t want to know anything about her private life. She didn’t have a private life. If you’re thinking about that, think about this: the library closes at five o’clock, no exceptions. You got that, Kewpie doll?”
At the apartment, Kramer starts crying while reading a book of
poetry leading Elaine to think that if she takes the poetry to Lippman, he’ll
like it enough to publish it. She’s still paranoid that he’s going to fire her
after he didn’t like her latest publishing recommendation, a biography of Columbus. George comes in
and confirms that the homeless man is his old gym teacher, Mr. Heyman. How does
he know? He sat next to him outside the library and said ‘Can-t-stand-ya?’ He
got up to run away but something was holding him back. “He had my underwear.
There I was on the steps of the 42nd
street library; a grown man getting a wedgie.”
“At least it wasn’t atomic.”
Jerry tells George what happened to Tropic of Cancer. George remembers. George dropped it as he was getting the wedgie that Mr. Heyman was responsible for. The book lost forever, Jerry pays the overdue fine to Bookman. Elaine’s boss didn’t like the poetry book form
Marion. George tells Jerry that Mr. Heyman is
gone from outside the library. They wonder what happened to him.
Heyman is shown later at night outside, repeating ‘Can’t-stand-ya’. Near him is the old beat up copy of Tropic of Cancer.