Quote of the Day: Virginia Heffernan, NY Times Television Critic, on “Planet Earth”

First of all, the DVD of The Painted Veil was out last Tuesday, 8 May. Self is going to be ordering a copy shortly from Amazon, along with copy of Linh Dinh’s short story collection, Blood and Soap, and a CD by Diana Krall. But, first would like to share with loyal blog readers an excerpt from a Virginia Heffernan article on “Planet Earth”, which appeared in New York Times of Friday, May 11:

When it comes right down to it, there are precious few DVDs of television series that a modern gentleman or lady absolutely must buy, bind and emboss, and shelve for all time. These include “My So-Called Life,” the British “Office,” the soon-to-be-complete “Sopranos,” VH1’s “I Love New York” and “Friday Night Lights.” (That last acquisition should be made this summer, the minute the DVDs of that drama’s great first season — the first of many great seasons, surely — goes on sale.)

But even the most selective library would be ruinously incomplete without the boxed set of “Planet Earth,” the 11-hour adrenaline rush that wrapped up recently on the Discovery Channel. If you missed the series or the raves it won, know first off that it is as far from nature television’s typical lion-gazelle kills as “The Wire” is from “T. J. Hooker.”

“Planet Earth” is, instead, an artistic achievement, something we television schmoes in our sectional seats rarely get to witness. It deserves the kind of benedictions that book critics use. It’s a tour de force, then. A masterpiece.

In Bookstores Right Now!

Beth Alvarado’s Not A Matter of Love (New Rivers Press: December 2006)

From a review by Luke Reynolds in Tucson Weekly:

Alvarado’s great strength is exploring the intricate mazes of her characters’ hearts. In “What Lydia Thinks of Roses,” we meet a high school woman whose determination to rise above a boyfriend, Carlos — who only wants one thing — is both believable and steady. Alvarado’s measured development of Lydia leads us to first understand her as a character who struggles with that all-consuming fire many teenage girls feel: the desire to please the boy, but feel confident as well.

As a high school teacher myself, the story becomes all too common: a young girl walking down the school hallway, afraid of the stares and gossip, tempted to give in to what the boy wants to feel some sense of self-worth. Alvarado, however, gives us Lydia’s victory in a way which calls us to rally for her. Our muscles tense as we are prepared for the final scene — already hating high school as if we ourselves were back — when Lydia asserts her own humanity and womanhood in the face of all her bystanders.

“There were petals everywhere, petals falling all over the parking lot. Red petals. Petals scattering away in the wind. ‘That,’ Lydia said to Carlos, ‘is what I think of roses.’ ” Alvarado’s denouement reveals a reversible action whereby Lydia destroys the roses given by her sexually hungry boyfriend (who has also, we learn, degraded her in public) and tramples the stereotype prescribed by high schools all over the country. Lydia’s feat reveals the conflict of her human heart, and the triumph she achieves through it.

Whether describing a young boy whose sister has been shot and whose parents are separated, or revealing two mothers who share children and had their turn with the same husband, Alvarado is able to straddle tension in the hearts of her characters, presenting to us a world with a tapestry as rich as any that great short story writers have given.

Akin to André Dubus, Alvarado allows the full scope of what it means to be human to breathe, move and thrive on the page. Bypassing fear boldly, Alvarado has committed herself to tracing the desires, suffering and triumphs of the human heart. This, indeed, is the stuff of great literature.

Beth, I am so very very proud of you.

NYTBR 6 May 2007 and The Fourteenth Most Gorgeous Day So Far . . .

Weather: great, soporific

Self: sleepy, satiated after lunch at Kenkoy’s, Daly City, which featured humongous buffet (for $7.50/ person) of lumpia shanghai, lechon kawali, chicken sinigang, pancit, guinataan, etc. etc. (calling Weight Watchers!)

Gracie: sleepy, satiated, mouth smells like crap

Birds: plentiful

Without further ado: Books I am Interested in Reading (After Perusing May 6, 2007 Issue of The New York Times Book Review)

(1) After reading Danielle Trussoni’s review of first-time author Rebecca Barry‘s Later, at the Bar: A Novel in Stories:

Rebecca Barry’s Later, at the Bar: A Novel in Stories

(2) After reading Robert R. Harris’s review of Barbara Holland’s The Joy of Drinking:

Barbara Holland’s The Joy of Drinking

(3) After reading Dave Barry’s review of David Shipley and Will Schwalbe’s Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home:

David Shipley and Will Schwalbe’s Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home

(4) After reading Alison McCulloch’s review of Jennifer Michael Hecht’s The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong: A History of What Really Makes Us Happy :

Jennifer Michael Hecht’s The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong: A History of What Really Makes Us Happy

(5) After reading Eugenie Allen’s review of Leslie Bennetts’ The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? :

Leslie Bennetts’ The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?

(6) After reading Julia Scheeres’ review of Lynn Stegner’s new novel, Because a Fire Was in My Head :

Lynn Stegner’s novel, Because a Fire Was in My Head

(7) After reading Sue Halpern’s review of Lore Segal’s “novel disguised as a book of short stories”, Shakespeare’s Kitchen :

Lore Segal’s Shakespeare’s Kitchen

(2nd May) Weekend Status Report

Weekend is only half over — as there is still a whole day of rest tomorrow — but self feels Sunday doesn’t really count as self has to prepare for 8 AM Monday class. Today was actually not much of a weekend either as esteemed hubby did not return from wherever he was off to in the morning until 3 PM, by which time self had tired herself out doing the following:

    writing (and posting) Happy Mother’s Day card to Dearest Mum
    taking beagles Bella and Gracie for “special” grooming: spent an additional $24 over price of regular package to include teeth-cleaning, special shampoo for “thick-coated” dogs
    planting two heuchera
    spreading more spadefuls of compost around backyard
    watering (in high wind — heroic): six buckets
    purchasing 4 ft. x 4 ft. “espallier trellis” from Redwood City Nursery, and a bottle of Mr. Green (solution of 2% chelated iron)
    e-mailing, blogging

But, that wasn’t really a weekend! Loyal blog readers know that weekend only truly begins when hubby is home and directing self’s television viewing. Anyway, when hubby got home, self and hubby did the following:

    walked the dogs: both critters unloaded heaps and heaps of poop, naturally hubby was expected to collect all
    watched 3rd Phoenix/ San Antonio playoff game: result was the unlonged-for one. That is, San Antonio won. (Phoenix: you simply cannot expect Steve Nash to do it all!)
    Watched the beginning of The Omen (2006 Remake): creepy dark-haired kid parented by Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber. Assure hubby that the reason baby’s head is constantly covered by blue knit cap — that is, until baby grows absolutely thickest thatch of black hair self has ever seen on a baby — is to conceal the “666” which most assuredly is engraved somewhere on its scalp.
    Watched KQED Saturday HDTV concert broadcast: group of oldies singing absolutely smashing songs, hubby singing along. It’s “Tin Man” and then something else self used to know. Hubby obtuse, refuses to enlighten self about name of group, find self getting into stupid argument, but anyway name of group is above stage, ha ha ha, self should have looked: it’s America.
    Next, there’s an absolutely fascinating segment on Maori dance group: a group of men is stamping their feet and sticking out their tongues and rolling their eyes and looking very fierce and the subtitles go:

I am going to die! I am going to be defeated!
No! I take my life back! I will not die! I will not be defeated!

Self thinks it is absolutely marvelous, this back and forth of emotions, this steeling of selves for what must surely be a great battle.

Then hubby calls his mom, and there follows a long long conversation, in which it is mentioned that she just last week received our Christmas card, the one that was taken from mailbox by mysterious personage (who self now thinks might have been postman after all, for all self’s friends asked why they got two Christmas cards last year)

Now, off to bed. Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

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