Watch PBS/Masterpiece and Give them $5! Here’s Why…

“Have you read Justine?” asked Peter, my boyfriend, in 1979.

“The Marquis de Sade?” I ask, wide-eyed

“God no. Laurence Durrell. It’s about writing, becoming a writer. And, it’s very beautiful. It’s the first book of the Alexandrian Quartet.”

The next time I was in the bookstore near the pizza place down there on Speer Blvd. with my friend Anne, I found Justine and bought it. It went with me to visit my grandmother in Oregon, my first solo trip on a jet or any other plane, for that matter.

It is an amazing novel. At the time I read it (age 27) it seemed to be mostly about unrequited love and yes, writing. The most memorable line (and I won’t quote it exactly) happens between the protagonist and a character he’s talking with in a bar. The other character (impossible for me to remember at this point) “Wrestling with an insoluble problem grows a writer up.”

That (true) statement has echoed through the vacuous chambers of my mind for forty years. Anyhoo…

At At the time I was reading Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn) and it was cool to learn that Miller and Durrell had been good friends. (Photo below — Henry Miller is the guy in the glasses…)

Four years ago a friend of mine in Montana alerted me to a new series on PBS, so, knowing she and I are pretty similar beasts, I trusted her and signed up for PBS Passport and commenced watching The Durrells in Corfu . I was intrigued maybe especially, and naturally, by the Laurence (Larry) character seen through his brother’s eyes.

These past few days, amidst the political weirdness, my hurt foot and I have spent the last few evenings semi-binge watching the final season. We — well I as the foot has not always been hurt — have enjoyed the entire four years of this PBS/Masterpiece program based on the books written by Laurence Durrell’s naturalist brother, Gerald. It’s a visually beautiful show, set in the mid-1930s, about a very eccentric (real) British family led by a mom with the grace to allow her kids to be who they are. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. I watched it from the PBS/Masterpiece site, but it is also available on Amazon with one of their subscription deals. Even if you have to pay, it’s worth it. Here’s a little preview to whet your appetite.

The four books in the Alexandrian Quartet are Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea. If you research them on, say, Goodreads or some place you might learn more about them than I, in my late 20s, was able to fathom. Ultimately, my favorite was the final novel, Clea.

Vocabulary Building

“Well, he’s got charisma.”

“Charisma doesn’t make a good president.”

“No, but that goddamned, blacklisting bastard?”


“What’s charisma?”

“Charm, attraction, hell. Dammit, Helen! Kennedy could win just because he’s pretty. Goddamned Madison Avenue.”

I was sitting in an olive-drab barrel chair in front of the most boring TV show I’d ever been forced to watch.

“Watch, MAK. It’s the first time the presidential candidates have debated on TV.”

How would I know THAT? I hadn’t existed before TV. What was the big deal. There hadn’t even been a WORLD before me. I loved my dad, though, so I shrugged my little kid shoulders and took my place in this very uncomfortable chair, about which my mom said, “Year, no wonder your mom didn’t want them. You can’t SIT in them.” Our living room was decorated in my grandparent’s castoffs, but THAT’S another story, kind of funny one, though.

So these two men in suits sat yammering on stage. In the next debate they would stand and the TV “room” in which they debated would be a lot more elegant. I’d be compelled to watch that one, too. To me it didn’t look that different from the $64,000 Question.

“I do believe Kennedy is wearing makeup.”

“They always put makeup on people on TV.”

“Look at Nixon sweat.”

Try as I might, I didn’t see sweat. The screen was only a little over a foot across and the heads of the little people on the screen were barely an inch in diameter. I needed a new glasses prescription.

“Bill, do you think he can win?”

“I don’t know. I’ve held my nose and voted Democrat before.”

“Oh Bill, you wouldn’t!”

By the second debate, Nixon wore makeup, too.