Oprah’s Book Club

Great little piece here on Oprah’s Book “Club”.

For the record, anyone who watches the show or puts any stock whatsoever in Oprah to declare a book a ‘literary feast’ makes me want to vomit.

As mentioned in the article, there is indeed a website for the club including snippets of advice for ‘reading a hard book’ that includes, and I am not even remotely joking here, skipping whole portions of the book. Hmm. Perhaps someone should pass on that copy of War and Peace for something closer to the Where’s Waldo? end of the spectrum. I mean really, do bored housewives everywhere -really- need stumbling through a book they don’t really want to read as an excuse to meet up at Borders and chatter with other bored housewives?

While it’s a bit hard for me to reconcile my obvious vitriol with the argument that anything that gets anyone to go out and read more books is a good thing, the mere power of an OBC selection should make us all more than a bit queasy. When we have things like the following being said:

“Having an Oprah Book Club selection is pretty much like the pinnacle for the industry,” says Michael McKenzie, publicity director for Ecco, the small HarperCollins imprint that published The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

. . .there’s a problem. Not a Pulitzer, or the National Book Award, or even #1 on a bestseller list (without the help of an OBC invitation). Being picked by Oprah is the pinnacle.

After thoroughly enjoying Franzen’s book of essays, How To Be Alone, I felt a little bit of hope to learn about his little skirmish with Oprah when, sticking to his principles and not to his wallet, failed to fall on his knees thanking Oprah for her generous invitation. Of course she snubbed him completely, showing that obviously even if a book is a ‘literary feast’, if someone doesn’t fluff her ego in response it’s not worth reading.

What makes hating on it all so hard is that Oprah, I’m sure reading books by the hundreds and making careful choices, has actually added many very fine books to her list, though balanced out by enough vapid, superficial self-help, feel-good feces (The Secret, anyone? Eat, Pray, Love?) to keep critics on their toes. This makes it hard to mock the selections themselves, overall, but the skepticism of the utter power of her role in the literary world is something no-one should ignore.


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