I try to keep things light and non-confrontational on my blog. Pardon this short departure. If you admire or respect Oprah please do not read the following.
I’ve seen a few mentions of Oprah’s book club lately, it is a topic of discussion over at BookBlog right now. I left a comment in response to Marydell’s statement that she does not, “…understand why there’s so much stigma attached to reading an Oprah selection. She moves books, which is a good thing, yet even those reading along with her are embarrassed.” My comment, which was quoted in her most recent post, was as follows, “I’ll also throw out why for me there is a stigma attached to reading and [sic] Oprah book. I feel like she is trying to be our savior, telling us what to think and what is good because we can’t possibly decide those things ourself. I can make my own decisions on what is good thank you very much.”
Yes, I typed “and” instead of “an”, I struggle with self editing… But my comment stands. I confess I am not much of a fan of Oprah. Many people defend her by listing all of the good that she has done: getting people to read, and setting up a school in Africa among other things. Call me cynical, but even with those things I take issue. She always appears rather condescending, she defended James Frey after his memoir was exposed as exaggerated and then invited him on her show and slid a knife neatly in his back. I found it rather disgusting.
Jonathan Franzen, who’s novel The Corrections was chosen as an Oprah book, was quoted as saying he didn’t want the Oprah sticker on his book and didn’t seem to care much that his book had been chosen. Oprah uninvited him from her show and he was trashed for his decision. I say good for him, I hope that I would have had the courage to do the same.
She has also endorsed the self help book The Secret, to which I won’t link. This book is a prime representation of the materialistic and shallow society in which we live.
I also take issue with her African school which has the appearance of doing so much good. Oprah is spending $40 million on the school, forty million dollars, one school. How many schools, normal schools, can that build in poverty stricken Africa, how many people can that feed? What is wrong with building 400 (at $100,000, which is still generous) ordinary schools for both boys and girls. Forty million dollars to promote elitism and classism.
So yes, I have a problem with Oprah, I realize that many of you don’t, and hope that you are not offended, but I will no longer feign indifference. I will continue to cringe when she chooses a book that I want to read, I will continue to look for books that do no have her sticker polluting the cover and I will continue to claim that I discovered a book before it became an Oprah selection (true, so far). I have tried to keep my mouth shut, my fingers away from the keyboard, but recent discussion has let loose this little diatribe.
If you would like to read a much better treatment of some of these themes I refer you to an article on Salon.com.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go cool off.
Image from Salon.com