Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Oprah’s Book Club: Beyond Good and Evil

So I’ve been grappling with the idea of Oprah’s book club for a while
now, and I now plan to subject you to the crazy inner monologues I
have with myself.

Before I really begin I’d like to note that it was brought to my
attention (by my mother) that there were some typos in the last email
and I’d like to preface this by saying.  These emails are usually
written late at night after at least one glass of bourbon (tonight
it’s been one relatively large glass, and yes, I’m now channeling my
grandmother and drinking bourbon).  Also, I have no idea how to work
gmail spell check so sorry about typos, but y’all are just gonna have
to deal.

Ok, that being said…for those of you who have been living in a cave
for the past decade or so Oprah Winfrey has this tradition of sticking
a little sticker that says ‘Oprah’s Book Club’ on it and those books
then shoot straight to number one on the New York Times bestseller
list.

For the most part I try to avoid the Oprah sticker of success because
the books are usually absolutely awful and have some sort of uplifting
message.  Call me a pessimist, but I don’t believe that everything
always turns out ok.  If some of these books ended tragically (or were
actually written well) I might give more creedence to the Oprah
sticker, but as it is, I generally avoid that sticker like the plague.

I think Toni Morrison’s Beloved (which, if I’m not mistaken, started
the whole Book Club) one of the only good books to ever be on that
list.

But it’s more complicated than that, because, as I’m sure none of you
know, last summer Oprah stuck her sticker on Anna Karenina by Leo
Tolstoy as well as a trilogy of Faulkner novels (Light in August, As I
Lay Dying, and The Sound and the Fury, to be exact).  Now, any of you
who have read these books may know that they don’t fit the uplifting
part of Oprah’s criteria and they, unlike the other trash on her list,
are actually well written.  Here’s the deal though:  Anna Karenina is
about 700 pages long and ends with the main character throwing herself
under a train (yeah it’s a real upper).  It’s Russian Lit so you
basically leave the novel wondering why you’re alive and thinking that
maybe throwing oneself under a train is not such a bad plan.

Then comes Faulkner.  Now, I graduated with a degree in Literature and
still cannot figure out what the fuck is going on in any Faulkner
novel.  As an example the first 150 pages of The Sound and the Fury
are narrated by a mentally disabled (or whatever the fuck the P.C.
term is) child.  There is no punctuation for 150 pages and the scene
and time constantly changes with no indication of this change.

Now, all of these books, when an Oprah sticker was placed on their
covers, shot to number one on the bestseller list.  I know that just
because people bought them doesn’t mean they read them, but just the
fact that enough people bought Anna Karenina, which was written 150
years ago, to put it on the bestseller list is an amazing feat.

I’m a firm believer in the notion that anything that gets people to
read is good.  I myself am a total snob when it comes to books and
will admit it freely, but for the love of all that is holy.  Faulkner
on the bestseller list is, in my book, a clear sign of the apocalypse.

As you may be able to tell, I’m mixed on this whole book club thing.
At least the people who read Oprah books are reading (even if they’re
reading absolute crap).  At the same time, this woman got people to
read Anna Karenina and Faulkner.

I’ll bet you thought this little rant was close to being over.  No,
no, young soul.  There’s a whole other can of worms to open and this
is the one I feel really strongly about.  Subject: James Frey’s A
Million Little Peices.

So for those of you who don’t know James Frey wrote a book, which he
said was a memoir about his time in recovery for crack and alcohol
addiction.  Oprah slapped her snazzy sticker on it and it immediately
went to number 1 (who’s surprised???)  So it came out that this wasn’t
a memoir, but a work of fiction (apparently his publisher had said
that it would sell as a memoir but not a fictional novel).  Oprah then
had Mr. Frey back on the show where she proceeded to berate him for
duping the American public.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume that no one has read this book
(because I like to belive that you all have the good sense to never
pick up a book with the sticker of doom on it).  I’ll defend my
purchase of the book by saying that I bought it after the whole
debacle with James Frey going on her show and was curious (and I was
at an airport, which automatically hinders one’s judgement on
literature).  Plus, I’m a vindictive bitch and would have loved to see
the book skyrocket back to number one after Oprah yelled at him (it
may very well have, but I don’t have time to research that).

So I read the book.  And I must say it was one of the best fucking
books I’ve read in a long time.  It was funny, gross, heartbreaking,
hopeful, real, gritty, and, most importantly, it was well written.  In
fact it was one of the most well written books I’ve ever read.  I was
engaged the whole time and would often find myself sitting down to
read (usually backstage at the Dr. Phil show, trying to block his
annoying texas drawl out of my life) only to look up after a hundred
pages had gone by.  All in all it was a great book.

So here’s my question to Oprah:  Why the hell does it matter if it’s a
work of fiction or a memoir if it is well written and engaging?
Plenty of memoirs are totally crappy, and isn’t the point of fiction
to represent a reality that has never necessarily existed.  I mean, do
you really think that David Copperfield or Tristram Shandy actuall
lived and walked the earth?  No, they didn’t (though young David is a
semi-autobiograpical representation of Dickens’ young self).  Now I
ask you, did anyone yell at Dickens for saying that much of David
Copperfield was based on his young life?  No.  Did anyone really care?
 Absolutely not.

Furthermore, isn’t the purpose of good fiction to make you believe
that these people really exist and these things really happened to
them?  Umm, yes.  So it seems to me that Oprah is pissed because she
fell for it.  SO WHAT?  The guy wrote a great work of fiction, and you
believed that it really happened to him…THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT A GREAT
WORK OF FICTION.

So Oprah, get the fuck over it.  It’s a great book and should be
promoted.  And please, for the love of god, start putting more books
like that on your list.

Ok.  That’s the end.

Hope everyone is well.  I’m off to bed as I have to work at 10 am tomorrow.
Love you all,

Julia

P.S. I feel the slightest bit of animosity towards Oprah for making
Dr. Phil famous, but I tried to keep him out of this arguement because
that’s just fighting dirty.

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June 14, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Education, Oprah Winfrey, Politics

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