Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Move Over Gayle...

Oprah, poor soul, had her dreams for a smarter reading public shattered last summer. By all accounts, her 2005 book club featuring Faulkner didn’t sizzle; it fizzled.

What was she thinking? Any teacher could have told her people don’t willingly submit to Faulkner or Tolstoy. Book clubs are meant to be fun, uplifting, inspiring, and reflective, not seen as a mandatory trip to the dentist.

Her vision started to erode in 2003 after Jonathan Franzen, the author of The Corrections, refused to appear on her show. He was a bit embarrassed to have been picked by the talk show diva. “She’s picked some good books,” Franzen said, “but she’s picked enough schmaltzy, one-dimensional ones that I cringe….”

The Million Little Pieces fiasco in 2005, when author James Frey admitted his non-fiction blockbuster was slightly invented, sent Oprah on a tirade. How dare he lie to the person who made him famous?

From that moment, Oprah declared her club would read only the classics—no more making millionaires out of contemporary authors. Well, it’s hard pushing “dead” authors on a very much “alive” audience.

Now, I’m afraid Oprah is too gun-shy to continue with the book club. She did switch back to living authors. Her choice for this 2006 season was Night by Elie Wiesel; unfortunately, that was a January read, and she hasn’t announced another selection since.

To Oprah’s credit, she stretched a short, one-night read into three full episodes. We accompanied her and Wiesel on a trip to Auschwitz; we listened to first-hand accounts of survivors, and enjoyed a question and answer session with Wiesel.

Maybe Oprah just needs some help picking another book. If anyone knows her cell number, please pass it along to me. I’m willing to push Gayle out of the way so we can really talk books. She has done so much for the reading public; it would be a shame to let this club come to an end.