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Old 3rd Jan 2007, 23:20   #1
aemy
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Default Oprah and her Book Club

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self
and all have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. In addition, A Fine Balance featured in Oprah's Book Club. This for some reason is not mentioned in the blurbs, even though it surely had more effect on his renown and sales than any of the numerous awards he has won.

Hi John:

Re: Mistry's novels.

I always feel I should be giving Mistry "another try."
There he is, sitting all over the shelves in Canadian bookstores, but the "grab" factor has yet to seize.

But about Oprah, she doesn't always work in a "miffy" author's favour, (and I don't refer here to the James Frey "fiction" discussed around these parts somewhere also.) And I also don't mean to say that Mistry would necessarily be difficult.

Do you remember Jonathan Franzen, a Yates-like writer who won the (US) National Book Award for The Corrections in 2001? And then declined to be honoured by Oprah - after she'd made him one of her designates! It was rumoured for a while that she was just going to give up on the Book Club thing and its testy, unappreciative writers, etc., etc.

Don't think it happened in the end; but the incident may be why you see no mention of Oprah in the blurbs. Never mind double-edged sword; cross-cultural, multi-sided, Dr. Phil-backed mace, is my guess.

Here's a link, not the best, but it gives an idea:

www.complete-review.com/quarterly/vol3/issue1/oprah.htm

Probably a good book though - I checked Franzen's site. Could be a TBR, if I can find a copy.

Cheers,

Aemy
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Old 4th Jan 2007, 1:05   #2
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Default Re: Rohinton Mistry

Aemy,
To give Oprah her due, she did get people reading again. Perhaps the books weren't to everyone's liking but she started the reading group movement which seems to still be going strong.

As far a Franzen goes.............I read the book. It was very good, except for about thirty pages I'll not elaborate on here as you may be reading it and I wouldn't want to influence your opinion. Franzen was particuarly annoying in regrads to what he said when he declined to come on Oprah's show. I don't remember the statement word for word but it was something on this order. He said that he wrote for the literati and he really didn't want to be considered in the same league as the schmalzy type authors Oprah had on her show. Excuse me, Atwood was on her show as were many other very unschmalzy type writers. I thought it pretentious and rude of him. Having said that, I guess the book should be judged on it's own merit and not on the personality of the author. After all how many actors/actresses, artists and writers have gotten a bit too big for their own
good. Comes with the territory........even Oprah is not immune

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Old 4th Jan 2007, 8:42   #3
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Default Re: Rohinton Mistry

I agree, Oprah's book club has had some bilge on it but it's also had The Sound and the Fury and Anna Karenina. It's no mean feat to get hundreds of thousands of people reading books like that.
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Old 5th Jan 2007, 7:28   #4
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Question Oprah and the Book Saga

Re: Maggie and John's comments on Oprah:

I'm always a bit wary about "day-time" TV in general, I'm afraid, and have been in a position recently where I devoutly wish there were decent alternatives. And I don't know when/if "Oprah" is shown in the UK. But there are issues that are disturbing about this celebrity, and they have nothing, BTW, to do with her colour or background. First, re: her endorsement of books and her encouraging millions of viewers to read same. As JS pointed out very astutely on another thread, of course people are always going to say they've read "East Of Eden," for instance - the first "classic" with which Oprah returned to the business of book endorsements in 2003: but how many heads have actually been counted? JS did a small survey of this kind on another thread, in a different context, and the results were revealing. Many Palimp readers found they were not in fact reading the distribution of books they had honestly thought they were reading. And this was a tiny sample, relatively speaking.

So: bookstores are full of volumes labelled "Oprah's Pick" - but again, I wonder how many of those books are really being read, were the heads to be counted. (And no one is counting - at least as far as I know.)

Second: to me, although Oprah supports any number of worthy philanthropic causes, etc., she is also a consummate businesswoman with a following that borders on cult-like. Unlike other wealthy celebrities in the US, (Martha Stewart, Donald Trump), no one would ever dream of calling Oprah to account for anything. Yet she is a billionaire, whose net worth has been assessed at over $1.5 billion USD, for three years running (noted Feb., 2006). She gives away trainloads of expensive gifts to her enthralled, huge audience (high-end GM autos, for instance, or equally high-end home furnishings); for these she herself pays nothing; they are "publicity" gifts, supplied by negotiation with the respective manufacturers.

I applaud the fact that she makes a point of discussing previously "taboo" topics, which often badly need to be addressed (e.g., child molestation, gender orientation, HIV, many more) and avoids the grotesque crudity with which these topics are discussed on competing daytime shows.

But her penchant for what Time magazine (I believe) called "rapport talk" vs "report talk" with her guests and audience members feels somehow claustrophobic, (even incestuous), after a few days of watching. Again, it's the "cult" thing; Oprah has no doubt done a geat deal of good in many fields; but it requires a certain kind of conditioned passivity to enter her temple of "reveal-all", slithering empathy, and to feel, as her audience seems to, that they emerge somehow both spiritually cleansed, and at the same time loaded with the latest consumer "luxuries."

And finally, back to books: she DID suspend her "book interview and endorsement" program in 2002 - in the wake of that Franzen affair we mentioned earlier. (Frankly, I tend to sympathize with Franzen, even if he is probably a bit of rancid arrogance, and was always surprised something of the kind didn't happen sooner.)

When Oprah's book-hooked audience sent enough cries of protest to the network, the Book Program began again; but this time O's selected authors were conveniently either dead (or getting close.) Hence, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Faulkner - as JS mentions.

As for Oprah, that much money coupled with that much power, and effectively NO accountablity, except to the bottom line, is always worrisome, to me at least.

(And all that's before we ever get to her partner of some 20 years, Steadman Graham, who was recently "censured" for accepting $250,000(USD) to "publicly praise" Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act" - without quite mentioning he'd been paid for this service.)

And on we go ....

Sigh.

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Old 5th Jan 2007, 9:26   #5
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Default Re: Oprah and the Book Saga

So, let me get this straight, Oprah is to be distrusted and regarded with suspicion because:

1.
Quote:
... bookstores are full of volumes labelled "Oprah's Pick" - but again, I wonder how many of those books are really being read, were the heads to be counted. (And no one is counting - at least as far as I know.)
I bet you publishers are! Thanks to the oxygen of publicity she brings to certain books, those volumes enjoy a vast increase in sales. It happens over here with our very own Judy and Richard. Should they mention a book on their daytime tv bookclub slot, sales of that book go through the roof. And while you can't ever hope to establish how many of those sales result in their buyers reading them, I hardly think it's fair to blame Oprah for that lack of knowledge. By promoting and drawing attention to books, she has done everybody a service and should be applauded. She can encourage people to buy more books, but you can't ask her to ensure they actually read them! Horses and water and all that.

2.
Quote:
to me, although Oprah supports any number of worthy philanthropic causes, etc., she is also a consummate businesswoman with a following that borders on cult-like. Unlike other wealthy celebrities in the US, (Martha Stewart, Donald Trump), no one would ever dream of calling Oprah to account for anything. Yet she is a billionaire, whose net worth has been assessed at over $1.5 billion USD, for three years running (noted Feb., 2006). She gives away trainloads of expensive gifts to her enthralled, huge audience (high-end GM autos, for instance, or equally high-end home furnishings); for these she herself pays nothing; they are "publicity" gifts, supplied by negotiation with the respective manufacturers.
Again, where's her crime? Yes, she does support many worthy philanthropic causes. Shouldn't we be pleased? Yes, she is a consummate business woman - again, that's hardly a crime. And presumably, because she hasn't been called to account, unlike Martha Stewart and Trump, we can assume she hasn't fiddled the books or embroiled herself in dodgy doings. A woman of her stature who looms so large in the public eye, is an obvious target for journalists wanting a scandalous scoop. That nothing has been levelled at her to date proves either that she really is an honest consummate business woman, or so damn clever she's managed to hide any underhand dealings from public view. Either way I can't help but admire her, to be honest.

3.
Quote:
When Oprah's book-hooked audience sent enough cries of protest to the network, the Book Program began again; but this time O's selected authors were conveniently either dead (or getting close.) Hence, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Faulkner - as JS mentions.
Frankly, if she's turning the general daytime tv-watching populace onto books as rich and wonderful as those written by the likes of Steinbeck, Tolstoy and Faulkner, I think she's a ruddy marvel! And surely, once people's hearts and minds and imaginations have engaged with literature of that quality, they will be far better placed to select new and living authors of quality work for themselves, anyway. Again, even if she only ever selects writers mouldering in their graves, I hardly see this as a crime, either.

4.
Quote:
She gives away trainloads of expensive gifts to her enthralled, huge audience (high-end GM autos, for instance, or equally high-end home furnishings); for these she herself pays nothing; they are "publicity" gifts, supplied by negotiation with the respective manufacturers.
So what would you have her do with them, then? Keep them for herself? Yes, it's a smart business move, but it's hardly criminal. The manufacturers gain valuable publicity; she gains a grateful audience; the audience gain expensive goodies for nowt. Who loses? Is it encouraging people to worship at the temple of all things material? - you betcha! But this is not just Oprah's weakness, it's something that the US of A and, indeed, much of the whole of the western world seems in thrall to. I don't approve of it anymore than you, but I don't think Ms Winfrey can be blamed for being savvy enough to know how to keep her audiences happy - that, after all, is her primary business.

5.
Quote:
(And all that's before we ever get to her partner of some 20 years, Steadman Graham, who was recently "censured" for accepting $250,000(USD) to "publicly praise" Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act" - without quite mentioning he'd been paid for this service.)
So she's automatically tarred by the same brush is she? I'm not defending Graham's accepting that payment, but I don't think his action is something she should be accountable for. Given the way our own blighted leader, Tone, appears to be under investigation for dishonourable dealings, you would have us blame his wife, dear Cherie, for them, too, I presume? (Ha! Though I dislike that free-loading, money-grasping, ill-mannered lady sufficiently to believe her capable enough!)

6.
Quote:
As for Oprah, that much money coupled with that much power, and effectively NO accountablity, except to the bottom line, is always worrisome, to me at least.
Aha ... so this would appear to really be the crux of your complaint, wouldn't it, Aemy: that she hasn't actually committed any proven crime, but that she just might given her wealth and business acumen? Well, that's not really very fair, is it? It's redolent of tall poppy syndrome, I suggest. As for public accountability, as I've already said, I'm sure there are a whole host of eager journalists and Oprah rivals who would (and probably are) happy to upturn every stone in order to discover an OW murky secret or misdeed somewhere - but to date, without success. All of which suggests she's innocent of any obvious wrongdoings. Y'know - 'innocent until proved guilty,' etc.

Quote:
But her penchant for what Time magazine (I believe) called "rapport talk" vs "report talk" with her guests and audience members feels somehow claustrophobic, (even incestuous), after a few days of watching. Again, it's the "cult" thing; Oprah has no doubt done a geat deal of good in many fields; but it requires a certain kind of conditioned passivity to enter her temple of "reveal-all", slithering empathy, and to feel, as her audience seems to, that they emerge somehow both spiritually cleansed, and at the same time loaded with the latest consumer "luxuries."
Now you're talking! I can't abide the 'rapport talk', the fervent 'soul-baring', the 'how to improve your life in five easy steps' nonsenses she promotes. As if happiness was a commodity you could cook up with one simple recipe of readily-available ingredients and a set of pat instructions. The reality, of course, being some self-help guru has a book or course to flog and needs to convince folk they are miserable swines who can cure themselves with his/her help: the object of the exercise being purely financial gain. And as you say, all this emphasis on how to be a happier, more fulfilled person is at total odds with the worshipping of material things, the constant worry and striving for financial and material wealth; the judging of self and others by how much you own, how much you earn etc - that is an implicit given in the show's use of luxury item freebies. And nor can I abide the air of mild hysteria that is fostered on her show, encouraging folks to confess all, to cry and wail at the drop of a hat in order to make 'good tv.' It's a cynical exercise in cheap entertainment that makes fools of those that take part and those that are gulllible enough to watch and buy into it. But for all that, I don't think you can blame Winfrey for being smart enough to provide what the masses seem to want, since they, at least, do seem to get some form of satisfaction and pleasure from it. Does she do them any harm, long term? Well, no more than her fans and audience do to themselves anyway. And, as you yourself have said, she does do an awful lot of good, too.

Last edited by HP; 5th Jan 2007 at 18:38.
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Old 5th Jan 2007, 16:20   #6
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Default Re: Rohinton Mistry

HP,




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Old 6th Jan 2007, 16:26   #7
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Post Sigh! Oprah and the Book Saga

Quote:
Originally Posted by HP
She can encourage people to buy more books, but you can't ask her to ensure they actually read them! Horses and water and all that.
Absolutely - that was, I believe, my point. Or part of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HP
either that she really is an honest consummate business woman, or so damn clever she's managed to hide any underhand dealings from public view.
Precisely. And the "so damn clever part" is a distinct possibility; it tends to go with the territory.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HP
if she's turning the general daytime tv-watching populace onto books as rich and wonderful as those written by the likes of Steinbeck, Tolstoy and Faulkner, ....
And that's a big if. What was that you were saying about Conrad earlier?


Quote:
Originally Posted by HP
it's a smart business move, but it's hardly criminal. The manufacturers gain valuable publicity; she gains a grateful audience; the audience gain expensive goodies for nowt. Who loses? Is it encouraging people to worship at the temple of all things material? - you betcha! But this is not just Oprah's weakness, it's something that the US of A and, indeed, much of the whole of the western world seems in thrall to. I don't approve of it anymore than you,...
Uh huh. Still bribery, tho', if not technically criminal; who ever argued "criminal"? And leads her audience right into your last point, unfortunately. For them, I mean. And us too. Hooked on Aimee Semple MacPherson #2. Ye gods.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HP
I'm not defending Graham's accepting that payment, but I don't think his action is something she should be accountable for. Given the way our own blighted leader, Tone, appears to be under investigation for dishonourable dealings, you would have us blame his wife, dear Cherie, for them, too, I presume? (Ha! Though I dislike that free-loading, money-grasping, ill-mannered lady sufficiently to believe her capable enough!)
Good stuff, madam.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HP
As for public accountability, as I've already said, I'm sure there are a whole host of eager journalists and Oprah rivals who would (and probably are) happy to upturn every stone in order to discover an OW murky secret or misdeed somewhere - but to date, without success. All of which suggests she's innocent of any obvious wrongdoings. Y'know - 'innocent until proved guilty,' etc.
Nope. We covered this one earlier. The "so damn clever" bit.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HP
Now you're talking! I can't abide the 'rapport talk', the fervent 'soul-baring', the 'how to improve your life in five easy steps' nonsenses she promotes. As if happiness was a commodity you could cook up with one simple recipe of readily-available ingredients and a set of pat instructions. The reality, of course, being some self-help guru has a book or course to flog and needs to convince folk they are miserable swines who can cure themselves with his/her help: the object of the exercise being purely financial gain. And as you say, all this emphasis on how to be a happier, more fulfilled person is at total odds with the worshipping of material things, the constant worry and striving for financial and material wealth; the judging of self and others by how much you own, how much you earn etc - that is an implicit given in the show's use of luxury item freebies. And nor can I abide the air of mild hysteria that is fostered on her show, encouraging folks to confess all, to cry and wail at the drop of a hat in order to make 'good tv.' It's a cynical exercise in cheap entertainment that makes fools of those that take part and those that are gulllible enough to watch and buy into it. But for all that, I don't think you can blame Winfrey for being smart enough to provide what the masses seem to want, since they, at least, do seem to get some form of satisfaction and pleasure from it. Does she do them any harm, long term?
Agree, agree, to 75% of the above. But I don't think one can have it both ways. Either you want the hysterical fools to read better literature, and conceivably improve their literary sensibilities -which we haven't yet demonstrated - or you say, "Yes, they're being exploited, the dimwits, but they can't tell the difference anyway, so let them have this "cynical exercise in cheap entertainment." They'll never know." (Good phrase, that, BTW.)

This is wide ranging oratory, but not without holes - and I ain't convinced.

Besides -
Everyone's entitled to a sigh, HP. (All these square brackets are murder!)

Happy 12th Day of Yule, (and to Maggie too !)

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Old 6th Jan 2007, 18:10   #8
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Default Re: Sigh! Oprah and the Book Saga

Oh dear, and I thought for the time being at least, I'd done with Ms Winfrey (of whom I'm not especially fond in the first place, good woman or no). But you drag me back, Aemy. Ho-hum ... Now it is I who must issue a sigh ...

So you still maintain, without an iota of proof to support your distrust of the woman (other than she is partnered up to a man who was 'censured' for reasons you outlined above), Oprah Winfrey is probably guilty of some scurrilous financial or illegal behaviour, purely because she is clever, articulate, successful and worth several fortunes over - as if those (often considered highly desirable) attributes were in fact fatal character flaws of the first order. My, my,what a cloak and dagger world you must live in! Your suggestions probably count as slander, I would think. Well, I like a little evidence and hard proof of wrongdoing before damning someone, so I'll leave you to enjoy your Oprah distrust and hostilities. Until the day dawns when she is proved guilty beyond doubt, once and for all, in a recognised court of law of having done something downright illegal, I can't see the point in looking for trouble where trouble doesn't seem to exist. It's a bit too 'Reds-under-the-bed' time for me.

Quote:
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Agree, agree, to 75% of the above. But I don't think one can have it both ways. Either you want the hysterical fools to read better literature, and conceivably improve their literary sensibilities -which we haven't yet demonstrated - or you say, "Yes, they're being exploited, the dimwits, but they can't tell the difference anyway, so let them have this "cynical exercise in cheap entertainment." They'll never know." (Good phrase, that, BTW.)
It's not a matter of having it both ways; it's a matter of looking at the positive things she does, while admitting there are other aspects of her brand of tv show that you don't like. To whit: I applaud her loudly for promoting decent literature - but - I actively dislike the public 'soul-bearing', the self-help guru promotions, the breast-beating, teeth-gnashing, wailing histrionics she encourages her guests to participate in. But I accept that plenty of people do like that sort of thing, and there seems some evidence to suggest some actually find it cathartic. Each to their own. And although I dislike that part of her business intensely and it's certainly not what I would call quality entertainment, I do admire her success and the efforts she has made to use that success in a very charitable and positive manner. As a black woman who wasn't exactly born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she's done phenomenally well, I don't think anyone could begrudge her that. Who could deny her credit and admiration for rising to the top against very unpromising odds?

As for my remark about Conrad - oooh, Aemy, if you did but know! I once wrote a very, very long lament (on another forum) outlining why I unreservedly loathed The Heart of Darkness, and subsequently made a vow I would never, ever, ever waste another minute of precious life explaining again, why, I think - far from being a literary star - Conrad was actually a very bad writer and one who was a very long way off being the brightest star in the firmament intellectually-wise, too. Luckily for all (when I get on a roll, I just keep on rolling, as you may have noticed!) - I'll keep that vow good. My remark about his being 'a miserable melodramatic dude' was - and I didn't think I'd have to point this out - completely intentionally flighty and flippant - a reactionary shudder to shake off the miserable memories of slogging through his horrid little tome! One hundred and ten pages have never seemed so bloody interminable! But to get back to your implicit gibe in mentioning that flippant remark, let me say this: where is it writ large that one must doggedly admire and venerate all writers slavishly, simply because they have achieved a degree of fame and reputation? A quick look around the Palimp will soon give the lie to that! No! We must each judge according to our own sense of values and standards. To do otherwise is to be a placid, unquestioning sheep.

And speaking of sheep - have bleated quite enough. So, let me just wish you a very cordial toodle-pip for now. Oh yes - and thank you! You have yourself a very merry 12th of Yule, too!
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Old 6th Jan 2007, 18:52   #9
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Default Re: Oprah and her Book Club

I've given all this Oprah stuff a thread of its own, as it was threatening to swamp poor Rohinton Mistry...
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Old 6th Jan 2007, 20:12   #10
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Default Re: Oprah and her Book Club

... which would never do! Er, so, Aemy, to hell with Oprah, what are your thoughts on Mr Mistry, then?

[not that I would ever knowingly try to derail a thread --- ooooh, perish the thunk!]
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