For years Oprah Winfrey has been a one-man (woman) army in the fight against illiteracy (or at least the fight against detractors of literature) challenging millions of viewers worldwide to read books ranging from William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (2005) to Maya Angelou’s The Heart of a Woman (1997). During the 15-plus years she has been doing her book club Oprah has launched many authors into super-stardom and been the impetus for many books being turned into feature films.
But, Oprah’s Book Club has also had it’s share of controversies, including one of her 2005 selections, A Million Little Pieces by Jame sFrey, which was marketed as non-fiction but was later revealed to contain a lot of things that weren’t true. (Oprah exacted her revenge on Frey and publisher Nan Talese in a televised interview in which The Big O brutally shamed the two for presenting the book as a memoir.)
Another controversial moment in Oprah’s Book Club history came after she named Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections and the author expressed some amount of dissatisfaction at being chosen, in an interview that Winfrey had “picked some good books, but she’s picked enough schmaltzy, one-dimensional ones that I cringe, myself, even though I think she’s really smart and she’s really fighting the good fight.” He also expressed concerns that being selected would hurt the book’s chances at reaching a male audience.
^ Author Jonathan Franzen attends The 2009 New Yorker Festival:
Fiction Night at Cedar Lake on October 16, 2009 in New York City.
(Photo: Joe Kohen/Getty Images for The New Yorker)
Oprah uninvited the author from the televised book club dinner, and although he apologized profusely for his comments Oprah never seemed willing to forgive.
Oprah has announced her last Book Club selection and it appears as though she is making a statement about forgiveness by choosing Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom.
Here is how the selection was summed up on Timeout Chicago:
After a near decade-long spat with author Jonathan Franzen, Oprah Winfrey is letting bygones be bygones.
Winfrey is expected to announce on tomorrow’s show that Franzen’s Freedom will be her final talk show book club pick.
His book—The Corrections—was one of Winfrey’s book club picks back in 2001. However, she scrapped his scheduled appearance on show after Franzen made comments in interviews that male readers would be turned off to reading his book because it was one of her book club picks.
Freedom is [Franzen’s] fourth novel, and, yes, his first in nine years since The Corrections. Happy to say, it’s very much a match for that great book, a wrenching, funny, and forgiving portrait of a Midwestern family (from St. Paul this time, rather than the fictional St. Jude). Patty and Walter Berglund find each other early: a pretty jock, focused on the court and a little lost off it, and a stolid budding lawyer, besotted with her and almost burdened by his integrity. They make a family and a life together, and, over time, slowly lose track of each other. Their stories align at times with Big Issues–among them mountaintop removal, war profiteering, and rock’n’roll–and in some ways can’t be separated from them, but what you remember most are the characters, whom you grow to love the way families often love each other: not for their charm or goodness, but because they have their reasons, and you know them. –Tom Nissley
It should be interesting to see what Franzen’s official response will be this time around.
Top Photo: DP/AAD/starmaxinc.com via Newscom