Friday, September 17, 2010

Oprah's Newest Book Club Pick

Normally, my posts are thought out, carefully written and edited, and only posted once I deem it acceptable.  This is not me saying how careful and excellent a blogger I am; more how a demonstration compulsive a student I was.  Well that's not what this post is about.  This is about me being filled with rage.  About books.
As anybody who has a remote interest in modern literature already knows, Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, recently came out with a new novel, Freedom.  Sounds like the great American novel, doesn't it?  It's garnered lots of attention, largely because it's reported to be awesome and also President Barack Obama got an advance copy and pissed off everybody ever.  And now it's gotten even more attention - Oprah chose it at her latest book club pick.

Initially, this pissed me off.  I was similarly pissed off when Oprah started choosing classic books.  Don't get me wrong, I think it's wonderful that she promotes literacy and all that, but I think that she should also be promoting books that people haven't heard of.  She should open people's eyes to the literature that isn't being read but deserves to be, thus helping to create modern classics and supporting struggling creators of great literature.  So you can only guess how I felt when Barnes & Noble e-mailed me to say that Oprah had chosen Freedom as her newest book club pick.  After my initial annoyance, I remembered something: wait a minute… the author of The Corrections? Wasn't that also an Oprah's book club pick?  SERIOUSLY?!
About five seconds after that, I remembered that Franzen had rejected the nomination, something that nobody had ever done before.  I looked him up on Wikipedia and discovered the details of the rejection: he initially accepted it, even appeared on Oprah, and then rejected it because he was afraid that it would scare off male readers.  This earned him even more attention (and sales) than the initial honor bestowed by Oprah.  It's also a bit insulting to women, as though men are beyond women's literature.  But this isn't a feminist issue (for me…right now).

So you probably imagine how I feel about Franzen's second nomination.  I think it's disgusting that he's getting even more media attention despite his bad behavior but I also kind of applaud Oprah for it.  It's almost a big eff you to Franzen - you can't escape me now!  Of course, Franzen's already established his dreamed-of male readership so this really just means even more sales, but that's not quite the point.  The point is that Oprah wins.  I don't watch Oprah or read her magazine or really know much about her, but I'd rather her have the upper-hand over this sleazeball.

Maybe you think I'm overreacting or being unreasonable.  And yeah, I probably am.  But as much as I hate celebrities acting stupid for attention, I hate it even more in writers.  Literature is a respite from all that.  As an aspiring writer myself, I'm disgusted at those who place such a high value on media-grubbing.  Writing is about your words, not your name or your face.  Graciously accept any honors bestowed on you and don't insult half your readership in the process.  If your writing is good enough, a sticker on the cover won't change anything.  In fact, do you really want a readership who is concerned more with stickers than literary value?

In fact, I have The Corrections.  I went through an Oprah's book club phase in my early teens and bought The Corrections when it was first selected.  I read a few pages, wasn't particularly interested, and forgot about it.  When Freedom came out, I wondered if I should reread The Corrections to see what all the fuss was about.  Now, I'm thinking that I might not.  If for no other reason, do I really want to approach a novel so non-objectively?

Oh, and I also hate J.K. Rowling.  Another subject for another day.  In the meantime… a kitty!

Yes, he usually looks that miserable when I hold him.


  1. 1. I read this article awhile back which may have some relevance (I was too lazy to reread it now so for all I know it's about bacon flavored popsicles, but I don't think so):

    2. I like when you post unrevised! Do it more!

    3. Ralph does not like human contact for more than ten seconds at a time. Duh.

    4. I think you should subtitle this entry, "Never miss a chance to be a raging feminist."
    (Not that I don't think you are justified in this instance, I was just really amused when you said it on the way to library).

  2. Haha. I support that substitle!