Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

column: Replacing the Oprah Book Club


We hit a record high temperature here in northeast Indiana yesterday: 97 degrees, one over the previous record from back in 1933. I actually turned on the air conditioning at home for the first time this year -- and when I get hot, it's HOT.  The storms coming through now are cooling it down, though ... too bad they didn't help during our annual Fire Department fish fry yesterday afternoon, in the un-air conditioned fire station. Numbers were down: it was too hot for some regular customers.





            I found out Oprah aired her last TV show a couple of weeks after it happened, so it’s safe to say I’m not her biggest fan.           

Not that I dislike Oprah Winfrey (Hey, she has a last name!) On the contrary, I admire self-made people, and she turned … whatever she used to do … into a huge empire. It’s made her not only rich and powerful, but a person who by all accounts gives back to her community and her world. That’s pretty cool, and her success story really is inspiring.

            But I watch very little daytime TV, do I don't really think about her one way or another. To me she was a TV show, and I didn’t watch it because it just never interested me. (I hear she’s also an excellent actor and very good at weight loss programs.) I caught a few episodes many years ago, and I remember thinking to myself, “It’s just another Jerry Springer Show – only with class”.

            From what I’ve heard that’s unfair to what her show became later, but in general I don’t watch reality TV unless it involves history or something blowing up (Mythbusters). So I won’t miss Oprah, unless they replace her with something really awful, like Real World – Little Rock.

            But don’t forget Oprah’s Book Club.

            People actually read because of a daytime talk show host! That’s a true service to humanity. Unfortunately, her taste in books isn’t the same as my taste in books, but at least she had people reading. You could even argue that people might be better off reading her depressing literary stuff, rather than the escapism I usually go for. Getting themselves cultured, and all that.

            Then again, it’s possible I’m just upset because my first novel came out last week, not long after she went off the air, leaving me without the famous “Oprah bump” in sales. You don’t suppose there’s a connection, do you? I can only imagine her reading the trades: “What, they’re publishing him? That’s it – I quit.”

            I read through Oprah’s Book Club list, and discovered she hasn’t put anything on it that I’ve read since 2004. (That would be The Good Earth, which I read so long ago that I only remember thinking “isn’t it really bad earth?’) I watched her 2007 pick, The Pillars of the Earth, but TV adaptations don’t really count.

            I am ashamed.

            (Say … other books on her list include A New Earth and The Road. Pattern? At least she’s well grounded.)

            People say, “Why do serious literary novels never sell well?” Well, it’s because a lot of them are depressing, and on occasion incomprehensible. Sometimes it seems the only way to have your work declared a masterpiece of literature is to write something that has no plot, with the aim of killing off any character who’s a good person.

            To replace Oprah’s book club, I propose new and different kinds of books clubs. They’ll also be helmed by celebrities, as a way to draw people into reading. Let’s take a look at some of them:

            The Charlie Sheen Book Club:

            Harry Potter! Warlocks! Winning! I only lasted until page 50, but I got further than my third marriage. I think it has trolls in it.”

            The Al Gore Book Club:

            “I have just enough time before leaving the mansion for my jet to give you this election cycle’s book choice: Global Warming and Global Cooling. You can have it both ways! Tell all your friends – the debate is over. Here, let me show you some slides …”

            The Kim Kardashian Book Club:

            “Books? They’ve got pages, and words on them … and stuff. Sometimes they have pictures. Pictures are nice.”

            The Mythbusters Book Club:

            “Today Jamie and I will be testing the myth that books can be turned into rockets.”

            “That’s right, Adam – for the sake of irony, we’ll be using a copy of The Anarchists Cookbook. And then we’ll blow it up.”

            “Yep. That’ll give you more bang for your book.”

            The Larry the Cable Guy Book Club:

            “Today we’re gonna take a look at two new books: A Moonshiner’s Guide to Road Kill Stew and Kissin’ Cousins: the European Royalty Family Tree. One of ‘em’s disgusting, but with the other you get a great meal. Get ‘er read!”

            Okay, so I guess I don’t have that much shame.


Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark

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