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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.



( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 9th, 2011 08:59 am (UTC)
Oh god
I'm far more to the left than you and have only seen a few eps of the steaming crap she calls TV, but suffice to say, she's responsible for more of the 'rights rather than responsibilities' politically correct bullshit out there than almost any politician.

Oh little Johnny you did XXXXX and XXXX, why don't you talk to Dr. Phil instead of actually owning what you did and being punished.

Jun. 10th, 2011 07:03 am (UTC)
Re: Oh god
Ah, just my luck, I touched another nerve. :-)

I do know something of her political leanings (she endorsed Obama, which automatically puts her in the "let the government take my rights and spoon feed me for the rest of my life" crowd. I find that ironic, considering her life's story is living proof that the idea of rewarding people who work hard, and take advantage of a free society's opportunities, works.

However, my column wasn't about that -- it was a humor piece about book clubs. Don't worry, my political rantings will come later in the election system!
Re: Oh god - keith5by5 - Jun. 10th, 2011 07:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Oh god - ozma914 - Jun. 10th, 2011 07:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Oh god - keith5by5 - Jun. 10th, 2011 07:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 9th, 2011 11:43 am (UTC)

Leave it to you to make me laugh this early in the morning.

I never was a huge fan of hers either...
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:05 am (UTC)
Laugh on -- we need it!
Jun. 9th, 2011 11:49 am (UTC)
“Why do serious literary novels never sell well?” Well, it’s because a lot of them are depressing, and on occasion incomprehensible.

Can we add pretentious to the list?

I think a Mythbusters Book Club could be fun. Maybe they could vary things by reading science fiction novels then trying to prove or disprove the science in them. "Today we're going to see if it's true that you can't mix matter and anti-matter. We're going to blow the universe up!"
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:06 am (UTC)
Oh, yes -- pretentious. I forgot that one!

I love that idea of a Mythbusters Book Club -- but I'm not sure if giving them anti-matter is a good idea!
Jun. 9th, 2011 11:57 am (UTC)
I usually go for escapism too, but unlike you, I usually feel guilty about not having better taste in reading material. I think Oprah's book club is great and got a lot of people reading again, but her book club only made me feel more guilty because most of the books on her list would never interest me because they are not pure escapism. When I wanted to be depressed I can read the news.
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:07 am (UTC)
I *used* to feel guilty about that ... but I got over it when I realized the shear number of books being published every year, and decided I only wanted to read the ones I enjoyed. Besides, I tune into the news constantly, so as you suggested I didn't need any help getting depressed!
Jun. 9th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
Ah, the Oprah Book Club. The first go round used to give me endless amusement. The selection included some incredible depressing novels that I refused to purchase for work because I knew that the moment she picked another book they'd languish on the shelves until weeded out so... the old dears would come in, place an order through interlibrary loan, get their copy and within a week would bring them back always saying "Oh dear, I love Oprah but this really isn't what I expected". Any one of your "lists" would have been far more popular.

And completely OT, I saw this and thought of you.
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:12 am (UTC)
I've heard that same comment from people who read Oprah picks! I wonder now how she actually described her picks, and if it was misleading.

Oh, wait until Emily sees those figures! She'll be clearing off shelf space at home.
Jun. 9th, 2011 01:35 pm (UTC)
I'm with you on Oprah. I'm glad she's done a lot of good in the world, but she wasn't that big of a blip on my radar. But I do enjoy her acting performances, even if I HATED the movie, Beloved.
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:14 am (UTC)
There were some years during her yo-yo dieting where it would have been impossible for her not to be a blip on the radar.

(Ooh, I can't believe I said that ...)

Beloved was, like her favorite books, too depressing.
Jun. 9th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
I hear she’s also an excellent actor

I think with an excellent director, she's a competent actor. I did love her in The Color Purple.

I'm not an Oprah fan, but I haven't been a talk show fan since Merv Griffin & Johnny Carson retired. Yes, I am so very, very old. As for her Book Club, never paid an ounce of attention to it because as you say, what I saw of her recommendations never interested me. Escapism all the way, baby!

The thing that has bothered me so much about Oprah over the past several years is that her fans seem to become obedient zombies, shuffling along in her wake taking everything she says as TRUTH! That's all kinds of scary.
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:23 am (UTC)
Now that I think about it, you're right about her fans. She'd hate hearing this, but it seems one thing Oprah, Rush Limbaugh, and President Obama have in common is that their really hard core fans worship them with an almost religious fervor. It can be scary.

Craig Ferguson is the only talk show I watch, and The Dennis Miller Show is the only radio talk show I listen to (and neither of them all that regularly), so I can't say I know all that much about talk shows in general. I miss Johnny!
(no subject) - sp23 - Jun. 10th, 2011 02:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ozma914 - Jun. 11th, 2011 06:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 9th, 2011 02:16 pm (UTC)
okay that was funny

and yeah if you're whining about the heat, we must all be toasting in hell. Yesterday sucked
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:26 am (UTC)
It actually didn't bother me too much, but I'd have preferred it cooler. Some of the guys were literally soaked with sweat -- which surely didn't make them attractive servers!

We ran the air conditioner for most of two days; it's a lot cooler now, though.
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - Jun. 10th, 2011 01:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ozma914 - Jun. 11th, 2011 06:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - Jun. 11th, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ozma914 - Jun. 12th, 2011 10:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:26 am (UTC)
If she'd given you a car, you'd have been hers forever!
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - ozma914 - Jun. 11th, 2011 06:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - ozma914 - Jun. 13th, 2011 06:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:03 am (UTC)
Ha, that really did make me laugh, Mark. You are a very good writer of humour and I particularly enjoyed the Mythbusters bit – my boys really enjoy that show. You and I don't always agree politically, but I have a lot of respect for your ability as a writer. :)
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)
I appreciate it, and as far as the politics, hey -- we CAN all get along!
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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