It feels obligatory to write a post when Oprah chooses a new book for her book club. As if she doesn’t get enough publicity already. But Oprah’s choices are often odd and interesting. And all of us novelists and would-be novelists know its a long shot….but we still fantasize about Oprah choosing our book. Other, normal, people fantasize about Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Novelists fantasize about Oprah. What a world.
At any rate, her highness has chosen and the author is… Ken Follett. Though the author is best known for his thrillers, this month’s Oprah book is Pillars of the Earth, which is apparently about a village in Wales in the 12th century and is reputedly Follett’s favorite of his own books. You can read the USA Today article about it here.
Last week I went to an event called Women and Words or maybe it was Women and Writing. It was the opening event of Wordstock, a book festival here in Portland, and it featured two authors who had appeared on Oprah. One of them, Janet Fitch, was a bona-fide Oprah author, since her book, White Oleander, was an Oprah pick.
The other was Carole Radziwill, who wrote What Remains, a memoir of her life with Tony Radziwill, niece of Jackie O and cousin to John F. Kennedy Jr. The memoir centers on the death of Tony and JFK Jr. and his wife within the space of a few weeks.
What interested me was the two women’s wildly different reactions to her highness, the O person. Janet Fitch, California dowdy beside New York hip Radziwill and the South Africa adorable Alexandra Fuller (author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight) praised Oprah to the heavens. I’d have to kill her if she didn’t, because Oprah made her career.
But Radziwill was New York cool about it all and said that Oprah only wanted to talk about the Kennedys, when really, her book was about a lot more than that. And really, it was all just so declasse. Okay, okay, she didn’t say that, but she implied it. And she later redeemed herself with a story about the most annoying person in the world, Jerry Seinfeld, appearing on David Letterman and how rude he was about the fact that his wife is being accused of plagiarism. (I know, I am one of only two people on the planet who dislikes Jerry Seinfeld, and since I’ve never met the other person could he or she please contact me?)
I rarely watch Oprah because I rarely watch TV and I tend to forget that it exists and hence never turn it on, but I do like Oprah and I do read O, her magazine. And I am of the Cormac McCarthy school when it comes to Oprah books–c’mon, get off your high horse and accept that she’s done more for reading than anybody else in the last twenty years.
McCarthy earned my undying affection (just don’t make me read his books) when Oprah chose his novel The Road and he agreed to go on her show–breaking a years-long policy of not talking to the media specifically because he appreciated what she has done for the industry.
So take that, New York hipsters.
And, by the way, I am making a solemn vow at this very moment, here and now: when my novel is published I am not going to diss the publishing industry. I am not going to be so cool and above it all that I can talk about how awful the industry is and so forth and so on. C’mon folks, there’s about 50,000 of us who would gladly stand in your shoes, without all the whining.