aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,
aprilhenry
aprilhenry

All hail Oprah

Twenty years ago, on September 8, 1986, Oprah Winfrey's television show became nationally syndicated, broadcasting in a 138 cities. It became the most popular daytime talk show of all time. Ten years later Oprah started a televised book club. She has picked more than fifty books for her book club, and none has sold less than 500,000 copies after being selected. People who study reading trends believe that she persuaded millions of people to begin reading for pleasure for the first time in their lives.

I've known three people who have been on Oprah.

Jane Hamilton talked to me about her life pre-Oprah and post-Oprah. It was like the Continental Divide.

My old friend from college, Anne McAlpin, has said that appearing on Oprah and showing her audience how to pack has opened so many doors for her.

And an acquaintance who had been on Oprah to talk about her non-fiction book (not part of her book club) was withering about Oprah. I couldn't believe the things I heard come out of her mouth, especially since a) she didn't even really know the people she was talking to and b) being on Oprah helped make her book a national best-seller. Two that I still remember were: "Oprah was saying, 'My friend, Maya Angelou,' like she had to make a big point that we all understood that she was friends with Maya Angelou," and "Oprah was giving me that look. You know, that look that fat people give thin people?" Since this woman was thinner than anyone in the group she was speaking to, this was especially acidic.

Another acquaintance had the experience of nearly getting on the Oprah show with her first novel. I gather there was some selection process and she made it through several levels. As that process stretched on (it took weeks) she and her editor grew to be close friends. Then, when Oprah passed, the "friendship" evaporated.

Maybe Franzen did deserve that eviscerating review as payback for ruining a novelist's chance of appearing on Orpah. And James Frey deserved his pillorying for having lied to Oprah and millions of Americans (and, I think, at some point to himself). Because both of them have made it very unlikely that a living author is going to be siting on that couch next to Oprah any time soon.

And I would have loved it.



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Tags: anne mcalpin, jane hamilton, oprah
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