Even though Oprah isn’t supposed to make her last book club pick known until tomorrow’s show, people in the book industry are already reporting that it’s going to be Jonathan Franzen and his brand-new bestseller, Freedom.
If so, this could be interesting. Those of you old enough to remember 2001 (the year, not the movie) might know that Oprah picked Franzen’s previous book, The Corrections, for her famous book club. When he learned of her intention, he said that some of her previous picks had been “schmaltzy” and “one-dimensional.” (I truly hope he wasn’t thinking of Toni Morrison.) When the Big O heard of these comments, the offer was withdrawn. So there, dude. Next time you have a beef with someone who wants to put a stamp on your book jacket that will blast your sales through the sky, try to keep your opinions off the record.
Perhaps choosing Franzen again will allow Ms. Winfrey a chance to clear past wrongs, like not being gracious enough to endure his snobbery. A way of coming full circle, of rising above it, a perfect end to her network run. And if Franzen accepts graciously, a way to write (and right) his own karma.
Although the decision, if the decision truly is Franzen, may have a backlash of sorts. Recently, Jennifer Weiner, along with Jodi Picoult, has taken up the extremely valid issue of women commercial fiction writers not getting their due by major literary reviewers. While not singling out Jonathan Franzen, she did use him as an example of how male authors, no matter how few and far between their publications, get more space in primary print real estate like the New York Times. I agree with her wholeheartedly, but I fear that the brouhaha is only giving Franzen more sales. Guaranteed that Weiner will have a well-placed comment or two if Oprah gives her stamp to Freedom.
I think Oprah should turn the whole thing upside-down and choose a writer so far off the radar that it will make front-page news in places where people don’t read books. (I refuse to say where that might be, because I’ll get nasty emails, and since you are clever, you have already written this joke in your heads.) And no, I’m not talking about Oprah choosing me. Although that’s an interesting take… if she wants to clear her karma, or at least atone for a small sin or two, why not choose an up-and-coming writer, an unknown, who gets very little if no press coverage and whose book isn’t even in print yet? Brilliance!
But here’s my favorite potential Oprah pick–a woman who has been tirelessly campaigning for the job, who even wrote a book dedicated to trying to get into the Oprah book club. And that’s Kathy Griffin. I love it–the woman who was ballsy enough to have a Pap smear on national television… the last pick for the Oprah book club. And what an even more magnanimous gesture on Oprah's part than choosing Franzen.
What a way to go out.