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 Post subject: Book Snub: How Oprah Winfrey HURTS READING
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 12:09 pm 
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Book Snub: How Oprah Winfrey Hurts Reading


NEW YORK--Oprah's Book Club, The New York Times wrote when the talk show queen revived it in 2005, is "a boon to authors and publishers."

OBC has certainly been good for authors who lie and the greedy publishers who put out their books. Oprah's first post-hiatus pick was James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," a memoir of substance abuse and rehab whose muscular Hemingway-lite style screamed inauthenticity. It also contained numerous fabrications.

Oprah wasn't alone; Frey's lies fooled many stalwarts in America's state-controlled media. "As Frey takes pains to make clear, he was a particularly hard case--an omnivorous drinker, crack smoker and occasional drug dealer who was wanted in three states on outstanding charges," wrote a Times reviewer who recommended the book. Neither Oprah's staff nor the Times bothered to check whether criminal records verified his "harrowing" account. (They didn't.)

Thanks to its placement on Oprah's Book Club "Pieces" spent 15 weeks as a number one bestseller and generated at least $2.3 million in sales. When Oprah invited Frey back on the show to dress him down for lying, people winced at Frey's humiliation. I hope he thanked her; it generated more sales.

Oprah narrowly dodged a bullet with another of her picks, the maudlin 1997 Holocaust memoir "Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years," by Misha Defonseca. This purported tale of a young Jewish girl who travels through Europe in search of her parents before being adopted by a pack of wolves, à la Romulus and Remus (!), turned out to be less than authentic. Quelle surprise. For one thing, "Misha"'s real name was Monique de Wael. For another, she was Catholic, not Jewish. And she never left home. As for the wolves...well, you can guess how truthful that part was. In March 2008 Defonseca (née de Wael) admitted "is not actual reality, but was my reality, my way of surviving."

Fortunately for Oprah, the truth came out before the show she taped urging her audience to buy "Misha" was released.

"The single greatest love story, in 22 years of doing this show, we've ever told on the air," Oprah called a Holocaust-era romance (notice a trend?) between Herman Rosenblat and his wife Roma. The couple's 1996 appearance on her show scored them deals for two books--leading to Oprah's latest embarrassment. Herman's story that his future wife had saved his life by tossing apples over a fence at Buchenwald were belied by historical accounts of the camp's layout.

Before the truth caught up with them, the Rosenblats' Oprah imprimatur also secured them a $25 million movie deal. The film is in production at this writing.


Oprah claims she was duped by greedy, lazy publishers. Yet her website still recommends the fake books by Frey and the Rosenblats. Even so, the problem isn't Oprah's credulousness. It's that she has atrocious taste. That, and a platform for promoting her bad taste.

Books picked by Oprah's Book Club sell in the millions. Once such title was Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel "The Road," a plodding and vacuous depiction of phony connectivity between father and son after something terrible--we never learn what--has happened. ("The Man" and "The Boy," he calls them. This passes for clever.) Like many of Oprah's picks, and like many of the titles promoted such influential mainstream venues as The New York Times Book Review, it's a book written in the form of a good book--spare prose, brooding tone, and who doesn't love a good post-whatever societal meltdown tale?--that is not actually good.

An excerpt:

"Are we going to die?

Sometime. Not now.

And we're still going south.

Yes.

So we'll be warm.

Yes.

Okay.

Okay what?

Nothing. Just okay.

Go to sleep.

Okay.

I'm going to blow out the lamp. Is that okay?"

Sure, it's okay. But only if you blow your brains out first. This tendentious crap won the friggin' Pulitzer friggin' Prize. It's going to be a movie. McCarthy is gonna make millions. And he sucks.

To which one might ask: So what?

Los Angeles Times book editor David L. Ulin weighed in when the Frey scandal broke. "Whatever [Frey's] intent, 'A Million Little Pieces' clearly moved many readers-Oprah included-or it wouldn't have been as successful as it was," he wrote. "Why did it elicit such an emotional response, and is that response rendered invalid if its source is revealed to be a lie?"

Yes. It is. Of course. Because the readers were fools to have fallen for such tripe in the first place. First of all, because it was obviously untrue and second, because the writing was so bad. The problem isn't bad and dishonest writers. They can't help themselves. The problem is that mainstream American culture is gullible, sentimental, and dumb.

No is more blameworthy for Americans' stupidity than publishers and book reviewers who act as taste-makers. As in all creative pursuits, publishing exposure is a zero-sum game. Rising tides don't lift all boats; anyway, they're more like thrones than tides. A few titles suck the air out of the room as the rest wither and die due to lack of attention.

Each decision to review a bad book results in a better book going unreviewed, unnoticed, and its author unremunerated--and thus less likely to keep publishing. Each prize committee's decision to grant an award to a bad book takes away praise that might otherwise have drawn acclaim and sales to a good one. When bad books do well, authors study what works in the marketplace and copy the formula--resulting in more bad books.

Readers who rely on popular hype to choose books often come away disappointed. A few may decide to deep deeper, but most won't. Burned readers become non-readers.


A few years ago, I read Robert Fisk's magesterial "The Great War for Civilisation--The Conquest of the Middle East," in which the legendary war correspondent used a "Pulp Fiction"-like wrap-around structure to tie together personal and sweeping historical narratives of the West's 20th century relationship with the Middle East to staggering effect. It's a 1136-page monster, yet I savored every sentence.

Everyone I know who has read it came away with the same impression. Yet "The Great War" never made the bestsellers list. It languishes at #43,498 on Amazon, the victim of book reviewers and media mavens who chose to ignore it in favor of dull, sentimental crap, some of which isn't even true. In case you were wondering, "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World" is #2 on The New York Times bestsellers list (non-fiction category, natch).

Imagine what the book world would look like if books like Fisk's tome or my current favorite, George C. Herring's monumental "From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776," were an Oprah's Book Club pick. Of course, that will never happen. Which is why, if Oprah truly cares about books, she'll stop trusting herself and her tastes, and shut down her stupid book club._______



About author
Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.


NOTE: This is being posted in its entirety because the actual link is having fund-raising problems...what else is new!

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 Post subject: Re: Book Snub: How Oprah Winfrey HURTS READING
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 2:53 pm 
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I'm a complete and utter book snob. I have rarely, if ever, come across people (other than a few of my better prof. in lit) that care at all about reading a book that makes you think or that is "hard to read". Right now I am reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. I usually only stumble upon good books by chance and rarely ever take anyone's advice because they will usually recommend John Grishams's (gag, puke, barf) latest best seller as the greatest book EVAR!

And, truth be told, if I see the "recommended by Oprah's book club" thing on the front of a book, I quickly pass it up. How on earth could that many people like it if it were actually a good book?

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 Post subject: Re: Book Snub: How Oprah Winfrey HURTS READING
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:49 pm 
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Quote:
How on earth could that many people like it if it were actually a good book?


Well, Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code was a good book, and it sold millions! I loved that book. :D

But Oprah does not impress me with the books she "chooses." She's been taken in by phonies far too many times, too. For all of her success and wealth, Oprah has shown herself to be pretty damned naive.

I'm so glad to know you don't like Grishom either, lefty! I used to think I was the only person on the planet who disliked his writing.

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 Post subject: Re: Book Snub: How Oprah Winfrey HURTS READING
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:56 pm 
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I spend a lot of time at bookstores. There is the story of the legitimate author that gave an interview after being on Oprah and being her one of her "picks," who said it was all bullshit and got the approval rating pulled. His book quickly ended in the bargain rack. Oprah has admitted that some of her picks are really "staff" picks since she "doesn't have the time" to personally read the books. I would imagine her yo-yo dieting consumes the majority of her time. Million Pieces still sells well on the basis of "if he fooled Oprah, it must a pretty good story." I have never understood her fascination with Ken Follet, the near billionaire that was a Tony Blair ardent supporter. She should be finding the authors that struggling and starving.

Bestseller lists show how little the public can discern, #1 in hardcover non-fiction is Ann Coulter's latest hate filled pack of lies. I always have a book with me to read when eating alone or waiting at the doctors. There is always a second book at my bedside that occasionally cycles through some of my favorites. One of the things I do is find out what an author has read if possible, I go by the old maxim that the best writers learn by reading, reading and still more reading.

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 Post subject: Re: Book Snub: How Oprah Winfrey HURTS READING
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 7:22 pm 
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I have to agree. The masses just love their fluff and popcorn.

Some of the best books are only available at places like Amazon and for less than $10.

The most interesting seems to have been banned from Amazon. They don't sell new copies anymore. That would be "Barry & the Boys" by Daniel Hopsicker.


Dan Brown is a very brave writer. Who now seems to be living in seclusion. I think he has managed to piss off a lot of influential people....Illuminati, church, etc.

Ron Howard is doing a movie on his 'Angels & Demons' book. I hope it is better than his last effort at Da Vinci Code...which disappointed.

'Angels & Demons' deals with the struggle between the Illuminati and the Catholic church. It never calls the church the angels, much evil has been wrought by over zealous witch burners etc. It seems to imply the Illuminati is the demons. Washington, a free mason, called the Illuminati the 'dark masons'.

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 Post subject: Re: Book Snub: How Oprah Winfrey HURTS READING
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 10:34 pm 
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If you want to see Peter Mullin's view of the Catholic Church in all of its 1960s Irish horror, check out the dvd "The Magdalene Sisters." Here are some links:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318411/

http://www.decentfilms.com/sections/art ... sters.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalen_Asylum

Quote:
The existence of the asylums was little thought of until, in 1993, an order of nuns in Dublin sold part of their convent to a real estate developer. The remains of 155 inmates, which had been buried in unmarked graves on the property, were exhumed and, except for one body, cremated and reburied in a mass grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. This triggered a public scandal and became local and national news. In 1999 Mary Norris, Josephine McCarthy and Mary-Jo McDonagh, all asylum inmates, gave accounts of their treatment. The 1998 Channel 4 documentary Sex in a Cold Climate interviewed former inmates of Magdalene Asylums who testified to continued sexual, psychological and physical abuse while being isolated from the outside world for an indefinite amount of time. The conditions of the convents and the treatment of the inmates was shown in the acclaimed film The Magdalene Sisters (2002), written and directed by Peter Mullan. However the accuracy of this portrayal has been challenged. In addition, the story of one of the most famous alleged victims of the Magdalen asylums has been charged by relatives and investigators with being largely an invention.[1]

Similar instances of abuse have been reported in Ireland's industrial schools. As a group these institutions were exposed in an RTÉ (Ireland's national broadcaster) series by reporter Mary Raftery in 1999. Despite the Irish government convening of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, attempts to obtain compensation for the victims of the system have proven frustrating. [1] [2] Essentially, to be eligible for compensation, a victim must have been resident in one of a number of specifically listed institutions; no Magdalene Laundries are included on this list.



I'm not surprised that Dan Brown may be living in seclusion, although I've not seen any evidence to support that, nor can I "imagine" why he would be doing that. :mrgreen: He's made so much money on his books and the movie rights to them, he's probably hunkered down in Switzerland, avoiding tons of taxes, like Tina Turner and other celebrities have done.

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 Post subject: Re: Book Snub: How Oprah Winfrey HURTS READING
PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:43 pm 
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I read and loved the Da Vinci Code as well, but I still have the book and it doesn't have that emblem thingy on it. Dang it, why'd ya have to go and tell me that she endorses the book? Erg. Well, I guess she will accidentally pick a good book every once in a while.

If you liked the Da Vinci Code, you may like this book I just finished reading called The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl. It was great. Its written as though from the perspective of a contemporary of Poe that was an aquatence at the time of his death who tries to determine why and how Poe died. Its very good. Not to exactly equate it with the Da Vinci Code because its not ultra fast paced; this story takes place over several months instead of a few days, but it is still a very good story. Anyhoo. We should start up the "what have you read" thread again.

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 Post subject: Re: Book Snub: How Oprah Winfrey HURTS READING
PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 1:01 pm 
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I read and loved the Da Vinci Code as well, but I still have the book and it doesn't have that emblem thingy on it. Dang it, why'd ya have to go and tell me that she endorses the book


DID Oprah endorse that book? :? Sorry if my post was confusing and seemed to indicate that, lefty, because I don't know whether Oprah did or didn't. Since Brown's book was so controversial when it first came out, I doubt that she did if she didn't want to fly in the face of her fans who belong to the God and Guns segment of her empire.

My point in using The Da Vinci Code was meant to reply to your saying that you rarely came across a book that made you think or was "hard to read."
:mrgreen:

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