Thursday, April 22, 2010

Oprah, Echo, et al.

I usually choose a nice image of a reader for my Chapter 16 posts, but this depiction of Echo and Narcissus seemed an apt way to prepare you for my review of Kitty Kelley's Oprah: A Biography. It's hard to imagine a more challenging subject for Kelley's brand of exposé, and the book winds up being a fairly interesting lesson in literary futility. The review is here.

Other new posts at C16 include Ed Tarkington's review of a collection of stories by Jay McInerney, as well as a Q&A with poet Joy Harjo. Go look.

Echo and Narcissus from a 14th century illuminated manuscript of Le Roman de la Rose. You can read an English translation here.


Julie H. Rose said...

Good review, and excellent point that it would be impossible to trump Oprah's tales of herself.

I'd love to read a book analyzing Oprah as "The Phenomena" - not a biography. But few are interested in that, I'd imagine.

jmcleod76 said...

Nice review. I probably won't read this. I don't enjoy celebrity biographies. I'll take a badly-written memoir by someone nobody's heard of over a celebrity bio any day. And I think your review subtly points out why.

Often, when I hear accounts of what a bitch Oprah is (or Rosie O'Donnell is, or Hillary Clinton is, or whoever else is - and these stories are almost always about successful women), my immediate thought is almost always "How well would I fare if someone profiled me?" I've certainly had no shortage of temper tantrums, selfish moments, petty cruelties, exaggerations, outright lies, and other forms of truly ugly behavior in my life. The only difference is, I'm not important enough to most people for mine to be remembered for very long. Or, if they are remembered, those who remember them have no one to share them with (at least not in exchange for a little money or vicarious fame).

Don't get me wrong. I'm no Oprah apologist. I find her style of personality branding, unquestioning materialism, and "just dream it and realize it" faux-magical-optimistic spirituality off-putting, to say the least. I don't hate her, however. I like that she has helped to get Americans reading more, for instance, even if I don't usually buy the Oprah Book Club picks. She supports some political causes I support, which is nice. One of the first positive portrayals of gays and lesbians I ever saw was on Oprah's show, back when I was in maybe middle school and her show had a more standard topical talk show format. I'm still grateful her for that. I'll take all of the allies I can get.

When it comes down to it, I like to think we're all just doing the best we can (with the possible exception of Hitler or Fred Phelps, I guess).