shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


because reading is fundamental

Word of Mouth, an Association of Women Authors, has sent a letter to Oprah asking that she reinstate her book club. The excellent Wendi Kaufman, aka The Happy Booker, is a member, and gives us this news. From the letter:

However, the writer M. J. Rose, a novelist and long-time reporter on publishing news, has noticed something different. Her research suggests that the drastic downward shift actually happened six months after the attacks: fiction sales really began to plummet when the The Oprah Winfrey Book Club went off the air. When you stopped featuring contemporary authors on your program, Book Club members stopped buying new fiction, and this changed the face of American publishing. This phenomenon was a testament to the quality of your programs, the scope of your influence, and the amazing credibility you possess among loyal Book Club readers.

Sales figures, in the context of the literary market, do not merely reflect profits; they are an indicator of literacy as well. A country in which ordinary people flock to bookstores to buy the latest talked-about work of fiction is a vibrantly literate country. Every month your show sent hundreds of thousands of people (mostly women, who are the largest group of literary fiction readers) into bookstores. The contemporary books you chose sold between 650,000 and 1,200,000 copies apiece. Each Oprah selection gave readers a title to investigate and a subject to explore. Importantly, your Book Club also gave readers a chance to see these authors on the air and to hear their words. Not only books but the writers themselves became accessible to everyone, inviting all readers into the community of literature.

I must admit I'm a big ole Oprah softy, though I can barely manage to watch the show these days (and almost never do). Favorite episode: it's a tie actually. Well, a three-way tie, even.

1. The show where she admitted cocaine use and cried about it. (For I am sometimes mean and small.)

2. The show where she revealed that she has a team of guardian angels that watch over her and help her find her running shoes when they are lost.

3. The one with the man who had lived his whole life as a woman until he found out he was really a man with a rare genital deformity and was married to a nice man and had adopted kids and everything. He was from my home county! (The big controversy after this came out was not anything especially gender-related; it was whether the softball trophies from her/his years on the team should be returned or not.)

And let us not forget that this was the venue on which Mr. Armstrong chose to announce that he would race in the 2005 Tour de France there earlier this year (though not his retirement).

Anyway, enough Oprah reveries.

This is a worthy cause. Such authors as Francine Prose, Ann Beattie, James Alan McPherson, Louise Erdrich, Amy Hempl, Arthur Golden, Shirley Hazzard, Oscar Hijuelos, Jhumpa Lahiri, Cynthia Ozick, ZZ Packer, Silas House and Jane Smiley have signed. If you've published a book of nonfiction, fiction or poetry, you can add your name here.

See also: Carrie's thoughts.


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