shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass

4.26.2005

a piece of advice & talking about oprah*

Do not make a big deal out of how girls can mow the lawn too and proceed to do an okay job at it, because the only thing you have accomplished is proving that yes, you can mow the lawn. Which really isn't all that fun.

Unrelatedly: All the Oprah Book Club bashing that's going on is troubling me. I don't think making generalizations about what kind of books are better than other kinds of books and what kind of reader is better than what other kind of reader is all that useful. Here's how I think about it. Whether you love or hate Harry Potter, you must admit that J.K. Rowling's books get people into bookstores--more than that, they got them into a section of the bookstore many of them hadn't been in before, the Young Adult/Teen section. Which is now a booming genre full of great books. Rowling's books made room for more books. They created a market.

I think Oprah's BC had to have at least a somewhat similar effect on literary fiction (which, whether you think her picks good or bad, is where most of them are shelved). Not to mention increasing the odds that a publisher might take a chance on a literary manuscript, because one)there was a slim possibility it would be chosen by O or two)they'd had a book picked by O already that gave them more capital to spend and less need to make a profit on every other book. (I do not pretend to be a businesswoman, so my analysis may be faulty here -- as may ALL my analysis, all the time. That doesn't stop me.)

Oprah knew her audience and picked books they would like; I honestly do not think that if the word of mouth among book clubs and Oprah readers on her first few titles had been bad that they would have continued to sell as they do. You can show me figures that dispute that, but until I see them, I'm choosing to think that if the books weren't connecting with these people, they wouldn't have continued to buy them. Dismissing a book entirely, just because it isn't your cup of tea (even though many intelligent people have liked it), seems a little silly to me. It reminds me of nothing so much as people who ghetto-ize genre fiction in general.

Perhaps the thing that bugs me most though is the assertion that these people were buyers, not readers. Buyers have a place and can still end up having an effect that helps readers, not to mention writers. Also, I think some of those people probably did turn into habitual readers. And that makes it worth it. I really DON'T see any negative effect from Oprah's Book Club, except perhaps the fact that we're still talking about the tiff with J. Franz so many years later.

Good day, everybody.

*This morning, I forgot to add that I once witnessed two girls beat the literal hell out of each other on the L after one of them said bad things about Oprah and wouldn't take them back. Just saying...

8 Comments:

  • At 8:20 AM , Blogger Justine Larbalestier said...

    Spot on, Ms Bond. I don't think your analysis is faulty at all. The O book club bashing is tedious.

     
  • At 9:27 AM , Anonymous eek said...

    People are still bashing the O Club? That's so 2001!

     
  • At 1:26 PM , Anonymous Kevin Holtsberry said...

    My wife and I try to split up the chores so there is no confusion whose responsible for what. When given the choice between mowing the lawn and picking up after two dogs she gladly picked the lawn.

    And, although I am not a fan of Oprah, I too find the bashing a bit much.

     
  • At 2:01 PM , Anonymous the Happy Booker said...

    Excellent points. Thanks for posting this. You may want tp check out MJ's blog (http://mjroseblog.typepad.com/buzz_balls_hype/) today, she responds as well.

     
  • At 5:20 PM , Blogger Chris McLaren said...

    I totally agree with what you said...

    BUT, I reserve the right to mock people who will only read things that Oprah has blessed.

    C.

     
  • At 6:03 PM , Blogger gwenda said...

    As well you should, Chris -- still bearing in mind that they'd be better read than most people(!).

    It's the venom I find so troubling.

     
  • At 7:52 PM , Anonymous scott said...

    As you say, getting non-readers into the habit of talking about, thinking about, and buying fiction is a good thing for authors and for society. Fifty percent of American adults have not read a novel since high school; anything that brings that number down is positive. That goes for Rowling, Oprah, R.L. Stine, and even (argh) Dan Brown.

    Just one quibble: "I once witnessed two girls beat the literal hell out of each other on the L"

    So wait, demons were issuing forth from their wounds?

     
  • At 11:00 AM , Blogger Bill S. said...

    It seems to me that the most venomous reactions seem to be from men; I have to wonder whether part of it isn't just old fashioned sexism.

    I know a number of people (all women) who used to circulate the books among themselves, but not buying them. This includes my former roommate and my mom. While this is a limited sample (they were all college-educated women who read a fair amount of fiction otherwise), I never got the impression that anybody bought the books and didn't read them. They didn't read the books because they were neccessarilly fans of Oprah, but because Oprah chose a certain type of book that, for whatever reason, spoke to their concerns. I think if anybody dismisses that by saying that it was just because of the Oprah seal of approval, they are sort of missing the point.

    And contrary to what some have suggested, somehow I doubt my mom would have been much interested in William T. Vollman, even if Oprah had ever endorsed him.

     

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