I'll admit it - I'm not above rubber necking. People who say they never look at the car accident as they drive by or stop to see the train wreck are dirty, dirty liars. Sorry, y'all are.
So it was with perverse glee that I saw this story on the Internet this morning. Yes, Oprah is doing an about face and is now saying she felt "dubbed" by James Frey's *ahem* memoir.
I think what they call this in public relation circles is saving face. Or maybe it's backpedalling. Whatever.
I'm obviously an awful, spiteful person for enjoying this particular train wreck, and I'm sure I'm going to be burning in hell for it. While I admire Oprah for what she has accomplished in her lifetime (self-made stories like hers are the American Dream), I never got her book club idea.
On the surface I guess it's a good thing that Oprah endorses books and attracts normally non-readers to reading. Then I stop and realize that this is exactly what is wrong with society today. If it takes a celebrity to get a person to read that doesn't say much about American society as a whole does it?
I have a theory that the vast majority of non-readers never are converted to full-time readers because of endorsements like Oprah's. They are told that Book A is the greatest, most moving story ever, and when they don't "get" it they feel somehow inferior. Even full-time readers are not immune to this guilt. Yes, I don't like Charles Dickens. There I said it! I'm a librarian who got a degree in British history and I don't like Charles Dickens!
I suddenly feel so free.
Those who aren't readers don't read because for years all the fun has been sucked out of the activity. We force students to read literature (cue snooty British accent here) in high school. Those who go on to college are forced to read more (I remember reading one book I enjoyed for one college course and that's it). So by the time we're out in the real world, taking care of spouses, taking care of kids, and working too damn much, the last thing we want to do is read. We've been taught that reading does not equal fun. So we turn on the TV and watch the latest insipid season of American Idol instead.
This spills over into the review scene as well. I'm a reviewer. I've endorsed books. I've panned books. But my name attached to my opinion does mean a whole lot to anybody. Who gives a flying fig what I think? All I do is offer an opinion. If a person can read my opinion and get something out of it, fine. Otherwise, feel free to ignore it and move on.
But Oprah has clout. A lot of it. And when she endorses anything from shampoo to books it means something to people. Frankly, it shouldn't - but that is the twisted nature of the cult of celebrity for you.
So my advice to library patrons has always been - Read What You Want. Reading should be fun. It shouldn't be a chore. Read what you want, not what somebody (anybody) tells you you should. And for God's sake don't apologize about it.