By September 22, 2010 4 Comments Read More →

Musing About Oprah and “Freedom”

I assume you all read Neil’s post about the “Franzen-Oprah soap opera” last week.  I for one am disappointed with Oprah’s choice of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom for her fall book discussion.  The reason?  Well, there are several.  First of all, let me say that I have nothing against Franzen’s book, which I have not read yet, but which sounds like it would be well worth discussing, considering all the critical praise it’s been receiving.

It’s just that there are so many other fine books out there that Oprah could have chosen — books that aren’t as well known perhaps, but ones that could really benefit from this kind of high-level media attention.  Before the selection was made, the holds list on Freedom in many libraries was probably long enough to require the purchase of several copies of the book.  Now that it’s an Oprah Book Club pick, more holds will be placed and more copies will be needed to fill them.  I’d rather see some other book (and author) profit from the situation.

And while I’m at it, I might as well point out that Oprah should have been reading Book Group Buzz — she apparently wasn’t aware of the first three of Neil’s “book club dealbreakers,” recently listed on this blog:  price, availability, and length.  I’ve already commented on the book’s lack of availability as far as library copies are concerned, but you can always trot out to your local bookseller, I suppose, and plunk down $28.00 plus tax for your own copy (it’s available only in hardcover, of course) — or better yet, order from Amazon at around $14.00.  And the length?  Yes, Freedom is a tome, running some 576 pages.  In my opinion, just on these three factors alone, Oprah struck out.

Oh, she did say on last Friday’s show that despite rumors, Freedom will not be her last book discussion pick for the new season.  And she plans to continue her book club next year, when she brings her show over to her new network.  So there will be more decisions to be made about which books to discuss.  I just hope that next time she doesn’t opt for the current number one bestseller in America, not available in paperback, and weighing in at well over 500 pages.

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About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

4 Comments on "Musing About Oprah and “Freedom”"

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  1. I share your disappointment. This is not a comment against Mr. Franzel and his apparently excellent novel. But it strikes me as both a lost opportunity as well as a misuse of power. With her reach, Oprah could shine light on so many other authors who can hardly make a living yet are writing books the equal to those of Mr. Franzel. On the other hand the choice is understandable. It’s easier to back a winner and Oprah’s selection was made, in great part, to help herself.

  2. ggantzer@stanneschool.com' Gretchen Gantzer says:

    Oprah picked FREEDOM because it was an Obama vacation read. I had downloaded it unto my Kindle well before Oprah recommended it. It was highly recommended, and I am looking forward to reading it…but, I agree, that it would not be my first choice for a book club read.

  3. rcr2657@yahoo.com' Renee says:

    I agree with Gretchen. Oprah picked the book because of the Obama factor. I, as many others, purchased the book when I learned that it was given to Obama. What a disappointment – the book was plodding, smug and uninteresting. There are many more books out there that portray the modern American family in a more literate fashion. In addition, I cannot resist a barb at the Oprah Book Club phenomenon. While her book club has opened the doors to reading for so many people, I am incensed at the mind control that she exerts over our culture. No one person should have this much control over what people think and do.

  4. eduvries@yahoo.com' Eileen says:

    The book was a great disappointment to also. It given to me by a woman who said she read a quarter of this very disjointed novel which was indeed plodding and boring as well. Too much “filth” for my tastes. I always believe that an author who relies on this for any purpose is unsure of his ability as an author. He comes across as a man of some intellect at least in his choice of words, and I think that I would like to read a previous publication of his just to compare.
    As for Oprah – whom I like – I have seen choices that are not very good, and I wouldn’t be bothered with a read. I would never recommend the book “Freedom”.

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