From Publishers Weekly
The tables are turned on Oprah Winfrey, as celebrity biographer Kelley digs deep to uncover the secrets of the talk show host and humanitarian. Kelley weaves her revelations from interviews with those who knew Oprah best--relatives, former lovers, and coworkers. Kelley's reading is inspired and professional, and her voice brims with remarkable selfassurance, making for a convincing presentation, despite the fact that this is an unauthorized biography. Although Kelly gets a bit breathy at times, she brings things back to the ground with a steady rhythm and energy. A compulsive (if slightly guilty) listen. A Random hardcover.
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Kitty Kelley couldn't find very many people who like Oprah. Astonishingly, almost everyone she interviewed seems to have a bone to pick with the talk-show host, even Oprah's cousin and father (who might not be her father, after all). Of course, many of those people haven't seen Oprah in a long time; take the insulted woman who threw her a good-bye party when she left her first television job: “That was the last I saw of Oprah . . . she divorced herself from Nashville.” Even when Oprah does something thoughtful, like return to Baltimore to spend time with a dying former coworker, she gets bashed for not attending the retirement party of another. As in her previous biographies, Kelley follows a predictable pattern. She gathers lots of information via published articles, on-the-record interviews (often with bit players), and anonymous quotes from those who may or may not be well connected. (Moreover, even the identified quotes are difficult to track in the massive list of source material in each chapter.) She then writes, in rather clunky prose, about her subject, twisting the story to prove her thesis—in this case that, yes, Oprah is a spinmeister and a controlling one at that. Though Oprah's many achievements and her charitable work are lauded, there's usually a but following each positive statement, as Kelley attempts to show again and again that Winfrey's generosity is often self-serving. Typically, Kelley's biographies feature one juicy story that everyone seems to remember. Laura Bush sold dope in college. Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra had an affair. Unfortunately, Oprah seems sadly to lack that signature take-away anecdote. She had an affair with John Tesh? She once ate two pecan pies? No staying power there. Perhaps readers will have to be satisfied with the fact that Oprah's father called her best-friend Gayle King a “dirt hog.” And that's on the record. --Ilene Cooper
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