From Publishers Weekly
The impact of Oprah Winfrey's television book club is well known to everyone in the book business. Yet many among the literati assumed Oprah's picks were mediocre and resented the star's posturing as a tastemaker. In her lively, information-filled account of the club's history, Rooney, an award-winning poet and a writing instructor at Emerson College, defends Oprah as a genuine "intellectual force" who "promoted the bridging of the high–low chasm" in American literary life. Although Rooney confesses she found many picks unreadable for reasons she eloquently explains she points out the literary worth of selected novels by Toni Morrison, Jonathan Franzen, Rohinton Mistry and others. Rooney relates theoretical ideas on taste, literary value and cultural hierarchy to the social phenomenon of Oprah's club and focuses on every up and down in the face-off between Oprah and Franzen, saying each was disingenuous at times, and both missed an opportunity to look at larger questions of our literary culture. On the negative side, Rooney finds Oprah manipulative and inclined to interpret literary fiction in the reductive terms of autobiography and self-help. Ultimately, Rooney sees Oprah's Book Club (including its latest incarnation) as a positive effort. Although Rooney's sometimes awkward prose can get bogged down in anecdotal evidence and personal asides, she accurately captures the cultural unrest surrounding the Oprah Book Club and raises numerous thoughtful points about its significance.
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Lively . . . accurately captures the cultural unrest surrounding the Oprah book club and raises numerous thoughtful points about its significance.
This is a highly readable book.
Rooney takes a steady, smart look at a situation that is both fascinating in its own right and deeply revealing about how it is in our cultural life these days.