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Oprah: A Biography Hardcover – April 13, 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 358 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; 1 edition (April 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307394867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307394866
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (358 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #504,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Susanna Hutcheson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
She seems so nice. But mercy --- she's nasty. That's the message in Kitty Kelley's new book. You may think Oprah is warm. She seems that way. But she's aloof. She gives everything to the camera.

Oprah has lots of secrets, according to Kelley. The book shows how Oprah is demanding and somewhat lazy. The woman who shows such compassion and love, so much humility and friendship, is really a diva with a big ego, big appetite and a case of just plain nasty. That is if you believe Kelley's book. And since Kelley has never been successfully sued over any of her books, I'm inclined to believe her. True, she's lawyered up. But, so are her subjects.

Kelley doesn't really have what I'd call a bombshell in her new book about the queen of talk. Much of it is innuendo and things we've heard, even things Oprah herself has said. For example, Oprah may be gay. Or, she may not be. I guess Kelley couldn't pin that one down. And really - who cares?

But Kelley quotes Rosie O'Donnell (from a 2009 Howard Stern interview) saying Winfrey and King are the "emotional equivalent of a gay couple," and author Erica Jong saying, "I would not be surprised if Oprah is gay." Oprah comes off as more asexual than gay or straight.

There is a lot here about the "real" Oprah as seen by her father and others. We get a glimpse of Oprah that makes her less than appealing. Would we expect this of a Kitty Kelley book? Yes, probably. On the other hand, Kelley has done her homework and held 850 interviews. The book is full of footnotes. It's well documented. Oprah comes off as self-centered and arrogant -- not at all likable. She doesn't come off as the person so loved by so many. But, should this surprise us? Have we not all read Machiavelli? People are seldom what they seem.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a so-so Oprah fan over the years ... I always felt she
was a pretty fascinating woman, deserving of much praise for her
help of others. I also felt that "0" was disingenuous a great deal
of the time...and I was turned off by her preaching platitudes to the
masses time and time again. I was also bothered by her oft times
cold/critical tone when interviewing guests who somehow triggered her
distain. I always felt that this was one person you would NOT want
to tangle with. Well, Ms. Kelley pretty much proves that point to
the max. I came away from this book marveling at the tales of utter
pettiness and revenge visited on those folks who DARED to offend
(purposely or not) the Queen. I have read elsewhere, and this book
confirms, that Oprah was a very open, friendly, down-to-earth person
in the beginning of her career. The old adage that "power corrupts"
seems apt here. With her history of hard times and her obvious dis-
content with herself both physically and emotionally and spiritually,
the stage is set for much pompous prosthelytizing. I find the bile
rising in my throat when Oprah is on and she lectures to the masses
to "be the best that you can be" -- with all her cheesy ways to do
just that. I am a person very interested in psycho-spiritual growth
and all, but Oprah is acting like she is a Goddess, when in actuality,
she comes across as very "Psych 101" in consciousness. All that being
said, "0" remains a pretty amazing person...many good deeds under her belt,
even if they fed her narcissistic side, they still help others. Bravo
to Ms. Kelley for taking on the juggernaut that is Oprah.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read Kitty Kelley's other unauthorized biographies and sadly this one does not measure up to her others. The book is odd in that there are no great revelations and yet it is still an entertaining read. I was at no time bored, but also not completely absorbed in the words.

Apparently, Kelley has encountered a subject who carefully and completely sealed off a great deal of information through iron-clad confidentiality agreements with anyone and everyone crossing her path, including relatives. Information is available from a variety of sources yet the book feels, although interesting, not quite complete. Learning of her early prostitution, drug use, etc. helped flesh out a portrait of her, but most of the other shocking revelations are already known through Oprah's well timed public confessions.

People who reach this level of success are usually shrewd, single minded and manipulative, so it isn't surprising that these are characteristics Oprah apparently possesses. Vernon Winfrey's statements about Oprah, both as a child and as a woman, were fascinating information and added substance to the biography, but the book needed more. The fault doesn't rest with Kelley. From the research she did it is obvious it wasn't laziness or a lack of trying on her part that more wasn't revealed. Oprah's great wealth and power have effectively muzzled people she wants muzzled whether legally obligated by a confidentiality agreement, or not.

A breakdown of the reviews posted here finds almost an equal split between five star and one star reviews. Perhaps the real story is in the rest of the numbers -- those of us between either extreme. I have no strong feelings about Oprah, either good or bad and the book left that ambivalence unchanged.
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