September 17th, 2010 / 2:20 pm

“From the very first chapter, I declared it a tour de force,” Oprah said modestly in Friday’s announcement. [via Shane Jones]


  1. Alec Niedenthal

      I mean, Oprah isn’t a literary critic.

  2. blog about daily life | Daily Articles and News, Articole si Stiri Zilnice Autumn Edition

      […] in Friday’s announcement. [via Shane Jones]. blog comments powered by Disqus. Search for: Read more Share and […]

  3. Criswell
  4. Owen Kaelin

      This goes to show at least one thing:

      O names are powerful.

  5. reynard seifert

      i’ve written like thirty responses to this and none of them are good enough

  6. deadgod

      FreedOm, the new nOvel by JOnathOn Franzen.

      My All-time Favorite Sentence For The Afternoon:

      “From the very first chapter, I declared it a tour de force.”

  7. reynard seifert

      oprah should write her own book club novels, cut out the middleman

  8. deadgod

      Hah. Make that JOnathan.

  9. Owen Kaelin

      Agreed. They’ll sell like… um… stage sets made entirely of chocolate?

  10. Alec Niedenthal

      Man, I don’t see what’s so bad about this. If my grandmother gets really into Franzen because of Oprah she might read his article on Gaddis and read Gaddis or something. I would love for my grandmother to read Gaddis.

  11. reynard seifert

      think it’s more that she called it a tour de force one chapter in, and also that this was somehow modestly accomplished, how do you modestly declare anything, let alone a tour de force? wouldn’t that be a statement?

  12. Alec Niedenthal

      I mean, Oprah isn’t a literary critic. What do you expect.

  13. reynard seifert

      the washington post said that – i dunno, maybe they were trying to be ironic. i can’t really read their tone. to be honest, it doesn’t really matter to me. i bought an oprah edition of the road. but i think oprah wants to sell books that will sell just as much as any publisher, her selling them is just like an exponential value added to something that would already do just fine, and it was obvious from the start and especially now, that this book, like the road, would definitely sell and also be ‘of literary value’ and so it comes off pretty disingenuous to me.

  14. Blake Butler

      yeah i mainly like that she said it “modestly”

      i hope he snubs her again, sells even more books

  15. Blake Butler

      i can’t tell which i think is sillier, people shitting on franzen just because he’s popular, or people who normally wouldn’t really like what he writes defending him because everyone else is shitting on him, or the fact that i’m even talking about him at all

  16. Matthew Simmons

      Probably all of it.

  17. Alec Niedenthal

      I’m not defending him, dude. I’m defending Oprah.

  18. Alec Niedenthal

      I dunno if I see it as a disingenuous move. She probably just doesn’t know the criteria for a tour de force… Honestly, considering how hard he rebuffed her with The Corrections, I kind of appreciate – and wonder re: the motivation for, even though I have little interest in Franzen – this endorsement.

  19. Blake Butler

      oh. even worse, then.

  20. Alec Niedenthal

      I don’t know what you mean. I don’t see why that’s worse, or why you’re critiquing me for defending or not defending stuff. I’ve never watched Oprah, but I don’t understand why she can’t think a thing is a tour de force. Obviously Oprah doesn’t understand what the system of verification should be for a literary tour de force, and I don’t know why anyone would expect her to. Maybe she knows what constitutes, like, a lamp tour de force or a cruise tour de force, and it’s funny as hell that she thinks she has any sort of critical faculty with regard to books, but what I do like is that she’s taking a quintessentially bourgeois-sentimental writer and reinforcing him as such. The fact that she could read a chapter and call it a tour de force is, to me, more damning of Franzen than Oprah – because obviously she’s reading for all of these familiar tropes, she wants a blockbuster movie that’s compounded with abstract, fluffy, bo bo elements like “psychology” and “internal conflict,” and Franzen is I’m sure a more than adequate author when you’re reading with an eye for that crap. But I don’t want to read like Oprah, and have no interest in her faculty of judgment when I’m not looking for a new juice carafe. My grandmother does. I don’t.

  21. deadgod

      Franzen neither “rebuffed” (“hard” or soft) nor ‘snubbed’ Winfrey. He told a reporter that he had mixed feelings about being chosen for her club, and when his sneer became publicly known, she retaliated by retracting her recommendation and invitation (to her show), due to his (her word) “conflicted” response.

      Well, bully for Winfrey! – but he never made any decision that affected her: Franzen was the bitch-slappee, not Winfrey. (As some commercially successful, critically ignored writers have noted recently about their own ‘professional’ receptions, he could have mopped his tears up with his royalty checks.)

      Winfrey doesn’t get money for recommending a book that she’s not publishing, does she? Her skin in this particular show-biz game isn’t financial; it’s Legacy: by way of misunderburnishing her literary posture, she’s doing push-ups on the bicycle pump attached to her self-regard. That’s not a cynical thing to perceive – I think it’d be cynical not to see disingenuousness in Winfrey’s literary club.

      What Alex is saying is a fair point: Winfrey brings attention to ‘literary fiction’, which, if you want more people to read more literary fiction, is a Good Thing. But it’s also a fair thing to ask: what does an “O” recommendation really consist of and mean?

  22. Alec Niedenthal

      Oh, thanks for clearing that up re: Oprah’s bullying of Franzen. I’m not sure I want to speculate on what her motive is or has been for maintaining a book club. And I’m not sure that I care all that much. Oprah is a machine but she is not a literary machine. The final word for me is that I agree with Franzen, that to have Oprah behind a book, any book, is a very ambivalent honor.

  23. Trey

      I think the motivation was basically that she saw the book was already getting press, knew that her history with Franzen would make another offer gather press, and so decided to capitalize on it.

      Does Oprah make money from her book club? I hadn’t thought about that, not sure how that works? If she doesn’t make money, then my reasoning makes a little less sense. Guess I should know what I’m talking about before I start talking.

  24. Guest

      This month’s Oprah? Or next? Who’s on the cover?

  25. deadgod

      And thank you, Alec, for clearing up why you’d be “defending Oprah”, whom you’ve “never seen”, and thanks for making the effort to point out that “obviously [Oprah’s] reading for all these familiar tropes” – a substantial sacrifice of fluffy, bo bo abstraction on the part of someone reluctant “to speculate on what her motive is”.

      Good thing you’re a little interested in “psychology” and “internal conflict”, or you wouldn’t have figured out the quintessentially bourgeois-sentimental crap of Oprah’s blockbuster ambitions, nor bothered to warn your readers not to expect “Oprah [to] understand what the system of verification should be for a literary tour de force”.

  26. Michael J Seidlinger

      ah “tour de force” wherein everything’s labeled as such, I’m interested in what ISN’T a “tour de force.”

  27. Owen Kaelin

      David Letterman.

  28. Owen Kaelin

      Well, in the beginning and at the end it’s all really about her. And honestly: I don’t think she really has to understand anything beyond surface level. She’s an Oprah. Oprahs are a special sort of creature. They don’t need to address standards, or touch depth. All an Oprah needs do is address roughly all the correct surface elements and everyone will love the Oprah.

      Quite intriguing, really.

  29. Alec Niedenthal

      lol, an Oprah.

  30. Owen Kaelin

      Anyone remember James Frey?

      I remember defending him whenever anyone brought up the subject. I remember saying that if I were him I’d’ve been proud of what I did. I would not have gone on Oprah’s show and begged her forgiveness.

      But… I guess one should never underestimate the power of the Oprah.

  31. Alec Niedenthal

      Oprah is the last sovereign and the final face of God. Accordingly, she will never die.

  32. Michael J Seidlinger

      ah “tour de force” wherein everything’s labeled as such, I’m interested in what ISN’T a “tour de force.”

  33. Justin RM

      David Markson.
      Always Markson.

  34. Justin

      Why do you call it “crap”? Or is that synonymous with “stuff”? I would think–though I haven’t read Franzen–that whatever he is doing, he is doing it well. So is it your personal preference? And you don’t like certain styles? Or is there some artistic issue you have with the style? Or is Franzen really just crappy?

  35. mimi

      “Does Oprah make money from her book club?”
      Oprah makes money from her book club in that she makes money from her TV show, and a whole lotta people tune in to her show in part because of her book club. I think her book club gave her TV show a ‘bump’ a couple years ago – I think it was a good marketing move on her part.

      And, she got Cormac McCarthy to come on and be interviewed. I don’t watch Oprah, but I for sure watched that episode.

  36. darby

      this post is beige

  37. jamie iredell

      I like that she said “tour de force.” Almost no one says that ever.

  38. Owen Kaelin

      Weird, I hear it a little too often. I think it’s a little over-used, like “avant-garde” or “visually stunning”.

      However, for example: very rarely does anyone ever say “this post is beige”.

      That makes Darby superior to an Oprah . . . or, for that matter, many critics. (Not to suggest that this particular Oprah is a critic simply because she has a goddamn book club.)
      Oops, I swore.

  39. mimi

      very rarely does anyone ever say “this particular Oprah”

  40. Owen Kaelin

      Probably because there’s only one known Oprah.

      I suppose scientists are probably eagerly seeking out more of them.

      If not: they ought to be. It’s a fascinating creature.

  41. Guest

      I don’t think it’s bad. I think people just get annoyed with how sanctimonious Oprah can be about her book club, like she’s changing the world or something by talking about a book once a month.