06 October 2007

Love in the Time of Cholera as next Oprah pick

This past week, Oprah Winfrey selected her second work of fiction by Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Almost three years after selecting "One Hundred Years of Solitude", she chose "Love in the Time of Cholera" as her next book club pick.

While I find her efforts noble and all together appropriate, I’m bothered that most people need her to tell them what to read. Granted popular fiction is overtaking most other works of literary value, but why does it take her to tell them to read more of this kind of work than making James Patterson (he of endless craptacular crime fiction with a 16" font and page or so a chapter) and Nora Roberts needlessly richer.

The bane of book industry and most other areas of media, is that the simplistic stuff is more successful than it deserves to be. Most people claim that reading is designed as an escape from everyday life. That authors who deal in heavy and heady subjects, who show the dark side of the world, are not what they care to read. Like TV and movies, it seems, anything that challenges the person, is seen as a negative.

Recent survey showed that people from the South read a bit more than those from other regions, but mostly religious books and romance novels. Another words, novels by authors such as Garcia Marquez, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Jane Austen and even Margaret Atwood are sen as labor intensive and thus not worthy to read. Unless, they are forced to in school or, of course, if Oprah tells them.

This past week, a young lady came into the store and bought "Ulysses" by James Joyce. Now, I’m saying I would force my worst enemy to read Joyce -as most people will say that the novel is very difficult to read- and I asked her if this was for school or was she doing it on her own. She smiled and said she was going to try and read it. Noone, school or Oprah had told her to read it.
I found that very comforting.

But of the top ten novels The Modern Library list as great literature (below), how many has anyone of us, I mean the “common people” if I can use that phrase, actually read or will pick up on our own without Oprah telling us too?

1. Ulysses by James Joyce
2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
6. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
7. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
8. Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
9. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I’m not saying anyone should give up the collected works of James Patterson, Nora Roberts, or even the Left Behind series. That they should stop reading Christian fiction, stop reading what I call “popcorn mysteries” (which include any tale that has to do with cats and food recipes), should stop reading the endless Star Wars novels. But maybe, once in a while stop at a real book store, not Costco, Target, Wal Mart or Sam’s Club. Look through the fiction section -or even pick up a biography, my goodness. But look around and see that there is many more books out there, ones that challenge the mind and the soul, and should be, every once in a while, be picked up and read.

I applaud Oprah for sticking to her guns about choosing more literate fiction, and avoid more “commercial” authors. Maybe, one day though, people will buy one of those books because they want to challenge themselves, and not because the Queen of Talk told them too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oprah's 4 interviews with Jill Bolte Taylor were the first that Oprah did after Eckhart Tolle and they take everything Tolle talks about to another level. Oprah's copy of Jill's book, MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, was dog-eared and all marked up and kept reading from it the way she read from A New Earth and recommended it highly.

Oprah's recommendation was enough for me. I read My Stroke of Insight and I loved it too. This story is as inspiring as The Last Lecture or Tuesdays with Morrie - and even better, it has a Happy Ending!

I bought the book on Amazon because they have it for 40% off retail and they also had an amazing interview with Dr Taylor that I haven't seen anywhere else - Here is the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/My-Stroke-Insight-Scientists-Personal/dp/0670020745/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211471755&sr=1-2