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Tuesday, June 17, 2003
[ OPRAH'S NEW BOOK CLUB: A REAL PAGE-TURNER!]

It is the best of times and the worst of times, as Oprah Winfrey opens up a new chapter on her TV show's "Book Club" beginning June 18th, 2003.

I'm so excited my nipples are harder than Oprah's on a cold Chicago morning.

Speaking to members of the Association of American Publishers last spring, Winfrey said that the new book club would focus on classic literary works.

In other words, the books nobody ever reads. Except those of us forced to do so back in high school.

Some of us are still very bitter over that one.

So, why did Winfrey close her first "book club"?

Maybe the only 'experts' should could get to talk about those books were the authors themselves. People who are experts on one thing and one thing only - themselves.

Yeah, that always makes for good television. We don't see enough of that these days.

Or maybe it was the guy who turned down her offer to have his latest novel picked as the book selection.

Reportedly, he really hurt Winfrey's feelings. The "book club" ended shortly thereafter.

Or it might be the fact that people at home in the middle of the afternoon aren't exactly known as voracious readers.

Who's to say?

According to Winfrey's website announcement, "The new club, tentatively titled 'Traveling with the Classics,' will likely feature selections three to five times a year, to allow readers to take their time and steep themselves in a particular work or author."

Obviously, the breakneck pace of one book per month is too much to ask. Winfrey's viewers lead busy lives. They have much to do each day. For example, watching Oprah on TV. And reading "O - The Oprah Magazine". Not to mention getting on the Oprah website for the latest on Miss O., or checking their email to see if another "Oprah Alert" has arrived.

The new club is titled, 'Traveling with the Classics' because, as oprah.com explains, "Each show will originate from a site connected with the selection - the author's birthplace, the book's setting or some other relevant locale."

So, for example, if the selection is Thoreau's "Walden", that show will originate from... well, from a shopping mall, because Walden Pond was drained when it was built, quite a few years ago. (Don't worry! I'm just kidding. The pond is still there.)

With Winfrey's core audience in mind, I nominate a few "classic literary works" myself. Selections pending the official "Oprah Seal of Approval", of course...

1. "Naked Lunch" by William S. Burroughs

A lovely little tale of heroin addiction and gay sex, told under the auspices of social satire. It created quite the brouhaha when first published.

The show can originate from Lawrence, Kansas. Alternately, it can be set in the back alley of any major metropolitan city, in whichever "shooting gallery" the heroin addicts are congregating on the day of taping.

2. "Abortion: An Historical Romance" by Richard Brautigan

Boy works at small library where only single copies of handwritten/typed books, brought in by frustrated wannabe writers, are shelved. Boy meets girl. Girl gets pregnant. It's 1966, so they travel south of the border for that abortion. It's all so romantic.

Not his best novel, but it'll resonate with Oprah's desired demographic. The relevant locale? Wherever the trout are biting. Or, the book's setting - an abortion clinic in Mexico. Whichever.

3. "Women" by Charles Bukowski

A touching and sentimental book about some crazy broads the author knew. Oh, did I say "touching and sentimental"? I meant loutish and misogynistic. Well, close enough.

For Bukowski on Winfrey, any seedy bar will do.

I guess we'll see if my selections are Winfrey's selections too, huh?

Perhaps Winfrey is setting her sights too high with literary classics. Maybe she should consider taking it down a notch.

In that case, I recommend:

1. "Classic X-Men" (the Chris Claremont years)

2. "Daredevil" (the classic Frank Miller years)

Whatever Winfrey decides, I plan to boycott her "dead authors only" policy. To that end, even as you read this, my friends and I are combing the video archives so that we can watch "classic daytime talk shows" only.

Instead of Oprah Winfrey, my friends and I - or, as I refer to us, "Pete's Talk Show Club" - will be viewing a different "classic" show over the course of each month.

The "Pete's Talk Show Club" monthly schedule, so far, will be:

MONTH 1: "Donahue"
The original long-running daytime groundbreaker, not the painful-to-watch and now cancelled MSNBC mini-series.

Club Talking Points - "How to Look Really Really Earnest" and "How to Pander to Viewers, in a Sad Ratings Grab, By Wearing a Skirt On-Air."

MONTH 2: "The Morton Downey Jr. Show"
He's loud. He's proud. He's Morty. If you're too young to remember Downey, think "Springer on Steroids."

Daytime was never the same after Downey. We all owe him a big debt of gratitude. Too bad they can't bring his show back, with all-new episodes. What with his being dead and all.

MONTH 3: "Carnie!"
Hosted by erstwhile pop singer Carnie Wilson. This one has been selected so that, the next time club members see that touching yet hopeful commercial on TV with Wilson telling us how she lost some 300-odd pounds through the "miracle of surgery", we'll all truly appreciate the difficulties she went through. By viewing her when she was still fantastically huge.

MONTH 4: "The Richard Bey Show"
Club Talking Points: "How to Leer at the Camera" and "How to Make Fun of Stupid Guests So They Don't Know You're Doing It"

Bey was a poor man's Springer, but what the hell do you expect by Month Four? Geraldo? Not likely, pal.

So good luck, Oprah! I wish you all the best. But I won't be watching. Nor reading your selections.

The library is now closed.

posted by Pete 12:17 AM
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