Friday, September 03, 2010

she's baaaaaccckk

and what the hell, on balance it's a fine thing but just for the record; given that Jonathan Franzen's Freedom is out now, it should be noted that what he actually said about Oprah Winfrey's Book Club all those years ago was really pretty harmless.
This picks up from the Powell's interview that started it all, almost ten years ago.

Powells-"Exactly. But this is someone I very much respect, and I don't think his asking that question can be considered at all unusual. I'm sure thousands of people won't read this book for no other reason than the fact that Oprah recommended it. If you're that popular, the thinking goes, if you speak to the masses, you can't possibly be saying anything too intelligent.

Whereas from where I sit the authors that matter are the ones that can say something intelligent and thought provoking that a reasonably smart person can digest and enjoy. If you need a scholarly background to decode it, it might be great art but to what end? You might as well be writing in Latin.

Franzen: That's one of the perverse, not to say fetishistic responses to the obliteratively ubiquitous presence of buying in our lives: to say, "I don't buy the popular stuff, I buy the small label stuff," as if that makes you any less of a consumer. But I'm somewhat guilty of it myself, and it follows a pattern. Certainly in music, suddenly the band you like because it was not produced goes to a major label and becomes heavily produced. It's hard to think of a major label Mekons recording, for example. It's impossible because they would never do it.

But I'm with you, I don't think the same applies to fiction. The problem in this case is some of Oprah's picks. She's picked some good books, but she's picked enough schmaltzy, one dimensional ones that I cringe, myself, even though I think she's really smart and she's really fighting the good fight. And she's an easy target.

But as far as being popular, yeah, I think Dave Barry is really funny. And Silence of the Lambs is a really smart book. But of course everybody who's sold out and been co-opted, as I obviously have, says the same thing, and it makes for a pathetic spectacle."

Yep, pretty much, says I.


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