Oprah and Faulkner: the summer begins

So, I am now a registered member of Oprah’s Book Club. No kidding.

I was actually watching Oprah last Friday afternoon under the only circumstances in which I find myself watching Oprah: I had some time to kill and I was too lazy to do much of anything else. At the end of her show (a love fest Nicole Kidman and Will Farrell about the upcoming Bewitched movie), she announced “A Summer of Faulkner,� in which she (and her “club�) will be reading As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, and Light in August.

Now, you can say what you want about Oprah and her book club stuff, and a lot of literati-types have plenty to say about the O., much of it kind of bad. There’s a good sum-up of some of these feelings on Maud Newton’s blog, including a smug little “debate� between the positions “Oprah is evil� versus “Oprah is okay, I guess.�

I actually know (knew? I haven’t really talked with her in years) a writer who had an Oprah book, Sheri Reynolds, and I did see second (or third) hand how getting picked as an Oprah book was indeed like winning the equivalent of a literary lottery. So it’s no wonder that contemporary writers are pleading with Oprah to start picking contemporary books again (instead of the classics she’s been picking for four or so years now). Simultaneously, a lot of these same literati-types complain and say that Oprah picks light-weight books and that she and her minions are kind of dumb about what they’re reading anyway.

I am reminded of a phrase of certain types of girls when I was in junior high: jealous much?

Anyway, the O. said that you really can’t call yourself “a reader� until you’ve read some Faulkner. I guess I’m a reader because I’ve read all three of the books on the summer reading list, though I haven’t read any of them in close to 20 years. So, with Oprah’s inspiration (it is making me a bit weepy just thinking about it) and a desire to re-read books I remember liking a long time ago, I decided to take the plunge.

Thus my “club membership,� thus this new blog category.

First things first: I went to Oprah’s book club web site, and after free registration, I got in. I have to say I am impressed. She has tips for reading (and Faulkner is certainly a writer that requires some tips on how to get by some of the complicated issues with reading him), links to lectures given by professors (the first one apparently broadcasts yet tonight), a schedule for reading, a place for “Q&Aâ€? for the professors (as if they know anything…,), etc. Why, there’s even a bookmark I can print off! It’s a little confusing to navigate, but a pretty good site overall, and a lot of good “supportâ€? for tackling what I see as a relatively difficult reading assignment.

Second things second: I went and bought the Oprah boxed set this morning. We have older paperback versions of these books around the house, but Annette is in the midst of doing a project that involves As I Lay Dying (meaning that she’s hogging using that book right now), and I didn’t want to share anyway (I think Annette might actually try to read along with Oprah, too). It’s a handsome enough boxed set and includes a little insert titled “William Faulkner: A Reading Experience,� which includes a note from the O. herself, a little Faulkner bio, and some more “reading tips� (with all these tips, they might be making Faulkner too difficult here). Nice.

And third but not last: I’m already behind on the reading assignment– I was supposed to be to page 84 of As I Lay Dying by now. Oh well….

I distinctly remember reading As I Lay Dying the first time around. I’m pretty sure it was the first Faulkner book I read, and it was when I was a freshman at the University of Iowa in an intro to literature class. I recall liking the book quite a bit, though I also recall that class to be kind of crazy in terms of the workload. I remember that we had to also read The Odyssey and parts of Don Quixote and about a zillion other things I don’t remember. But I remember As I Lay Dying.

So, a little bit of reading tonight, but hey, it’s the season premiere of Six Feet Under. I have my priorities.

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One Response to Oprah and Faulkner: the summer begins

  1. Christian Irwin says:

    Are you mad? Come on man can you not see that Oprah is pure evil! You are reading books purely based on what she is telling you to read. Maybe try something different and pick a book she doesnt recommend. it doesn’t hurt! People have been doing it for centuries!

    Sheesh!

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