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A Dialectic With the Everyday: Communication & Cultural Politics on Oprah Winfrey's Book Club
Unformatted Document Text:  Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club 12 WINFREY: Some people didn’t make it beyond the first word before getting frustrated. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Why is Even’s name Even? I am so confused. WINFREY: Others got stuck a little later in the book. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #6: I’ve been reading Mother of Pearl for a month and I’m only on page 219. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #7: Half the time I’m not sure what the characters are talking about. Will it get better or should I just wait for the next book? [. . .] WINFREY: Some of you drove yourself a little cuckoo. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #10: I’ve had this book in my car for two weeks, thinking I will read this and finish it. I couldn’t do it. WINFREY: Others drove their families cuckoo. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #11: I keep whining to my 15-year old daughter about how I don’t like the book. And she said, “Mom, just stop reading it.” WINFREY: One reader even used it as a sleep aid. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #12: It was a great book to read before going to bed because I always fell asleep quickly. (Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 9) Airing readers’ negative reactions was an extremely clever strategy, I believe, in terms of reframing the confusion and frustration many women felt toward Mother of Pearl from a personal failure to an error on the part of the Book Club for choosing a selection that failed to resonate with a substantial portion of the audience. What this incident reveals, in other words, is the sense in which reading for the Book Club did not connote the act of humbling oneself before the “genius” of an intractable book, as it may in a more traditional economy of literary instruction. Rather, it connoted, on the one hand, doing one’s best to engage with challenging books, and on the other, recognizing that one’s finding specific selections boring, uninformative, intellectually unstimulating, or otherwise unsatisfying largely was a function of the Book Club’s failure to match selections with the needs and

Authors: Striphas, Theodore.
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Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club
12
WINFREY: Some people didn’t make it beyond the first word before getting
frustrated.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Why is Even’s name Even? I am so confused.
WINFREY: Others got stuck a little later in the book.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #6: I’ve been reading Mother of Pearl for a month and
I’m only on page 219.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #7: Half the time I’m not sure what the characters are
talking about. Will it get better or should I just wait for the next book? [. . .]
WINFREY: Some of you drove yourself a little cuckoo.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #10: I’ve had this book in my car for two weeks,
thinking I will read this and finish it. I couldn’t do it.
WINFREY: Others drove their families cuckoo.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #11: I keep whining to my 15-year old daughter about
how I don’t like the book. And she said, “Mom, just stop reading it.”
WINFREY: One reader even used it as a sleep aid.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #12: It was a great book to read before going to bed
because I always fell asleep quickly. (Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 9)
Airing readers’ negative reactions was an extremely clever strategy, I believe, in terms of
reframing the confusion and frustration many women felt toward Mother of Pearl from a personal
failure to an error on the part of the Book Club for choosing a selection that failed to resonate with a
substantial portion of the audience. What this incident reveals, in other words, is the sense in which
reading for the Book Club did not connote the act of humbling oneself before the “genius” of an
intractable book, as it may in a more traditional economy of literary instruction. Rather, it connoted,
on the one hand, doing one’s best to engage with challenging books, and on the other, recognizing
that one’s finding specific selections boring, uninformative, intellectually unstimulating, or otherwise
unsatisfying largely was a function of the Book Club’s failure to match selections with the needs and


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