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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 13 interests of Club members. The Mother of Pearl incident signaled a communication breakdown between producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show and members of the Book Club that needed to be rectified. Like other longer and more complex books, Mother of Pearl was followed by what Winfrey characterized as a far easier and quicker selection. “Now if Mother of Pearl was too challenging for you,” she stated, “I’ve got the ideal one to bring you back, really” (Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 6). Her remark acknowledged that Mother of Pearl alienated many members of the Book Club, and that the subsequent selection was chosen precisely to help them to re-engage. When Winfrey finally revealed the selection at the end of the program, Maeve Binchy’s Tara Road, she reiterated: “OK. Now some of you might have felt a little challenged with our summer book but I’ve got a new book to bring you back. It is a fast read – far, far away from the Deep South” [the setting of Mother of Pearl]. She continued: “It’s a thick book. It’s a thick book but a really fast read. I promise you” (Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 19). This is not to suggest, however, that members of the Book Club unanimously were turned off by Mother of Pearl and that “faster reads” like Tara Road were the only fare that appealed to them. Indeed, several women expressed how much they enjoyed and were moved by Mother of Pearl during the September 1999 Book Club broadcast. “A friend asked me if I was leaving this planet, what three books would I take with me,” one woman shared. “My second choice was Mother of Pearl” (Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 9). Similarly, a second woman revealed: “Mother of Pearl is the only book that when I finished reading it, I immediately began rereading it because I was captivated” (Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 20). And at the end of the Mother of Pearl broadcast, Winfrey asked a guest in the studio audience who belonged to a women’s book club to share some of the group’s favorite selections. “Truthfully,” she indicated, “Mother of Pearl, we all agreed was . . . four-star. We loved it. We would read passages just to anyone walking by that’s how much we loved it” (Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 20).

Authors: Striphas, Theodore.
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background image
Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club
13
interests of Club members. The Mother of Pearl incident signaled a communication breakdown
between producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show and members of the Book Club that needed to be
rectified.
Like other longer and more complex books, Mother of Pearl was followed by what Winfrey
characterized as a far easier and quicker selection. “Now if Mother of Pearl was too challenging for
you,” she stated, “I’ve got the ideal one to bring you back, really” (Oprah’s book club, 1999,
September 9, p. 6). Her remark acknowledged that Mother of Pearl alienated many members of the
Book Club, and that the subsequent selection was chosen precisely to help them to re-engage. When
Winfrey finally revealed the selection at the end of the program, Maeve Binchy’s Tara Road, she
reiterated: “OK. Now some of you might have felt a little challenged with our summer book but I’ve
got a new book to bring you back. It is a fast read – far, far away from the Deep South” [the setting of
Mother of Pearl]. She continued: “It’s a thick book. It’s a thick book but a really fast read. I promise
you” (Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 19).
This is not to suggest, however, that members of the Book Club unanimously were turned off
by Mother of Pearl and that “faster reads” like Tara Road were the only fare that appealed to them.
Indeed, several women expressed how much they enjoyed and were moved by Mother of Pearl during
the September 1999 Book Club broadcast. “A friend asked me if I was leaving this planet, what three
books would I take with me,” one woman shared. “My second choice was Mother of Pearl” (Oprah’s
book club, 1999, September 9, p. 9). Similarly, a second woman revealed: “Mother of Pearl is the
only book that when I finished reading it, I immediately began rereading it because I was captivated”
(Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 20). And at the end of the Mother of Pearl broadcast,
Winfrey asked a guest in the studio audience who belonged to a women’s book club to share some of
the group’s favorite selections. “Truthfully,” she indicated, “Mother of Pearl, we all agreed was . . .
four-star. We loved it. We would read passages just to anyone walking by that’s how much we loved
it” (Oprah’s book club, 1999, September 9, p. 20).


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