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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 15 some instances, the events and people contained in each book. Nearly every episode of Oprah’s Book Club thus included interviews in which the author related her or his creative process, which almost universally highlighted how she or he drew significant inspiration for the book from existing people and places. This pattern began at least as far back as the beginning of the Club’s second season, when the Book Club featured Mary McGarry Morris’ Songs in Ordinary Time. “Even though the people were made up, some of the places in Atkinson, Vermont [the setting of Songs] are not far from Mary’s hometown,” Winfrey explained. The program then cut to a videotaped interview with Morris touring through the streets of Rutland, Vermont: There is so much of Atkinson, Vermont in Rutland, Vermont. I don’t think much has changed at all here since I was a child along this section of Main Street. On the corner is the funeral home I imagined when I was writing the funeral of Sonny Stoner’s wife, Carol. And I naturally thought of this little restaurant when I was writing the book. This is the Rutland Restaurant. It’s been here since 1917. This beautiful old Victorian house on Main Street was the house where old Judge Clay sat dead in the window for a few days. . . . The character of Sam is very much like my father. He – he was a very intelligent man, an educated man, who was cursed with the disease of alcoholism. . . . I’ve created my own Rutland, I guess. (Oprah’s book club anniversary party, 1997, p. 17) Similarly, the January 2001 Book Club episode focused extensively on the inspiration behind that month’s selection, Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog. In the episode, the author shared how he drew the idea for the book from an article he had read in the Boston Globe, in which a young woman, like lead character Kathy Nicolo, was wrongly evicted from her house for failing to pay an erroneous tax bill (Oprah’s book club, 2001, January 24, pp. 2-3). Dubus disclosed that the other main character, Massoud Amir Behrani, was based very closely on the life of a friend’s father, who had been a colonel in the Iranian Air Force before the Shah was deposed and who, like Behrani, lost nearly everything upon fleeing the country with his family for the U.S. (Oprah’s book club, 2001,

Authors: Striphas, Theodore.
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Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club
15
some instances, the events and people contained in each book. Nearly every episode of Oprah’s Book
Club thus included interviews in which the author related her or his creative process, which almost
universally highlighted how she or he drew significant inspiration for the book from existing people
and places. This pattern began at least as far back as the beginning of the Club’s second season, when
the Book Club featured Mary McGarry Morris’ Songs in Ordinary Time. “Even though the people
were made up, some of the places in Atkinson, Vermont [the setting of Songs] are not far from Mary’s
hometown,” Winfrey explained. The program then cut to a videotaped interview with Morris touring
through the streets of Rutland, Vermont:
There is so much of Atkinson, Vermont in Rutland, Vermont. I don’t think much has
changed at all here since I was a child along this section of Main Street. On the
corner is the funeral home I imagined when I was writing the funeral of Sonny
Stoner’s wife, Carol. And I naturally thought of this little restaurant when I was
writing the book. This is the Rutland Restaurant. It’s been here since 1917. This
beautiful old Victorian house on Main Street was the house where old Judge Clay sat
dead in the window for a few days. . . . The character of Sam is very much like my
father. He – he was a very intelligent man, an educated man, who was cursed with
the disease of alcoholism. . . . I’ve created my own Rutland, I guess. (Oprah’s book
club anniversary party, 1997, p. 17)
Similarly, the January 2001 Book Club episode focused extensively on the inspiration behind that
month’s selection, Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog. In the episode, the author shared how
he drew the idea for the book from an article he had read in the Boston Globe, in which a young
woman, like lead character Kathy Nicolo, was wrongly evicted from her house for failing to pay an
erroneous tax bill (Oprah’s book club, 2001, January 24, pp. 2-3). Dubus disclosed that the other
main character, Massoud Amir Behrani, was based very closely on the life of a friend’s father, who
had been a colonel in the Iranian Air Force before the Shah was deposed and who, like Behrani, lost
nearly everything upon fleeing the country with his family for the U.S. (Oprah’s book club, 2001,


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