A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle is Oprah’s newest book club pick. Apparently, Oprah is not satisfied with foisting one schlocky self improvement book on us or the public hasn’t done a good enough job of remaking their lives to her satisfaction because she is going to “co-teach” a ten week course with Tolle on how to achieve our “higher selves”. University of Phoenix, watch out.
The AP has an interesting story today about Oprah’s recommended reading list. One of the titles that was featured as a “guaranteed page-turner from Oprah’s personal collection” was Forrest Carter’s The Education of Little Tree, a story set in the Great Depression about a young orphan who goes to live with his Cherokee grandparents and learn the Cherokee way of life.
The book was originally published in 1976 to some acclaim. In 1991, the ABA made Little Tree its inaugural ABBY selection which honors little known treasures loved by ABA booksellers. Sometime after the 1991 ABBY award, the book came under scrutiny and it was revealed that Forrest Carter was really Asa Earl Carter, a member of the Ku Klux Klan and former speech for George Wallace.
Oprah pulled the listing after being contacted by the AP. Oprah is aware of the history behind the book and has taken the book off her “personal shelf.” Interestingly, James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, still remains as an Oprah Book Pick even after she denounced him and his editor on her television show.
Bill Schneider is the author of three self published books. Like many self published, debut and midlist authors, Schneider is toiling in obscurity. So he did what any possibly neurotic, desperate, and not terribly ethical author would do and began telling people that his book, Crossed Paths, a gay love story set in 1976, was an Oprah Book Club pick. The hoax was taken to another level when he posted on his website that he was on Oprah in May 2007 and provided a five page transcript of the conversation.
Schneider was confronted by journalists at Weekly Dig about the lack of information regarding his appearance on Oprah, his poor Amazon ranking, and the fact that no one has seemed to have heard of his book. Schneider replied that he thought the episode aired on June 18 but that the reporter should check with his publicist. (I found the idea that Schneider had a publicist even a hoot). Harpo spokeswoman refuted Scheiders’ claim.
Since the hoax has been exposed, the transcript has been taken down but through the power of Google Cache, its still alive on the internet. Authors behaving desperately is funny stuff.
Oprah: Bill, I must tell you that I immediately fell in love with this book when I first read it.
Schneider: Thank you. Thanks very much.
Oprah: Crossed Paths is truly a gem of story. Tell me how you came to write this very poignant book …
Oprah: I was very impressed with how well you developed the characters in Crossed Paths.
Oprah: How did you do that?
Schneider: Well, when you strip away all of the layers of stuff that make us appear to be who we want others to believe we are, there is, ah, a pretty basic element that remains.
Oprah: Now tell us what happened to Will and –
Schneider: — Adam —
Oprah: – I almost said Will and Grace –
Schneider: — That was a TV show – Crossed Paths is a novelette –
Oprah Winfrey featured James Frey on her show and was later appalled to find out that a great deal of the non fiction story was actually fiction. She had Frey and Nan Talese back on her show to question them about the truth behind the book.
Oprah: James Frey is here and I have to say it is difficult for me to talk to you because I feel really duped. But more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of readers. I think it’s such a gift to have millions of people to read your work and that bothers me greatly. So now, as I sit here today I don’t know what is true and I don’t know what isn’t. So first of all, I wanted to start with The Smoking Gun report titled, “The Man Who Conned Oprah” and I want to know–"were they right?
James: I think most of what they wrote was pretty accurate. Absolutely.
This weekend at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference of the Southwest, Nan Talese said she was unapologetic about what happened and “the only person who should be apologetic is Oprah Winfrey.” She went on to say that Oprah had “fiercely bad manners” was “mean and self-serving and “sanctimoniousness.”
While I feel bad for the public beating that Talese took, she did participate in the process by including promotional language such as “brutally honest” when she knew, in fact, that it was not and not taking responsibility for knowing that it wasn’t entirely truthful when confronted with questions back in 2003.
Q: [I]n a press release sent out for the book in 2004, by your company, the book was described as “brutally honest and an altering look at addiction.” So how can you say that if you haven’t checked it to be sure?
A: You know, Oprah, I mean, I think this whole experience is very sad. It’s very sad for you. It’s very sad for us.
Q: It’s not sad for me. It’s embarrassing and disappointing for me.
A: I do not know how you get inside another person’s mind.
I am guessing Talese isn’t going to get invited back to the Oprah show unless it is for another “public stoning.”
Oprah’s Book Club selection, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, won the Fiction prize. The Wall Street Journal won for its investigation of corporate backdating of stock options. Interestingly, the “Breaking News Reporting” was awarded to the Staff of The Oregonian for its reporting of the family missing in the Oregon mountains, both in print on and online. All of the Pulitzer journalism prizes recognize online media, in addition to print media, as worthy of recognition.
All the winners can be found at the Pulitzer Prize website.
Clearly I was wrong in my previous guessing. Damn that google anyway. Sydney Poiter’s The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography is the latest book to benefit from the Oprah effect.