As a long-term Oprah Winfrey fan, I’m always thrilled to see her latest book choice for the Oprah Book Club. With the book club on hiatus for over a year, when I heard a new book selection was about to be announced I was ecstatic. Imagine my disappointment then today to hear Oprah Winfrey has chosen Jonathan Franzen’s latest book, “Freedom” as probably her last Oprah Book Club selection – a novel I’ve already attempted to read, and one that’s trite, dull and, in typical Jonathan Franzen way, pretentious. With the selection about to be officially announced on Oprah’s show on Friday, will America read “Freedom”? Or will we hear a massive “thud” as it’s tossed into America’s trash cans?
There is, of course, one nice thing about this selection. Nine years ago, when Oprah’s Book Club first began to take off, Oprah announced her choice of another of Jonathan Franzen’s books, “The Corrections” as her book club selection. But, being the snobbish ass Franzen often is, he pooh-poohed the honor so much, Oprah took back the invitation for Franzen to appear on her show.
Franzen has likely spent the last nine years of his life regretting that decision – one that cost him millions of dollars in book sales. So, now, nine years later and all has been forgiven by Oprah – Franzen should probably keep his mouth shut and not spoil this one too.
As for his latest book, “Freedom”, it was released last month to critics practically having orgasms they were so thrilled with it. A warning sign for me right away. If the critics, who usually only pick a book because it’s thick, uses lots of big words and makes points that seem ‘deep, love it – I can guarantee, I will hate it. Thus, there wasn’t a second of shock when, after the first 150 pages, I put the book aside and I doubt I’ll ever finish. Wonder if most of America will have the same reaction?
Critics called “Freedom” – “funny” – it’s not. Critics said we would grow to love the families in this big, sweeping epic – I didn’t, they are absolutely loathsome. And that it needed a good editing to whittle it down to a more manageable length is like saying most Americans could do with losing 30lbs.
I read more than 200 books a year and it’s rare I find a book I dislike so much. Jonathan Franzen is undoubtably talented, but it’s that sort of talent only the truly pretentious and elite can appreciate, in my opinion, and that’s not me. I’m guessing the main reason Oprah chose Franzen’s book “Freedom” though, is because it was big news a month ago when President Obama snagged an early copy while on holiday at Martha’s Vineyard. We all know how much Oprah loves him.
While I wish Franzen success with this second-chance book, and Oprah a big “Thank You” for, if not always choosing the right book, at least trying. “Freedom” is a book I won’t be giving a second chance to nor will I likely watch the show that discusses it as, with the picture of those dreary, awful characters already in my head, life is too short to get to know them better. Let’s hope the rest of America doesn’t feel the same.
Tune into Oprah Winfrey’s show on Friday, where she will be officially announcing her latest book club selection and pretend to be surprised when she says “Freedom”.