Why Oprah shouldn't do Dickens

For the good of literature — and her audience — the talk show queen's book club should steer clear of "Great Expectations" and "A Tale of Two Cities," says Hillary Kelly in The New Republic

Oprah admitted to never having read any Charles Dickens but said it was something she always wanted to do over the holidays.
(Image credit: Oprah.com)

Oprah Winfrey's current book club selections are two weighty classics, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and that represents a score for Oprah and a loss for literature, says Hillary Kelly in The New Republic. Oprah, who "shamefully" concedes she has "never read Dickens," is not an "adequate guide through the complicated syntax" of the literary giant. She's a "TV host whose maxim is to 'live your best life,'" and while she's clearly highly intelligent and savvy, her "one-dimensional" readings don't do justice to great works of literature, nor do they help her loyal fans better understand them. Here, an excerpt:

Since its inception in 1996, the Book Club has carved its niche among readers by telling them that the novel is a chance to learn more about themselves. It's not about literature or writing; it's about looking into a mirror and deciding what type of person you are, and how you can be better. While a generally wrongheaded view of novels, this notion is all the more frustrating when the club delves into the true classics, with their vast knottiness, glorious language, breathtaking characters, and multi-faceted, mind-twisting prose. None of that matters in Oprah's view of books, since reading is yet another exercise in self-gratification. "If you have read him, what do you think Dickens might have to share and teach those of us who live in this digital age?" the Book Club's producer, Jill, asks on Oprah's website. This is the Eat, Pray, Love school of reading.

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