NEW YORK – Oprah Winfrey has forgiven Jonathan Franzen.
Nine years after picking Franzen’s “The Corrections” for her book club and then canceling his appearance on her show after he expressed ambivalence over her endorsement, Winfrey has chosen his new novel, “Freedom,” according to three booksellers.
The booksellers asked not to be identified, noting that the talk showhost is not scheduled to announce her pick until Friday.
Winfrey’s decision tells a story she loves well, redemption, and cites a book that itself redeems a troubled Minnesota-based family. Released in late August, “Freedom” was virtually canonized by critics before publication and has been topping best-seller lists even without Oprah’s approval.
Excuse my cynicism, but really? Twitter is alight with surprise over the announcement, as well as revitalized hand-wringing over another male author (well, the same male author) getting the spotlight again over qualified woman writers. First of all, I don’t believe Oprah has “forgiven” Franzen; she’s a canny, canny operator who has built her fortune through wise choices. FREEDOM comes with a bonanza of press; she gets the “forgiveness” and “redemption” angles; she gets a big show in her last season; and, best of all, nobody’s going to shout “opportunist” because it’s pretty widely agreed that the book is really excellent, so of course she’d pick it, right?
As for the hand-wringing: don’t you think that Oprah, of all people, has kind of already done a lot to further respect for the accomplishments of women in popular media? I mean, hello, she’s Oprah. She’s one of the most respected people in entertainment; she’s a tastemaker; she’s Oprah. And not only is she a woman, but she’s featured more than a few good books by women.
… Why am I defending Oprah?