Oprah absolves Jonathan Franzen and picks 'Freedom' for the Book Club

Jonathan-FranzenImage Credit: Janet Mayer/PR Photos; Joe Kohen/Getty ImagesFor all the myriad words to describe Oprah Winfrey, predictable is certainly not one of them. A couple of weeks back, I presumptively quipped that the Queen of All Media would almost certainly not choose Jonathan Franzen’s new book for her Book Club, based on the “feud” the two had back in 2001. But, true to form, it looks like Oprah has surprised us all, choosing Freedom, his latest, as her first Book Club pick in nearly a year. While it won’t be officially announced until tomorrow, the AP reports that three separate book-sellers have confirmed the new pick.

For those who don’t remember the literary kerfuffle from nine years ago, Franzen had made somewhat disparaging remarks about the Club after Oprah named his novel, The Corrections, as her latest selection, which then led to Oprah rescinding the invitation to appear on her show. I can only imagine that after this display of Oprah’s capacity for forgiveness, James Frey is waiting in the wings with apology flowers and a box of chocolates.

UPDATE: Oprah officially announced today, incidentally 14 years to the day after announcing her first selection, that Freedom will indeed be her next pick, saying, “From the very first chapter, I declared it a tour de force.”

Comments (75 total) Add your comment
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  • C

    She overreacted to begin with, and this is her apology.

    • Andy

      She didn’t overreact. She told her viewers that she enjoyed Franzen’s book, and then Franzen trashed talked her at book signings all across North America so he could look cool. She doesn’t owe him anything.

      • Adam

        Oprah is great at marketing herself but not someone ANYONE should go to for advice on what books to read, who the best presidential candidate is or what diet works best. She is a flipping entertainer, that’s ALL. Come to grips with it folks, she’s not all that, just very rich from exploiting everybody else!

      • John

        Err, he didn’t trash talk her. He merely made the comment that sometimes she went for gushy sentimental stuff, which is obviously true. That’s all it took to upset the Divine Miss O. He didn’t even mention the quack doctors and medical treatments she’s endorsed that have resulted in people’s deaths, or her relationship with the stripped-of-his-license “Dr.” Phil McGraw.

      • Max

        That sounds like trash talk to me, John. She said she liked his book, and rather than say “thank you,” he went out his way to trash her taste in books. Forget that it’s Oprah for moment. If a person says he or she enjoys your work, a classy response would be to express gratitude, rather than say “I hate the fact that you like my work.” Franzen didn’t have to agree to do the Oprah book club thing, but he could’ve showed some appreciation for a reader — any reader — who recommended his book to others.

      • Sarah O

        I think Oprah has pretty good taste in books. I used to be in a Book Club that was mortified when Oprah would pick a book that we had already read. But if our snooty Book Club liked it and she picked it too, doesn’t that mean she has good taste in books? I don’t get the backlash, for this anyway.

      • nodnarb

        LOL at the idea that someone has to be somehow qualified to recommend books. Get a grip.

      • C


      • whiskey

        Franzen actually expressed reservation that her selection would brand it as a “female” novel, and he wanted to ensure that people understood that it would appeal to a wide audience. Oprah did overreact – it’s a natural concern to have, given what Oprah’s branding implies to consumers.

    • Mik

      I don’t think she overreacted. He was uncomfortable with being part of her book club so she excused him from the book club dinner. It was the media that turned it into a huge story.

  • The Jackal

    Of course she would endorse it, the story would get her name in the news some more. Oprah is the biggest self promoting “mogul” out there.

    • Kalaz

      Maybe she enjoys the attention of having all of us talking about her. She had a tough childhood and did not get the love she needed, so let her have her fun now. I think she’s great.

    • CM

      Probably why she is the highest paid as well. If it aint broke don’t fix it. Why do you think “Trumps” name is on half the building in NY. Marketing yourself gets you money in the bank!

      • The Jackal

        Yeah but Trump knows he’s an a**hole, Oprah is fake, she tries to make it seem like it’s about other people.

    • Mik

      All celebs and moguls promote themselves. Oprah just gets more attention because she’s so influential.

      • Lawrence

        You have the Heart of Gold behtorr God bless U and keep you in His wonderful …

  • TorontoTom

    I didn’t like The Corrections. Not sure if I’ll give this one a try.

    • BJ

      “The Corrections” was way overrated. It was ok, but nothing great. It wouldn’t have become so famous if the Oprah feud hadn’t brought so much attention to it.

    • C

      It’s a lot more entertaining than The Corrections. Check it out on paperback at least.

      • Troy

        Paperback, that won’t be for over a year. Read it and revel in the latest attempt at ‘the great American novel’.

    • Mik

      Yeah, I thought it was good, not great. I don’t care for Oprah’s reading choices. I’ll wait for this one to come out in paperback.

  • ks

    Always changing her mind-she should run for government. I agree anythiing to keep her face in the news

    • CM

      She doesn’t have to work to get her name in the news. They call her the queen of all media for a reason. When she talks, no matter what she says, people listen. Its Oprah people, and this is her last season, get ready to hear her name thousands of more time before the year is out. This is just the beginning. Love it!

      • Tag

        Oprah Winfrey has worked hard for everything she has. If she were a man, her ambition would be considered admirable, but she’s a woman, so she gets called nasty names — even by other women.

      • The Jackal

        Not true, that’s fine she worked hard and has ambition, don’t be fake about it though.

      • bootsycolumbia

        Jackal, how exactly do you fake being ambitious and working hard?

  • Lauren

    I’m happy with this choice. I was hoping she would make a fiction selection, even if this book would have been pretty huge regardless of her endorsement.

  • Danny

    Remiscent of Ann Rice’s embracing Christianity — then denouncing it — all in an effort to secure more sales and readers.

  • jrs

    Oprah is just a big fat w***e! She got all up in arms and indignant before with him, but guess she’s not too big (pun intended) to bring him back on for ratings. The sooner she goes away, the better the world will be. Maybe then America’s housewives can start thinking for themselves!

    • Mirrener

      I’ve been trying to figure out what the bloody hell “w***e” stands for. And I can’t. It’s bugging me, lol.

      • DOUG


      • Mirrener

        Oh, thanks Doug. Thought it must be a bad word being crossed out like that. :)

      • Sally

        That’s disappointing. I was hoping for w***e to be some new cuss word. Kinda lame.

      • Bobby F

        I’m guessing it meant w*h*o*r*e not whale. Why would whale get crossed out? Makes no sense.

      • J.

        this is hilarious bc my first thought before seeing Doug’s comment was whale too. but yes whore would make much more sense

      • bootsycolumbia

        I can’t stop laughing at this thread. I thought it was w^h^o*r*e too, and was really surprised by whale. When did whale become a dirty word?

  • MichaelH

    Oh, please. A lot of booksellers predicted this as soon as they saw the next pick was a $28 hardcover from Macmillan. This was no surprise to them!

    • Lorenz

      DE: PP- 95# as rx’dS&C: JT – 18:06 Following A Plan (HSPU,Dips,PushUp)21,15,9 (bar dips 3:1 sub)CFE: 3x .75M (1200m) 5:28/5:23/5:29 (relaxed pace: hamstrings/ Posterior knee very tight & achy, diclffuit to hold form. Aggrivated during 5M TT- I NEED TO MWOD much more- !!!)What should be a higher priority CF Cert or an Endurance Cert? (I am more of an endurance athlete, but, CFE is built around strong CF, right?)

  • Kalaz

    I love Oprah so much I can’t stand it. Her show has been rocking the house this week. She’s so full of surprises. You just never know what she’ll do next.

    • andy

      god…how are you going to fill the time once her show ends? what will you ever have to keep you occupied?

  • keith

    Good grief. So much negativity and cynicism on these boards. I think it’s a very clever choice.

  • Dave F

    Maybe there weren’t any good books better than Franzen’s. Perhaps it’s a reflection of current state of publishing than their past feuds.

  • Zaidi

    Whatever it takes to get people to read books is great, and Ms. Winfrey should be lauded for her efforts!

  • diane

    It’s a clever choice on her part becasue she knows it will draw ratings.

    Had it been me, I would not a have given his new novel with any attention, since he made such disparaging remarks before. He dissed her once, will he do it again? Or has his position softened? It will be interesting to see.

    • Nadia

      Interval swim this morning. 1min- 54m,3min- 142m, 4min- 192m, 5min- 237m. Felt ralley good with pace and wasn’t overally exhausted at the end of the intervals like I am with others. Strength recovery after. Feel like I’ve been neglecting strength work lately due to busy schedule at school. Hope to be able to pick that back up again in the upcoming weeks.

    • Suman

      I think it would be an interesting topic for a whatrboied Wednesday or a journal article intervals and paces as either LT or VO2max runs, and proper strategy for setting a pace for intervals whether they should be all out efforts, mile pace, 5K pace, etc.

  • simon

    Trust me, he doesn’t need her endorsement. It will be number one on any bestseller list whether she makes it her book club selection or not. Oprah needs to stick to promoting writers who need the boost – Franzen doesn’t need her.

  • ddk

    does jonathan franzen really care about the mighty Oprah’s “forgiveness” she’s just a human being like anyone else, albeit a supremely rich one.

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