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200 / epilogue I wouldn’t have wasted my time reading it.”19 “Rborja76” weighs in that “I didn’t come away with the notion that he said anything ‘harsh’ about Oprah, at least nothing that I felt was an unfair complaint about the show. Then again, I’m a man.”20 And “sabine12” offers, “In reading the reactions of many of the posters to this board: He is dead-on right. This book is different. It is not plot-driven; it is more ‘literary’ than some of the other picks. And, let’s be honest, many of the folks on this board have not liked this book.”21 Posting on the boards required registration, and most of these respondents were repeat—and therefore dedicated—posters ; while the righteous indignation of many of the responses is perhaps expected, there is also a generous representation of readers who take seriously Franzen’s critiques of the book club offerings and suggest that the negative responses to the book might well be a function of its “high-art literary” profile. Vituperation and celebration intermingled on the board for the next week, followed by more of the same, leavened with confusion, after Oprah announced the cancellation of the show and discussion with Franzen. While many readers made public statements of renunciation (“I’m returning my book!” exclaims “martster” on 24 October),22 others lamented the loss of an opportunity to talk about the book and criticized both Franzen and Oprah for posturing that does a disservice to the readers , and to literature in general. Sabine12 again offers a cogent analysis: “To put it bluntly, I think this stinks.” I’m disappointed in both sides—the author for making such elitist and ill-considered comments and, honestly, I’m a little disappointed in the show for not taking this opportunity to engage in a very interesting discussion about what seems to be a recurring issue . I would love to have a chance to talk to Mr. Franzen and show him that women who watch daytime television can appreciate “literature.”23 Enough readers wrote in to disagree with Oprah’s move that the board, which had previously been a place of gentle agree-to-disagree rhetoric, became tense, with moderators needing to remind posters to discuss the book, not one another. “Instead of condemning Oprah,” one reader writes, “I want to thank her for practicing what she preaches to her audience , the importance of demanding to be treated respectfully. Also by canceling the show Oprah has sent a message that no one is allowed to insult the viewers of her show.”24 But readers also argued that Oprah “has an obligation to us her readers and book club participants. Even I did not epilogue / 201 like the current selection of the month, I always watched the show and enjoy it [sic]. I end up usually getting something out of reading a book I did not care for just from the book club dinner.”25 Many readers were livid because the show was going to be cancelled after they had made a significant financial commitment to the book, which was only available in hardcover and cost up to $40.00 for Canadian readers. As Siouxj writes, “Once I bought the book, it sat there for almost a week. I would pick it up, only to put it back down after the searing burning guilt had fully stained my hand—I had such shame for spending 40 bucks on a book.”26 Gradually, with no reversal forthcoming from Oprah or her board moderators, a core group of the board members decided to refocus their energies on having the discussion they were clearly going to be denied by the show. By 14 November, they were debating not only the application of the term “Great American Novel” to Franzen’s novel in particular, drawing comparisons (both positive and negative) to The Great Gatsby, An American Tragedy, and The World according to Garp. They were likewise debating the concept of the Great American Novel and questioning what they saw as the profit-driven attempts to apply that term to a new novel (by a white male!) every five years or so. Returning to the loss of the dinner show, “zurilaw” comments (with scare quotes around “Great American Novel” to indicate the deepening of the term that resulted from their prior discussion): I sigh at the show-discussion that might have been, but then I contemplate the discussion that probably would have been...


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MARC Record
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