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The Oprah effect, again

Recently, an author association dubbed Word of Mouth has made headlines by begging talk-show host Oprah Winfrey to reinstate her book club. (Or, rather, to restore it to its original purpose of concentrating on current authors.) In an essay on Goodreports.net, Ontario book critic Alex Good suggests that Word of Mouth’s concerns are commercial ones masquerading as cultural ones. Responding to the group’s claim that “First novelists and literary authors felt emboldened to write because of the outside chance that an editor would see their work as potential Book Club material,” Good retorts: “Is that supposed to be a good thing? That first novelists were trying to write Oprah material? All the more reason for her to stay away, I’d say.”

Later in the piece, Good turns to the Oprah effect on readers. “How does it help contemporary fiction to have a bunch of dittoheads robotically going out and buying what they’re told? Is it turning them into readers, turning them on to reading? Obviously not. When Oprah stopped recommending contemporary fiction her loyal followers simply stopped reading contemporary fiction. Some influence.”

Related links:
Click here for Alex Good’s essay
Click here for a BBC News story about Word of Mouth