Oprah. There, we said it. We suppose Oprah is one of the less harmful of the dopiness pushers out there, but for the record, LK does not believe in the Mary Poppins of culture (“a spoonful of sugar makes the meaning of existence go down”). Nevertheless, we did procure a copy of the first-ever so-called reading issue (featuring a letter from Harper Lee, which we cited in a previous entry), filched (why fill Oprah’s bloated coffers any more than we need to?) from the waiting room tables of our local beauty salon, with the owner’s permission, of course (we’re not pirates).
In between the O list (her favorite things. As if her favorite things are even remotely related to our favorite things) and recipes for “ripe stuff,” (that would be fruit, for all you highbrow literalists), a few tiny nuggets of erudition emerged. All coated in blandness and read-at-the-beach grit. But usable when buffed up with a little elbow grease and a lot of Murphy’s Oil Soap. At least Grace Paley graces a few columns. From her poem “How to Tell a Story (My Method) (Most of the Time):
Find the paragraph to
hold the poem steady
for six or eight pages…
don’t let her lose the poem
in the telling of day by
day because the subject
is time the place is only
paper the story is still
a puzzle the teller
The issue includes a section on “How to Read a Hard Book.” Just in case any of Oprah’s faithful decide that upping the IQ points ranks alongside of attending little Kirsten and Kevin’s soccer games, or if they want to knock off a couple of pages of Moby-Dick during their next manicure. (Turn to page 81 for more tips on Spa Savviness!)
LK mentions all this because naturally one of the hard books mentioned is none other than Proust’s ISoLT. (We guess Proust is making a comeback…LK does so enjoy surfing the crest of a trend.) We couldn’t resist sharing the O secret to finishing ISoLT (from an author named Marcelle Clements):
Read fast. Read for plot – though you won’t understand what the plot is until the end. Don’t be frightened by the size of the novel….All you need to know to start is that this is, in Proust’s words, a story told by “a man who says ‘I.’”….You must do violence to yourself and keep going. Don’t forget: You can always return.
Uh-huh. Nice try, but we’re not so sure this will convince thousands of O readers to pick Proust’s tome up over, say, Love Smart by Phil McGraw. Even though Swann can provide a lot more insight about some of the swains over at Match.com than Dr. Phil ever could…