Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cormac, We Still Hardly Know Ye

Updated 5/8

On June 5, Oprah displayed a veritable literary coup d'état with her televised interview of noted recluse and genius wordsmith Cormac McCarthy. His book The Road had been chosen as an Oprah Book Club selection, and she was allowed an hour long chat with Mr. McCarthy. For a few days leading up to the show I had wondered how in-depth the interview would be. Would he reveal all his deep dark secrets regarding his own writing process? Would he detail the intricate and multi-layered symbolism sprinkled throughout the sparse The Road, thus not allowing readers to draw their own conclusions? Or would he simply sound like an idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing? Certainly I enjoy a good interview or article on authors, though I can't stand audience Q&A's due to the high likliness of stupid questions. However, I was concerned that my image of Cormac would forever be tainted, given his past refusals to foster a public image.

Fortunately, despite Oprah's attempts, Cormac revealed little and maintained a properly reclusive demeanor throughout. By revealing nothing he preserved his integrity. That is not to say that those who do go on Oprah are somehow sellouts to her minions. Quite the contrary. Those authors who can maintain an appropriate public persona which allows for the occassional foray into pop culture without diminishing his or her work should be commended. And sometimes the interviews are quite interesting. In this case, because McCarthy demonstrated an interesting ability to remain aloof of Oprah's profile, yet did so without appearing to be condenscending, he and Oprah deserve kudo's.

However, it was disappointing to see that her next Oprah book will be Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Having read it a few years ago and recommended it to any number of people, I do think in the back of my mind I was grateful that the book had escaped Oprah's claws. At least my copy won't have the Oprah Book Club sticker. Which makes me wonder, why do I get upset over Oprah's Book Club?
Update 5/8: Check out this review of the interview by people who apparently do these sort of things for a living.


Liz said...

i was quite surprised that orpah picked the road, given what i knew about cormac-however little. and i was disappointed because i wanted to read it. you didn't touch on the silly snootiness we feel when seeing someone reading an orpah pick and that part of the disappointment in her picking a pick we'd like to pick is that people like us might just think we picked up that book because of orpah. it is really a fault of mine, i know, but one that is hard to rectify.

Meddling Methodist said...

I ended the post by asking myself 'why do I get upset by the Oprah Book Club?' It is a hard question to rectify because I never want to seem to be yielding to a cultural norm that insists only on being influenced by mass media outlets determining what is and isn't acceptable. I'd rather be unconciously influenced than overtly influenced, I guess.

Del-V said...

A few years ago Oprah recommend East of Eden. My mom got it, read it, and then lent it to me. I read it in a weekend. That was a great book. Yes, Oprah picked it, but it was already a classic.

It is like me saying Led Zeppelin IV is a great album. I’m pretty sure everyone already knows.

PH2 said...

When I pulled out my copy of The Road in the subway the other day, the woman sitting next to me asked me if it was good. When I gave the book high praise she remarked, "I want to find a copy like yours that does not have the Oprah sticker." (My copy did not have the sticker because I had removed it.) Such snobbery by us all - and to what end?