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Praise Oprah Winfrey for Encouraging Reading

April 15, 2002

Re "Good Riddance to Oprah's Book Club, and Her Literary Amateurism," Commentary, April 11:

Who on Earth does Norah Vincent think she is, and who made her the arbiter of quality literature? What colossal arrogance to assume that Oprah Winfrey's taste and opinions are "amateurish to say the least." Apparently Oprah's inspiring "the masses" to read is a transgression since she represents the "pernicious homogenization of American life" with her "demeaning sensibility." Which, inevitably, leads poor Vincent to "existential despair"!

How can Vincent say she "abhors snobs" when that is precisely what she is? I don't know what or if she has written, but with her elitist condescension I would not read her book, sticker or not.

Naomi Z. Feldman

Los Angeles


What an angry piece by Vincent; it reeks of sour grapes. Not all may agree with the selections in Oprah's Book Club, but no one should question Winfrey's positive influence in getting Americans to read more and to discuss literature in group settings. Her efforts have played an enormous role in the rise of book groups, particularly among women. These book groups provide a wonderful sense of community and connectedness in an increasingly confusing and disconnected world.

I for one thank Winfrey for her efforts. Vincent needs to get a life--or maybe just read a good book before she sinks further into "existential despair."

Rose Hayden-Smith



I have seldom read such a whining, self-satisfied column as the one Vincent wrote regarding the demise of Oprah's Book Club. Was it really so disastrous that a television host would actually encourage her audience to read?

In case Vincent is too highbrow to notice or care, many of Oprah's choices are downright great books; for example, she encouraged my daughters, sister and me to read the critically acclaimed "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it and have had many great discussions about it.

I've been an avid reader all of my life and believe that Winfrey should be highly praised for her support and love of reading and for spreading that message to her huge television audience.

Judith Squires



For a while, I have been thinking that author Jonathan Franzen and I were the only ones who objected to Oprah and her self-serving book club choices, but here we have Vincent's article wishing her "good riddance." Franzen is an intellectual, a talented writer, as is Vincent, and I am just a book lover. And yet I objected to Oprah's choices as being redundant, simplistic and way too commercial, what with her logo, of all things, on a stand-alone book.

Shame on Oprah for her runaway ego, thinking she is all things to all people, even readers of books. I never bought a book with the Oprah logo on it, although I did read a couple of her choices. Once again, we readers are returned to the days when we can make our own choices, based only on any of the numerous book reviews, recommendations from friends or bookshop employees, or even based on the cover alone, if we like. Let's go read a book.

Anne Salazar

Long Beach


Vincent's claws were newly sharpened and out in her attack on Oprah's Book Club. I guess I'm one of the morons who enjoy being advised of a good book. Nobody forces me to read or visit Barnes & Noble; that's my choice. Maybe Vincent should read Franzen's book; she might meet someone she knows!

Jack Mason

Palm Desert


Funny, Vincent says: "If Oprah's Book Club is gone, good riddance. Now if only B&N would go with it." This is after also saying, "Because someone famous said it, suddenly it matters, even though the famous person in question often knows little or nothing about the matter at hand." Um, who is she again?

Bob Lewis

Pennington, N.J.

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