Bookstores crumble under Amazon’s hegemony. Book sections vanish into journalism’s glory days. And book critics fade behind a cacophony of online reviews.
But Oprah abides!
In the latest demonstration of Her awesome power, the talk-show diva smiled early on a debut novel scheduled for release in January. Knopf, one of the nation’s most prestigious publishers, immediately bowed to O’s wishes, more than doubled its print run and moved the release up a month — into the publishing wasteland of mid-December.
More power to her. So what if all the important best-of-the-year lists have already appeared (along with the National Book Awards)? Nothing is more valuable than that “Oprah’s Book Club” sticker on the dust jacket, which guarantees Ayana Mathis’s novel a vastly larger audience than it might have drawn.
Making the selection for what she now calls her Book Club 2.0, Winfrey invoked the name of the author of one of her earlier picks, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, but that’s potentially misleading. Although they both write about the travails of African American women, Mathis is a more accessible writer. Her prose style, polished at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is clean and transparent, and though she manipulates time and chronology in sophisticated ways, she never leaves us, as Morrison sometimes does, in the dense mist of her private vision (see: “A Mercy”).