When I get home today from school, I will follow a familiar routine. After changing out of my work clothes, and sorting through the mail, I will make a small snack that hopefully will not to turn into a full-on meal. Clothes will be laid out for the next day. Sometimes, if I am feeling frisky, the dishes will be done. And finally, around, 4pm, after all these and other familiar habits are finished, I will settle down on the couch for my favorite part of the afternoon, something I have been indulging in since I got home from school in the 5th grade: I will watch The Oprah Winfrey Show. This day will be slightly different, however, because as all of the world surely knows by now, today is Oprah’s final show. After 25 years of exciting car give aways, butter colored couch jumping, and exuberant yelling of celebrity names; after 25 years of “Ah Ha! Moments” and discovering tons of “Favorite Things” that beforehand were unneeded, but suddenly made life totally and utterly unlivable without; and really after 25 of tears and tears and tears, tears that came from lives touched by tragedy and grace, abuse confessions, and surprise reunions, putting many of us into the now certainly patented “ugly cry,” Oprah is saying goodbye to afternoon television, or in Oprah-speak, having her final “Farewell.” Needless to say, my life will not be the same.
I am a dedicated member of Oprah’s flock and look to her for nothing short of enlightenment. I follow every word she says. I subscribe to her magazine, admiring each of her covers. I think Suzy Orman is fabulous and James Frey is an asshole. Under religion, my Facebook status reads “Whatever Oprah Says.” I will occasionally try to resize women’s bra for them. I even watch OWN. Oprah had me at “JOHN TRAVOLTAAAAA!” and I am not saying this because she gave me a Kindle. She is the real deal, the closest thing to a religion many of us children who have been raised by television have.
Oprah is many things. She is at any moment a therapist/philanthropist/girlfriend. But to me, Oprah is a reader. I do a lot that Oprah suggest, but without a doubt I read what she tells me to, including A New Earth. (I did not, I am happy to say, read The Secret, but only after watching a clip from the accompanying video on an internet satire show.) Her Book Club will stand as one of her greatest accomplishments. In this time of click and refresh news, where shorter and quicker is better, Oprah’s successful promotion of quality books is a phenomenon, an achievement I don’t believe any other celebrity of note could pull off. (“Lady Gaga’s Book Club” anyone?) While her club might have started off lite, and is often classified under the degrading term of “ChickLit,” she has a track record of picking some of the countries finest writers for her club: Toni Morrison (Paradise, Song of Solomon, Sula), Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections, Freedom), Cormac McCarty (The Road) and Jeffery Eugenides (Middlesex) have all made appearances. Even dead ones occasionally have shown up, such as John Steinbeck and Carson McCullers (East of Eden and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, respectively). And anyone who can put Anna Karenina on the NYT Bestseller’s List deserves sainthood.
What I know for sure is this: Oprah has made a difference in millions of readers’ lives. She has inspired people who might never pick up a book to give it a try. She actively promotes reading, something usually relegated to library cafeteria posters. If she were only to be judged for just this one little accomplishment, her mission to get her audience to “Live Your Best Life” has been achieved. For this, Oprah, you have my deepest gratitude. I look forward to our final afternoon together.