Mammy Oprah

Tom Madigan
February 2, 2006 Chicago Tribune

Manteno, Ill. -- America's energy problems would be solved if only someone could harness the power of Oprah's ego.

So I decided to go pick up a million little pieces, yeah the book. Yes, I’m going to do the Borders library thing. Hey its paperback fiction how seriously can I take it? But, this Oprah thing. Here in Chicago, all the Oprah fanatics have turned rabid. Now that the Great Mammy has scolded some wayward child and used her powers to excommunicate him from . . . existence, now everyone says she has gone too far and may have lost perspective. Nobody said shit when Mammy “O” decided to turn vigilante and do her version of America’s most wanted. Come on. With Oprah’s history do we really want her being judge, jury and executioner? I think she might lack “perspective.” All that aside. This is the fault of all of Oprah’s fans. The moment you she started a book club people forgot that even though she may be friends with Maya, Toni, Alice, Steven, and Mike. Damn it! She is a talk show host! Asking Oprah to critically engage literature is like asking a professional athlete about philosophy. Oops! Sorry Shaq. We deserve it though. Oprah has made her fortune off of the morbid voyeurism of American culture. Every day America tunes in to watch Oprah pull the wings off flies. How many episodes can one person have on dysfunctional lifestyles? Apparently, nearly three decades worth and a super box set.

You reap what you sow, enjoy.

And James, keep writing.

By Julia Keller
Tribune cultural critic
January 30, 2006

A nice deep breath, please. In and out. That's right.

Thank you.

Perhaps we can take advantage of this temporary calm, this blessed respite from rancor and scolding, to acknowledge a largely forgotten but not altogether irrelevant truth:

"A Million Little Pieces" is one terrific book.

It's hypnotically readable and deeply moving. It breaks new ground with its narrative structure and typography. Even the punctuation -- or lack thereof -- is weirdly riveting.

Yet amid the quite legitimate furor over author James Frey's fibs and flourishes, amid the high-decibel debates about the murky rules of memoir and the primacy of fact, one fact has been routinely overlooked:

The guy can write.