Drugs, Vomit, and No Novacaine on Oprah

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This was on all the book blogs last week during our power outage, but if you happened to miss the news, Oprah recently reversed her strategy of picking classics only for her book club. And the new selection is James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. It’s an interesting selection for a couple of reasons, but first, how did the Oprah selection of William Faulkner fare?

Publishers Weekly reported that Vintage printed 500,000 of the Oprah-endorsed Faulkner box sets but only sold 161,880 copies. Although that Nielsen Bookscan figure doesn’t include Wal-Mart and other big merchants, it’s still a good indication that Oprah’s touch isn’t always gold, as much as it pains me to say so. I used to sit on my porch in Oxford and look at Faulkner’s grave so I had high hopes for the Oprah selection, but I reckon Anse might have to put off purchasing them false teeth for a while.

Hoping that Frey will perform better, Vintage/Anchor announced a print run of 600,000 paperback copies in conjunction with the Oprah selection. I’m thrilled about this selection because I stumbled upon A Million Little Pieces in the store a few years ago, knowing nothing about it or the author, being drawn by the amazing cover design and the blurb from Bret Easton Ellis. I was working on a project in Harrisburg, PA and crawled up on my rented couch and read the book through, in one sitting, and then started dialing the phone at 3am to tell friends about this amazing book.

So I’m excited for Frey, although it remains to be seen how the Oprah audience will take to the vomit, piss, shit, and broken teeth in the book. I grew up with the worst teeth this side of Austin Powers and I’ve endured just about every dental horror imaginable (ever smell burning flesh coming out of your mouth and watched the smoke curl up around your face as the oral surgeon bends over you?), but sweat was pouring down my face as I gritted my way through Frey’s root canal. In the past, Oprah’s selections have been criticized for being too lightweight and syrupy so it will be interesting to see how her audience reacts to Frey.

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