| At the Corner of Technology and Culture

The Way of Oprah

I actually like Oprah, God help me, but this whole Frey business has got me thinking about authentic authorship and our North American naivete. Writers who blur the lines between memoir and fiction, or present a literary ‘discovery’ as something other than what it is, go back a long way indeed. (Just think of Ossian, the ancient Scottish poet, whose work was in fact some collaboration of ancient text, tradition, and original authorship by 18th century writer James MacPherson

Or, even if the Tao Te Ching is actually the assembled knowledge of a number of teachers and philosophers put under the rubric of a single philosopher-as-author, Lao Tzu, (as some scholars claim) we don’t consider the work therefore ‘untrue’. I think it’s our confessional culture, and Oprah’s position as the standard bearer of confessional culture, that’s at issue, and why she feels she needs so vigorously to defend it. Confession is almost certainly good for the soul, but is it really ‘true’? The reality, in reflecting on our own experience, changes. When we have a breakup, for instance, we may understand what we felt in one way at first, and then months later when our emotional lives change, rethink that. Still years later, we come to see again what ‘really’ happened. And so on. What she should really stop doing is dedicating whole shows to bad movies and pretending they’re good.

Thank you, Judith!

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