Fitch, Janet: White Oleander
(researched by Elisabeth King)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Fitch, Janet. White Oleander: A Novel. Little, Brown and Company:1999, Boston, New York, London Copyright held by Janet Fitch and according to the copyrightmay not be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the publisher Source:First Edition (Barnes and Noble)
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First edition published in hardcover followed by paper in 1999
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
390 Leaves, pp.3-15 16-26 27-38 39-44 45-61 62-73 74-86 87-100 101-107 108-120 121-129 130-145 146-155 156-166 167-180 181-194 195-213 214-226 227-235 236-252 253-260 261-269 270-282 283-290 291-299 300-311 312-326 327-333 334-348 349-360 361-378 379-390 {3}
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
There is no introductory material
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The book is not illustrated
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
the pages 9.2 by 5.75 the text 7.25 by 4.35 20 lines are 80mm in depth and roman print The general appearance of the book is attractive but not overly spectacular. The print is large and well space. The topography is readable and seems to be well printed, but is a new book so it is difficult to say how well it will last over time. There is a vivid illustration on the book jacket along with a messy somewhat distraught inscription of the title. There is also an Oprah's Book Club symbol on the book jacket. It is a black hardcover book with little detail. the pages are cream colored.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The pages are cream colored and smooth with a deckle edge. somewhat thin, already they seem to wrinkle after only a week and seem as they may tear as well. They are easily flexible, and turnable though.
11 Description of binding(s)
the binding is black, hard cover, with white stamping. It has a dust jacket, cream endpapers, the binding is not signed, and only has one small illustration looking somewhat like the outline of a bird. the spine reads: white oleander JANET FITCH Little, Brown and is horrizontal. there is nothing on the cover or the back
12 Transcription of title page
white oleander/A NOVEL/illustration/JANET FITCH/publishers crest/Little, Brown, and Company/BOSTON NEW YORK LONDON
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
the inscription reads To the man from Council Bluffs and is italicized. this is not a very beautiful, firt edition, looks like it was made to be inexpensive and is mostly promoted by the Oprah's Book Club symbol on the dust jacket.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
n/a
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
13000
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
n/a
6 Last date in print?
still in print
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
1.2 million August of 2001 time.com
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
25,000 to one million in 1999 New York Magazine, Max
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
White Oleander by Janet Fitch Announced May 6, 1999 Part of Your Oprah.com Summer Reading List The Show Discussion White Oleander is an unforgettable story of mothers and daughters, burgeoning sexuality, the redemptive powers of art, and the unstoppable force of the emergent self. Written with exquisite beauty and grace, this is a compelling debut by an author poised to join the ranks of today's most gifted novelists. found at www.oprah.com Janet Fitch's bestselling novel, White Oleander is hitting the silver screen this month. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, RenĂˆe Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn and Alison Lohman. Enter below to win your very own White Oleander movie poster and a copy of the book that inspired the film. There will be 10 lucky winners of the poster/book package. Electronic entries for drawing must be received by November 30th, 2002. Mail-in entries should be sent to room 9-11C, should include the name of this contest and the answers to the questions, and must be received by seven (7) days after electronic entries. This contest open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada only. Void in Quebec. Please see Contest Rules for details. http://www.twbookmark.com/funfeatures/contests/fiction/whiteoleander.html
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
Oprah's Book Club Promotion Movie Release Promotion
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Movie:White Oleander October 11, 2002 Studio: Warner Bros Prod Comp:Pandora John Wells Production Director: Peter Kosminsky Screenwriter: Mary Agnes Donoghue Genre: Drama teen Country: USA Media Type: Color Cast: Michelle Pfeifer, Allison Lohman, Renee Zellwegler, Robin Wright Penn Rating: PG-13
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Veneno sutil Janet Fitch, Cusar Aria 2001 1ed Spanish Fiction 384 pp. 22cm Buenos, Aires, Argentina: Emecu ISBN9500422026 Bialay Oleander Janet Fitch 1999Wyd.1 Polish Book: FIction 420 pp. 19cm Poznan:zysk is-ka, ISBN8371508808
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
na
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
na
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Janet Fitch was born in Los Angeles, CA. Her family has been native to Los Angeles for three generations now. Her family always avid readers encouraged her love of reading and writing. Her education was her own passionate pursuit of knowledge and her experimentation with what career she might eventually take on. She attended college at Reed College and obtained her undergraduate degree. She initially aspired to be a historian. However, while studying abroad at Keele University in England, she says she realized that she wanted to be a writer. "I wanted to Live, not spend my life in a library. Of course, my conception of being a writer was to wear a cape and have Adventures." (Time Warner Bookmark, July 1999). And that was just what she did, live. She also briefly attended film school at the University of California, where she took courses in the director's program. But alas film was not her true calling. She finally began to try her hand at writing and was actually initially fairly successful. In addition to her brilliantly reviewed novel White Oleander she has published short stories in literary journals such as Black Warrior Review, Rain City Review, and A Room of One's Own. But she has also written another book previous to White Oleander called Kicks, which was released in 1995 with Clarion Books. But writing is not the only challenge she has taken on. She has undertaken careers ranging from a typesetter, to a proofreader, to a freelance journalist, to the managing editor or American Film Magazine, to even a graphic artist. In addition, she also served as editor of The Mancos Times Tribune, a weekly newspaper in Southwest Colorado. Her wide array of experiences has contributed to her style as a writer today and also speaks to her need for adventure and all of life's experiences. She currently lives back in her hometown, Los Angeles with her husband and eight year old daughter. Her agent is Claire Ellis of Little Brown and Co., whish is located on Avenue of the Americas in New York. Still engaging her literary skills she reviews books for Speak magazine in San Francisco and offers private lessons teaching fiction writing. But the history of her most famous novel is quite possibly one of the most interesting things about Fitch's life. White Oleander actually initially began as a short story, which was honored in 1994 in Best American Short Stories. However, it didn't really occur to her to change the story into a novel until it was rejected by the editor of the Ontario Review. The writer cited that it "seemed more like the first chapter of a novel than a short story" (Time Warner Bookmark, July, 1999). After that she decided to extend it into a novel. But says that she still must keep herself busy and inspired as a novelist even after the release of her highly successful novel. She says that she maintains her inspiration by writing every single day. She also says that her days as a journalist help to prevent her from getting writer's block. "When I had the newspaper, I had to come up with 12 or 15 stories a week regardless of whether there was anything to write about," she said, (Time Warner Bookmark, July, 1999). Fitch also receives inspiration from poetry so that she can get in tune with the rhythms and music of language. When you combine, her style, her hard work ethic, and her never ending effort to improve upon her writing you have the makings of an amazing novelist.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
A Summary of Reviews including excerpts from those most pertinent The reviews that surrounded, Fitch's 1999 White Oleander were mostly very positive with the main complaint about the book's somewhat melodramatic plot twists. One critic accuses Fitch of "punctuating Astrid's story every few dozen pages with a terrible event" (NY Times). What critics were particularly praising of though was the author's ability to depict the inner-struggle of the main character Astrid. She was also commended for her character development of the mother Ingrid. Critics seemed particularly impressed with this character because the main vehicle used for character development were the characters letters written to her daughter from jail. One critic cited Ingrid as even more intriguing because of the way the "author brilliantly delineates the woman's complexity through her letters, which are masterpieces of epistolary voice and character development" (Kirkus Reviews). Another aspect of the novel that critics discussed as particularly unique was Fitch's portrayal of the wide variety of American homes, in the form of Astrid's journey through the Los Angeles foster care system. One critic cited the author's portrayal of the foster homes as providing "a nicely eclectic panorama of late 20th-century American life," (Kirkus Reviews). The metaphor of the white oleander flower was also discussed as being successfully woven into the novel. "The title flower triggers a savage turn of events," (Time) and is used "to illuminate her central theme: the longing for order and connection in a world where even the most intimate bonds can be broken in an instant" (Kirkus Reviews). Although one critic did accuse Fitch of tending to get lost in the lyricism of her prose," (Time), Fitch was mostly given points for her literary style. Critics depicted her prose as "graceful and witty; the dialogue, especially Astrid's distinctive utterances and loopy adages, has a seductive pull," (New York Times). It should also be noted that several critics noted that the novel would be most easily compared to Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here for it's look at the tensions of the mother-daughter relationship. Although one such critic remarks that Fitch's novel is unique in that she is more concerned with "the ghostlike role that the ferocious Ingrid plays in her daughter's memory once she has left for prison," (NY Times) than with the day to day interactions of the mother-daughter relationship. There was little controversy surrounding the novel, however most media attention occurred directly with the best-seller status which has been largely attributed to the fact that the book was selected for Oprah's book club. Even Fitch herself attributes much of the media attention and certainly it's best seller status to Oprah's selection. Still though the novel was strong enough to be selected for one of the best books of 1999 by the American Friends of the Library Foundation. The story was also well-received enough to be picked up for a major motion picture, just released this year and included a heavy hitting cast of Michele Pfeifer, Renee Zellwegler, and newcomer Allison Lohman. The movie also garnered major media attention and as many if not more reviews than did the book. Although the book has not been out long enough for subsequent literary reaction, it is unlikely that there will be a major resurgence of attention in the years to come. Though the novel is obviously well respected within the media, it's overall impact is no stronger than any other run of the mill best-seller. Without garnering any serious controversy or influence on the literary world, subsequent criticism will likely be limited. Examples passages from a typical review "Vigorous, polished prose, strong storytelling, satisfyingly complex characters, and thoughtfully nuanced perceptions: an impressive debut indeed." (Kirkus reviews) "What keeps "White Oleander" from devolving into a television mini-series is Ms. Fitch's aptitude for delineating Astrid's inner life, for showing us the pull she feels between her mother (and her mother's destructive impulses) and her own need for independence; for showing us her craving for family and the slowly dawning recognition that she must invent herself. The resulting novel is frequently obvious and over the top but at the same time oddly haunting." (NY Times) "Fitch's startling debut novel is a raw and sorrow-filled exploration of the adolescence of the only child of a brilliant, selfish, and totally egocentric poet who was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing her lover. Etched with great suffering and amazing survival, White Oleander follows Astrid's torturous path from foster home to foster home, haunted by her mother's letters from jail and reflected in her own artistic vision." (Library Journal)
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
A Summary of Reviews including excerpts from those most pertinent The reviews that surrounded, Fitch's 1999 White Oleander were mostly very positive with the main complaint about the book's somewhat melodramatic plot twists. One critic accuses Fitch of "punctuating Astrid's story every few dozen pages with a terrible event" (NY Times). What critics were particularly praising of though was the author's ability to depict the inner-struggle of the main character Astrid. She was also commended for her character development of the mother Ingrid. Critics seemed particularly impressed with this character because the main vehicle used for character development were the characters letters written to her daughter from jail. One critic cited Ingrid as even more intriguing because of the way the "author brilliantly delineates the woman's complexity through her letters, which are masterpieces of epistolary voice and character development" (Kirkus Reviews). Another aspect of the novel that critics discussed as particularly unique was Fitch's portrayal of the wide variety of American homes, in the form of Astrid's journey through the Los Angeles foster care system. One critic cited the author's portrayal of the foster homes as providing "a nicely eclectic panorama of late 20th-century American life," (Kirkus Reviews). The metaphor of the white oleander flower was also discussed as being successfully woven into the novel. "The title flower triggers a savage turn of events," (Time) and is used "to illuminate her central theme: the longing for order and connection in a world where even the most intimate bonds can be broken in an instant" (Kirkus Reviews). Although one critic did accuse Fitch of tending to get lost in the lyricism of her prose," (Time), Fitch was mostly given points for her literary style. Critics depicted her prose as "graceful and witty; the dialogue, especially Astrid's distinctive utterances and loopy adages, has a seductive pull," (New York Times). It should also be noted that several critics noted that the novel would be most easily compared to Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here for it's look at the tensions of the mother-daughter relationship. Although one such critic remarks that Fitch's novel is unique in that she is more concerned with "the ghostlike role that the ferocious Ingrid plays in her daughter's memory once she has left for prison," (NY Times) than with the day to day interactions of the mother-daughter relationship. There was little controversy surrounding the novel, however most media attention occurred directly with the best-seller status which has been largely attributed to the fact that the book was selected for Oprah's book club. Even Fitch herself attributes much of the media attention and certainly it's best seller status to Oprah's selection. Still though the novel was strong enough to be selected for one of the best books of 1999 by the American Friends of the Library Foundation. The story was also well-received enough to be picked up for a major motion picture, just released this year and included a heavy hitting cast of Michele Pfeifer, Renee Zellwegler, and newcomer Allison Lohman. The movie also garnered major media attention and as many if not more reviews than did the book. Although the book has not been out long enough for subsequent literary reaction, it is unlikely that there will be a major resurgence of attention in the years to come. Though the novel is obviously well respected within the media, it's overall impact is no stronger than any other run of the mill best-seller. Without garnering any serious controversy or influence on the literary world, subsequent criticism will likely be limited. Examples passages from a typical review "Vigorous, polished prose, strong storytelling, satisfyingly complex characters, and thoughtfully nuanced perceptions: an impressive debut indeed." (Kirkus reviews) "What keeps "White Oleander" from devolving into a television mini-series is Ms. Fitch's aptitude for delineating Astrid's inner life, for showing us the pull she feels between her mother (and her mother's destructive impulses) and her own need for independence; for showing us her craving for family and the slowly dawning recognition that she must invent herself. The resulting novel is frequently obvious and over the top but at the same time oddly haunting." (NY Times) "Fitch's startling debut novel is a raw and sorrow-filled exploration of the adolescence of the only child of a brilliant, selfish, and totally egocentric poet who was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing her lover. Etched with great suffering and amazing survival, White Oleander follows Astrid's torturous path from foster home to foster home, haunted by her mother's letters from jail and reflected in her own artistic vision." (Library Journal)
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
The Oprah Effect and White Oleander Janet Fitch's White Oleander was not necessarily the most likely of bestsellers. There are some books whose bestseller status we can predict before they even hit the market. Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and Steven King to name a few. They are usually not too difficult to read, appeal to a wide audience, and are written by established authors. For the rest of the novels out there, like White Oleander, whether or not they will reach the top of the New York Times Bestseller list is like popcorn in the pan. Some books pop and some, don't. That is unless of course they are stamped with the "Oprah's book club" seal of approval. Within weeks of Oprah announcing her new book club selection, it is almost guaranteed that the book will reach bestseller status. "Since its debut in September 1996, Oprah's Book Club has been responsible for 28 consecutive best sellers. It has sold more than 20 million books and made many of its author's millionaires. It has earned the publisher's roughly $175 million dollars in revenue," (Max). When White Oleander by Janet Fitch was chosen in 1999 for the club, the book jumped from just 25, 000 copies in print, to one million. This is the kind of exposure publishers and authors alike dream of. And only Oprah seems to have the golden touch. But what is even more phenomenal is the type of books that she is giving the opportunity to reach bestseller status. These are not simply the thrillers that we are used to. The book club includes no "novels of soldiers in war or old men dealing with mortality," (Max). Winfrey's canon does not conform to the traditional top runners of a bestseller list or what the literary community of New York fashions as making a lasting impression on the literary world. "She draws from a separate sense of what an important book is," (Max). According to Oprah herself, she "wants to expose people to books that matter, books that in some way touch the self." (Max). As a result of this most of the books that she chooses are written by women and about women and pertain to gritty themes such as suffering at the hands of rape, mental, or physical abuse. This makes sense given that Oprah's viewing audience is predominantly female. But it also brings a whole new genre up to the top of the bestseller list. And White Oleander fits perfectly within that genre. The story of a young girl named Astrid who has been torn apart from her beautiful, yet dangerous mother because she was convicted of murdering her lover. The story documents Astrid's journey through the Los Angeles foster care system as she bounces from one unfit foster parent to another. But remarkably Astrid survives, learns something about herself, and eventually flourishes with art as a young adult. And this seems to be just the theme that ties each of Oprah's book club selections together. Survival. For this reason a novel by an unheard of author about a young girl's emotional quest for love and search for identity flew to the top of almost every bestseller list there was, became an international success, and was later made into a major motion picture. White Oleander was chosen just two weeks after it was released, so it is difficult to tell exactly how it would have fared without being an Oprah book club selection. The fact that it remained on the bestseller list for quite some time even after it's month with Oprah had come and gone and also that it was extremely successful with international marketing, suggests that the novel is certainly able to stand on it's own. What Oprah did do, though, was call major attention to a novel by a little known author who most certainly did not expect this sort of recognition. But just how is an Oprah book club book chosen and how exactly did White Oleander wind up on the menu. Winfrey emphasizes on TV that she personally loves every selection. And she is actually highly involved in the process of selection. However, anyone who understands the full impact of what being Oprah means, probably also understands that she cannot be doing all of the reading alone. The actual process is highly advanced, highly secretive, but overall tends to produce a similar genre of novels time after time. According to Allison McGee who helps screen novels for the Oprah selections there are boxes of candidates that are read both by Oprah and staff members before an actual selection is made. "The books come from a number of sources: McGee and Hudson screen books, as do various producers and assistants under them," (Max). Some novels are even recommended by authors who have already been featured in the club. For instance, Wally Lamb an author previously chosen for his novel She's come undone recommended Bret Lott's Jewel. But Winfrey actually does most of the reading and the choosing herself. "Staffers give the books a rating between 1 and 10, then pass it on to Winfrey. Her vote trumps all," (Max). Because of the tremendous impact a selection can have on both sales and acclaim, many publishers seek out their novels being selected and will submit potential choices to the committee of selectors. This is in fact just how White Oleander was selected, however, the notion is widely held among publishing companies and editors that Oprah is far too important too submit to directly. Instead, "books are typically shipped to McGee -- whose name every New York book publicist knows, although few have met her. They speculate about McGee's taste. "I think she likes light-but-not-too-light novels by not-so-well-known female writers that have a happy ending," one publicist said," (Max). And even then there are rumors about what the most effective way to submit a novel is. For instance some believe that a novel has a better chance if submitted by an editor rather than the publishing company. The selection of White Oleander seemed to give some validity to this rumor. "Judy Clain, an editor at Little, Brown, sent a copy of "White Oleander" to Kate Forte, the president of Harpo Films, who read it on vacation with Winfrey. Oprah borrowed it, enjoyed it and chose it for the club," (Max). Once White Oleander was chosen, it didn't take long before it was a national and then international success. Copies in print quickly jumped to one million, and in fact this was one of the more remarkable jumps made by any of the books chosen. "Mother of Pearl," by Melinda Haynes, went instantly from 10,000 in print to 760,000. "White Oleander" jumped from 25,000 to one million. "Vinegar Hill," by A. Manette Ansay, jumped from 18,000 copies to 875,000,"(Max). White Oleander was actually one of the only novels that jumped so quickly to one million. With these huge changes in numbers, it would seem that the publishing companies would be under extreme duress to keep up. However due to the lengthy process of selection and the implications for the huge demands the companies seemed to have learned to keep up. Once a selection has been made, Oprah calls the author to tell them and McGee usually calls the publicist. However, strict confidentiality must be maintained before the book is revealed to the public. The publishing company must sign a confidentiality agreement and the authors are instructed as to whom they may and may not tell. Without the surprise factor in revealing a book publishers might loose the major rush to buy the book so this sort of agreement seems to be to their advantage. But once the book is selected the real wheeling and dealing begins. And the numbers can be somewhat astounding. "The publisher supplies 500 copies of the book for the studio audience and is asked to donate 10,000 more copies of the book to libraries," (Max). The publisher then solicits orders from booksellers -- but since booksellers don't even know what they are ordering, they order roughly the same amount for each book: 650,000 of a hardcover, 800,000 of a paperback. "The whole thing is surreal," says Terry Adams, Breena Clarke's editor. You're producing and shipping 600,000 copies of a book under an oath of silence,"(Max). But that also explains just how sure fire a way to the top of the charts it is to have your book chosen by Oprah. The fact that 14,000, 000 copies of a book are bought and sold simply as a starting point can pretty much single handedly substantiate the so-called Oprah effect. And for White Oleander signing for a major motion picture came shortly after. Though the process of selection within Oprah's book club is intense for both author and publisher, the companies have learned to accommodate so well because of what it can mean for them financially. Editor and chief Michael Pietsch of Little, Brown, and company, the publisher of White Oleander boasted in an interview that they were having a record year. Winfrey had chosen two other books besides White Oleander from the publishing company, "The Pilot's Wife," by Anita Shreve, and Breena Clarke's "River, Cross My Heart." "In so doing, Winfrey bestowed Little, Brown with approximately $6million in profits -- a third of the publisher's profits for the year," (Max). For what may have been only marginally popular novels, it is quite amazing that together they brought in a third of the companies profit. And given that these three novels of similar genre had such enormous popularity, Oprah also seems to be paving the road with new possibilities for this type of writer. But once Oprah has chosen a novel, is it simply that Oprah says-this novel is great go out and get yourself a copy- that makes them so enormously popular, or is it something more? There does seem to be a certain of amount of reach that the books have simply because of the fact that Oprah is endorsing them. Oprah fans seem to have an enormous amount of loyalty, and for all of the other national campaigns that she has gotten her viewers started on, it is no surprise that they would listen to her about book selections. "For her fans, experts say, it's like having a friend tell them, "You've got to read this book." "If your friend recommends a book, you're going to buy it," says Ms. Hagney. "People like Oprah. They trust her opinion." And for them, her word is better than all the elegantly phrased praise The New York Times could print," (Zipp). However, there is more to it that just Oprah saying this is a good book. The manor in which she presents the books makes them incredibly accessible to readers and encourages people to read even if they have not picked up a novel in years. It is almost as if the talk show has created a full-proof system for introducing, discussing, and analyzing the book. And the genre of novels she has chosen, only make her method more effective. She treats the novels as "a springboard for self reflection," (Max). Max points out that there is something odd about this. "Aren't novels about stepping outside one's experience," (Max)? But Oprah seems to have stumbled upon a trick that works incredibly well for novels like White Oleander. "She focuses the discussion on the viewer's and her response. Winfrey's own reactions tend to be the most vivid," (Max). And in this way she brings home novel after novel to readers that may previously have felt distant or unapproachable. Oprah also seems to have another trick to pull readers in. She intentionally chooses readers to discuss the novel who are almost similar to characters to the book. Or who at least already have some sort of emotional tie to the plot of the novel. By doing this she is able to pull audience members and potential readers more deeply into the book, encouraging them to read it. For instance, with White Oleander, the discussion was set up with four women whose careers or personal lives made it possible for them to easily relate to the novel. "Two guests, Nancy and Beth, grew up in troubled homes. Chris was a foster-care parent, Linda a social worker. "The lives of our guests this month seem to come right from the pages of 'White Oleander,"' Winfrey began, as if this were not her doing. She then asked the women how the book affected them." As the discussion progressed, Oprah would present quotes from the novel and ask, "How do you think that made this twelve year old feel?" or "How does she rise above this" "What were Astrid's thoughts when?" (Book discussion from Oprah's book club Sept 1-15, 1999). The questions seem to run a little like a high school test, except personal reactions are not only acceptable they are encouraged. For those viewers who have already read the book they can participate right along with the discussion. "It sort of restores books to the [central place they held] when Mark Twain was writing. It's what books are for. To have everybody get all involved with them, and fight about them, and gossip about them," (Zipp). And very people would disagree with the fact that this is a very positive effect. But it is also a great marketing tool. It goes right along with the idea that you are more likely to read a book that a friend has recommended. Not only do you trust her opinion, but also you know that you will have someone to discuss the novel with after the fact. So now even viewers at home feel they are involved in the discussion. The presentation of the novel is also pieced together with how it affected the women's personal lives. Chris, who had been foster mom to thirty children contributed. "It made me see foster children differently," Chris said. "I thought I was this great foster mom who did all the right things?But I don't think I really did, ever, until I read this book. I could have done better." The camera was in close. Chris's eyes glistened," (Max). She even seems to compare one of her newly arriving foster children to Astrid, the girl in the novel. "Thinking of Astrid's difficulties, she approached the new child differently. "The things I talked to her about, the questions I asked her, made her open up to me. I got so far in so short a time," (Max). She even goes so far as to suggest that the novel was more useful to her than all the self-help books out there, "I can't believe this book is fiction," (Max). And just like that, the novels, like most everything else on Oprah's talk show, are marketed as self-help. She helps sell these books by their focusing on their possibility for life changing revelation. Max points out in his article that "Winfrey didn't invent the kind of fiction she promotes -- a genre Marty Asher, the editor in chief of Vintage Books, calls "accessible literary fiction." Publishers have been selling it for 15 years with some success, especially since the breakthrough of "The Color Purple," (Max). And this may be true, but she certainly did make it a lot more popular. And in a way she did actually reinvent the genre. The supposed "accessible literary fiction" for at least sixty minutes seems to become Oprah's new self-help genre. A genre of novels that can help shed light on something about ourselves, and can give us a feeling of a shared experience. They seem on one level or another to relate to us all because we can all relate to pain. In White Oleander, most any reader can find a moment where they can relate to Astrid's displacement or her isolation, or feeling that our loved ones are in some state of lunacy. What Oprah does is simply point out to us how easy it is to relate. But the question then becomes is Oprah almost taking something away from the novel's or their authors by bringing them on the show. Is she claiming what was once the author's as her own? "In some ways, she has excited less a reading revolution than a cult of personality," (Max). Jacqueline Michard author of Deep End of the Ocean, an Oprah book club selection points out that, "If you send my name to the 900,000 who bought 'Deep End of the Ocean' because of Oprah, it will mean nothing to them. There's no carryover. You learn quickly Oprah's the brand name, not you." And for this reason authors must be careful. When Fitch releases her next novel, which she is currently working on perhaps she will learn the same painful lesson, but perhaps not. In the mean time, though, Fitch is likely all too thrilled with the acclaim and profit she has received, even if it is made possible in part by the exposure with Oprah's Book Club. That is just the nature of bestsellers, anyways. Sometimes their moment is fleeting and sometimes recognition is a result of some phenomenon other than the content of the novel. But in this case Oprah seems at least to only be endorsing quality fiction that might not otherwise get a chance to shine. "It's a boon for women's fiction, it's a boon for serious-minded, tough fiction," says Daisy Maryles, executive editor for New York-based Publisher's Weekly magazine," (Zipp). Oprah is not after all bringing the latest Danielle Steele novel onto the show for discussion. Instead she is focusing on emotionally poignant novels meant to illicit a response about the characters and perhaps about ourselves. Besides, "if that's the effect that Oprah's Book Club has had, that you can give people like Wally Lamb and Kaye Gibbons access to such a wide audience, more power to it," (Zipp). And in the case of White Oleander, as usual Oprah seems to have chosen a winner.
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