Friday, May 27, 2011

Oprah Goes Full Circle

Article first published as Oprah Goes Full Circle on Technorati.

Yesterday at 4 PM my Facebook post read:

Shhhhh. Oprah is saying goodbye.

I had plunked myself directly in front of my TV (unusual for late afternoon). Generally I’d watch in the kitchen as I’d start to prepare dinner.

I’ve never been an Oprah fanatic. Occasionally I’ve been a fan. Those occasions were more regular during her book club days as I watched her turn classics like Elie Wiesel’s Night and sleepers like Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone into immediate bestsellers. I use to like when at least half a show a month was devoted to a televised dinner party and discussion of the book.

That’s probably why I also skipped dinner prep last Monday and Tuesday to sit and watch her one-on-one with James Frey. The two-part interview brought closure to her more volatile interview with him five years earlier.

On that past show Oprah pretty much duped Frey into admitting he had grievously lied about his drug addiction and recovery in his memoir A Million Little Pieces, an Oprah book pick. He had taken the bit of stretch literary license grants memoirists to the proportions of an elastic band extended round the world. A few hours spent in jail had been turned into 87 days. That, of course, negated much of what happened during the alleged three month incarceration.Frey left the show feeling ambushed and degraded, snapped in the face by his overextended stretcher,

The Oprah and Frey redux, last week, had my full attention as I watched two cultural icons revisit the past and surprisingly make amends. Yes, he had misrepresented, but so had Oprah’s producers when they originally invited him in ‘06. He was expecting to participate in a panel on truth in nonfiction. Oprah maintains she was unaware of this. He got a public execution. Oprah was aware of that. So she called him afterward, concerned the humiliating experience might have led him back to his addiction. I didn't know that until the reunion show.

There were a number of acts of contrition on this broadcast during her final week on network TV. In the end it was all about forgiveness. An Oprah hallmark.

I admit to getting caught up in Oprah's farewell hoopla this week – star-studded accolades, heartfelt gratefulness, and dramatic reminders of Oprah’s philanthropy. But I think Oprah’s return to Frey last week showed me the full circle of her brand - the ultimate act of forgiving.

And so, when I posted Shhhhh, Oprah is saying goodbye, I wrote it with the same respect Reverend Sykes feels in To Kill a Mockingbird when he tells Scout to stand as Atticus crosses the empty courtroom floor . Like Atticus, our Oprah is passing.

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