Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Give me an "O"
A couple of years ago when I was going to the gym regularly, I used to try to time my sessions on the cross-trainer for 1pm, when The Oprah Winfrey Show was on. Sometimes I’d flick over to The View but mostly I’d plug my headphones in and watch the “Queen of Daytime TV’ (Sorry KAK, we love you but you are but a lady-in-waiting next to the Oprah) hold forth on topics ranging from decluttering your home to how to identify “toxic” friends and making friends with your vagina (yes, really).
Some days Oprah would interview some big star with some big project or not-so-subtle agenda to promote (hello Tom Cruise) but a lot of Oprah’s subject matter relates to coming to terms with your personal issues and learning how to be a better version of yourself. When Oprah says to stop using negative phrases such as “I can’t” or to change light bulbs to energy efficient globes or to vote for Obama, millions of people listen. An Oprah Book Club sticker on the front of a book is the difference between the remainder bin and a number one bestseller. And it’s not just the show – with a magazine, O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, and website, Oprah.com, the woman is a full-blown media phenomenon.
Robyn Okrant certainly thought so when she kicked off a year-long experiment in 2008 to live her life according to Oprah’s advice and blog about it. Every time Oprah said to do anything on the show, in the magazine or on the website, Robyn did it, effectively putting every aspect of her life from her wardrobe to her marriage, diet, spiritual life, finances, home and friendships completely in Oprah’s hands.
Living Oprah (HarperCollins, released this month) is the book based on the blog and it makes for fascinating reading, mostly because Robyn is not the obsessive Oprah fan you might expect. She is often out of her comfort zone, frequently worries about the inconsistencies and contradictions that emerge in Oprah’s advice over the year, and questions how much influence any one person should have over others.
Whatever you may think of Oprah, this is an interesting and thought-provoking book on many levels, not least Robyn’s own determination to keep going with a project that cost her not just financially but in terms of her own privacy and her relationship with her husband and family. As much as I enjoy blogging I don’t think I could commit to a project that was as all-consuming as this one.