Who’s Afraid of Oprah Winfrey?

Kitty Kelley, author of an unauthorized bio of Oprah, releasing tomorrow, has famously not been invited to many TV talk shows that usually vie for such high-profile books. The only show it is booked for is the Today Show this morning.

As of Friday, the book was in the 300’s on Amazon sales rankings and few details had been released (the media was a bit distracted by Oprah’s announcement that she is planning to host a prime-time show on her new network, OWN, which debuts in January).

But the print media has not been so reticent. Over the weekend, details began to leak and the book broke into the Top  20 on Amazon. It’s currently at #16, just behind David Remnick’s bio of Barack Obama (which is the lead review of the NYT BR this week) and well behind books about the founders that Glenn Beck is currently promoting. Today, the New Yorker, USA Today and the New York TimesJanet Maslin all parse Oprah, the book.

So, what’s the big “revalations”?

  • Oprah won’t give her mother her phone number (but she does have people check on her daily, gives her a car and driver and provides her with $500 hats) –the UK’s Times Live
  • Kelley names the boy Oprah gave birth to at 14 (or 15, sources differ. He died just weeks after he was born) — New York Times Magazine
  • She once ordered two pecan pies and ate them both — New York Times Magazine
  • Oprah lived with John Tesh briefely when they were both in Nashville (the New York Daily News)
  • Kelley found out the name of Oprah’s father, but is not revealing it in the book (Janet Maslin, the NYT)
  • Is she a lesbian? Kelley raises the question, but doesn’t give a definitive answer (the New Yorker)
  • Her cousin claims that the sexual abuse Oprah has been open about just didn’t happen (USA Today)

Damning with faint praise, Maslin says,

After some hollow authorial claims of respect and admiration, Oprah just aims for the jugular. It doesn’t draw blood.

Part of the problem is that much of this has been revealed already, often by Oprah herself; the dieting, the James Frey brouhaha; “Ms. Kelley simply replays the televised version. She has nothing new to add to these stories.”

Library holds are averaging 1:1.

Oprah: A Biography
Kitty Kelley
Retail Price: $30.00
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Crown – (2010-04-13)
ISBN / EAN: 0307394867 / 9780307394866

Large Print from Random House

  • $30; ISBN 9780739377857

Audio from Random House Audio

  • CD: $50; ISBN 9780307749246

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