If you make a mistake, you generally learn from it and move on. That is, unless you are Oprah Winfrey.

After getting all teary and phlegmy over “A Million Little Peices”, the subsequent endorsement of said novel and the subsequent embarassment/humiliation when said autobiographical novel turned out to be a complete fabrication, one would think that the Queen of all Media would improve her vetting procedure to avoid repeating such an immense mistake.

Not so.

After proclaiming it the “single greatest love story ever told on the air”, Oprah was chagrinned to discover that the unpublished book “Angel at the Fence”, written by Herman Rosenblat, was a complete fiction.

The book, purported to be the true story of how Rosenblat met his future wife while a little boy in a concentration camp during WWII, was supposed to be published by Berkley Books. After discovering that there was no truth to the story, the publisher has withdrawn their offer. Seems Rosenblat made it all up. Quoted in today’s Ottawa Citizen, Rosenblat declared that he “wanted to bring happiness to people. I brought hop to a lot of people. My motivation was to make good in this world.”

And to become a published author, possibly make a lot of money, and possibly become somewhat famous.

Finding Oprah with egg on her face is no great surprise, but the whole event, and the earlier embarassment Oprah suffered at the “A Million Little Peices” fiasco, raises another interesting question. Or two.

First, nobody can deny that these books, in premise and possibly content (though I haven’t read the first and obviously can’t read the second), are excellent stories. I mean, the story of a little girl throwing food over the fence to a concentration camp prisoner, only to marry the same boy later in life after a chance reunion, is a fantastic story. So what if it’s fiction. Don’t people generally read books for the story? And if a good story is some sort of measure of the value of a book, shouldn’t this one and “A Million Little Peices” qualify?

Setting that aside for the moment, the next question would have to be to wonder why the authors would insist on making these stories out to be true and autobiographical. Knowing that the story was a good one, they could have just as easily sold it as fiction as non. So why the deliberate choice, unless the motivation was simply to make themselves look like something they weren’t? That would seem to imply that they were more interested in the fame than the story itself, which had nothing to do with bringing happiness to people or goodness to the world. Actually, vanity and selfishness seem like rather less than good things, in my estimation.

But are we more interested in a story like this if it’s true than we are if it’s made up? Does a well written story that is purely fiction gain as much traction in our consciousness as it would if the story were based on reality? And what does that say about our collective psychology?

Fine. That’s more than two questions.
Either way, at the very least this is a great example of someone stepping on a rake, turning full circle and then stepping on the same rake with the other foot. You would think that Oprah would have learned from her mistakes after the first very public pantsing.
Thank god I don’t read anything from the Oprah Book Club.


CTV News Site, December 30th.

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