Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kitty Kelly's biography on Oprah Winfrey: 500 pages of cleverly packaged contempt

I just finished Kitty Kelly’s biography on Oprah Winfrey and was greatly disappointed. What I hoped would be a thoughtful, objective assessment of one of history’s iconic female figures turned out to be a 500 page subliminal rant. Kelly clearly has credentials and awards for her writing and has spent years doing meticulous research on historical figures like Frank Sinatra, the Kennedys, Nancy Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor and the British royals. Her list of referenced articles in Oprah’s biography is impressive. Thirty pages of annotated footnotes listing facts, published articles and every word uttered by Oprah, recorded or gossip. But here’s the rub. The entire biography is steeped in an undertone of contempt by the author. So much so that it discredits her claim that the examination is "unvarnished".

Kelly gives sterile coverage to Oprah’s charitable work and good intentions and has a knack for dismissing it all at the end with a sentence or two that implies she was capable of doing more. Yet stories that hinted at any bad judgment or scandal were covered with such relentless persecution and exhaustive detail on every nuance of the crime, I thought I was reading about a wanted terrorist, not a daytime talk show host. Kelly tries to come across as objective, but her book reeks of disdain and it gets old. It’s as though she doesn’t trust that an intelligent reader can digest facts and come to their own conclusion. Instead, she spends so much energy trying to persuade me to hate Oprah that she creates the opposite effect. I started to like the diva more just to root for the underdog.

Another odd side note about the book is that Kelly repeats entire passages word-for-word and the writing style is so different in some chapters, I started to wonder if she even wrote the whole book herself.

Kelly is certainly entitled to her opinions about Oprah or any of her subjects, but she shouldn’t pretend this is an objective biography written without bias. Kelly claims her mission is to separate fact from fiction, myth from truth, but all she ended up doing was making me wonder what personal beef she has with Oprah. When your persecution of someone becomes more charged than the crimes you accuse them of, your motive becomes suspicious. As Shakespeare said “The lady dost protest too much, methinks”.

1 comment:

Stacey Curnow said...

Hey Holly! This is so disappointing - I'm a *huge* admirer of Oprah, and it's a pity that a book that could have been so fascinating (and inspiring) has turned out to be the opposite. Thanks for the review - I'll cross that one off my "to read" list. Take care - Stacey

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