flarf? from 5/13/2000

The Oprah Book Club: _Purple Elephants:, a Journey into the Unconscious of Oprah Winfrey and the Show-Biz Cowboys_, by Oprah Winfrey

Can a love that consumes you survive? Or perhaps more important, can anyone survive a love that consumes?

Oprah has written a tale of a woman who shocks her well-to-do family by running off with *****Show-Biz Cowboy #1!***** who abuses her; after he is killed in a brawl, she meets *****Show-Biz Cowboy #2!*****, a quiet, uneducated, but highly capable tenant farmer. She tries to be the model woman everyone expects her to be - teaching at the Catholic school, coaxing her *****Show-Biz Cowboy #2!***** husband through his increasingly irrational moods, caring for his aging parents but Oprah's hopes for her family's future collide with life in this bizarre household, and she worries over her wryly observant adolescent daughter and her timid young son.

Through one thousand and one television nights, Oprah feeds herself the fantasies of melodramas and sitcoms and tries to understand the many faces of love and betrayal: her father, driven by lust and longing to leave his family; her mother, an emotionally fragile woman who battles mental illness; Grandma Holland, lace-curtain decent, peppery and proud, aching with unspoken feelings; and *****Show-Biz Cowboy #3!*****, the handsome upstairs neighbor whose ultimate betrayal will throw Oprah's life severely, nearly permanently, off-course.

We also meet *****Show-Biz Cowboy #4!*****, the children's alcoholic father; #4's brother-in-law, who makes anonymous "live" calls from the bathroom of his failing appliance store; and the #4 family who - in contrast to the Winfreys - live an orderly life in the house next door.

Although the physical landscape she inhabits (an important factor in both novels) is very mild, Oprah seems to be surrounded by destructive forces. Her family and community threaten her peaceful existence, and sometimes even her life. Although she may seem initially to be at the mercy of these destructive forces, there is something in her that never quite gives in.

In the midst of tragedy and loneliness, Oprah continues to maintain that she was never guilty of the sin of fornication; she says that a holy child grew inside her. No amount of punishment can make her recant. She leaves her *****Show-Biz Cowboy #2!***** husband and falls in love with a South African freedom fighter named *****Show-Biz Cowboy #5!*****, who sweeps her off her feet and eventually takes her to London and then to Cairo, where, as her marriage begins to break up, she becomes the first female editor of the English-language magazine, _O_. Suddenly, *****Show-Biz Cowboy #5!***** is consumed with a devastating colorectal cancer, sweeping across his body and ultimately, both of their lives, leaving her destitute and lonely.

As Oprah starts to heal from the pain of the past, she almost believes she has escaped it -- that *****Show-Biz Cowboy #3!***** or *****Show-Biz Cowboy #4!***** or *****Show-Biz Cowboy #1!***** or even *****Show-Biz Cowboy #2!***** will not find her and again provoke the complex combustion of attraction and destruction, lust and love.

Oprah may end up homeless and jobless, living secretly in a Wal-Mart(TM), but she again begins to believe she has a future. With determination and humor, Oprah confronts the challenges of loneliness and poverty, and strives to learn who a woman in an indifferent world without a *****Show-Biz Cowboy!***** can become.

Oprah brings to the novel the same rich sense of place, the same deep understanding of the human psyche, and the same compassion for a people and their struggle that have informed her previous, widely praised novels. Like photographs in a family album, scenes from Oprah's life are offered in startling detail: the scoops of coffee she forces herself to measure out each day; snatches of conversation between a *****Show-Biz Cowboy!***** husband and wife doggedly trying to return to a normal life; the cynical observations of her oldest child as he struggles to be noticed and loved; the "purple elephants" that loom in every family's living room --unspoken pain so huge one can only step around it, for to acknowledge it is too terrifying a prospect.

Oprah's new book club book is a masterful epic of the everyday, illuminating the kaleidoscope of lives that tell the compelling story of this unforgettable life.

- Oprah Winfrey

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