Oprah Winfrey chose Jonathan Franzen's new book, Freedom, for her book club yesterday, calling it a "masterpiece" nine years after she cancelled his appearance on her TV talk show when he expressed ambivalence over her endorsement of one of his previous works.
"I am really betting that Freedom by Jonathan Franzen will end up being for you, as it is for me, one of the best novels you have ever read," Winfrey said on a live episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show as she announced her 64th book club selection. "When is the last time you heard that? I am not kidding."
Winfrey made the choice 14 years to the day after she announced her first book club selection in 1996 – Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean.
In 2001, Winfrey picked Franzen's The Corrections for her book club. However, Franzen then described some of Winfrey's selections as "schmaltzy" and expressed concern about his place in the "high-end literary tradition". He went on to praise Winfrey for making some good choices and for "fighting the good fight". He apologised quickly and repeatedly.
Winfrey told viewers she read Franzen's new novel after the 51-year-old sent her a copy over the summer. She said she declared it a "tour de force" after reading the first chapter and called Franzen to ask his permission to make it an Oprah's Book Club selection.
"We have a little history, the author and I," Winfrey said. "And after careful consideration the author said yes."
Winfrey's choice tells a story she loves well, that of redemption, and she described it to her viewers as a "saga that has everything. It has sex and love, even rock and roll, and everything you want in a book".
"Now, you haven't heard me say this word often, but this book is a masterpiece," Winfrey added.
Selection to the popular TV talk show host's book club has become the publishing world's surest and swiftest path to the top of best-seller lists, usually guaranteeing hundreds of thousands of new sales. Freedom, however, has already been already a critical and popular success. Released in late August, it was lauded by critics and has since topped best-seller lists.