Friday, February 20, 2009

Paltrow Poised to be New Oprah?

So, first of all it needs to be said: a headline is just meant to be a headline. We don’t actually need a new Oprah. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing very much wrong with the one we already have.

That said, though, Gwyneth Paltrow recently launched a new magazine-format lifestyle site -- with the unlikely name of GOOP, no less -- and has even launched her own neo look at that old staple, the book club. In setting up her fun book club antics, Paltrow writes:
I feel a bit swallowed up in January, the days are so short, the sky is so close and gray. The best way to escape (not to mention the least expensive, most hassle-free way) is to curl up by the fire with an amazing, transportive novel. This week I have asked a couple of my best and most literary-minded girlfriends to share their top picks.
Said girlfriends include Christy Turlington and Madonna and while their picks are interesting, don’t anticipate a little light reading. These read more like the lists of what you want people to think you’re reading. Check it: lots of Russians plus all of the Americans have as many syllables as can be crammed into a name.

Now don’t get me wrong: I love Tolstoy and have read more than my share. That’s one of the weird things about me that my friends tolerate. As a result, I’ve been straw polling about Tolstoy for a long time and, over the years I’ve found that, while a lot of people were forced to read some Russian literature in high school of college, very few would claim a Tolstoy novel as one of their “top picks.”

“I always like knowing the literary preferences of people,” Paltrow continues. “I think it gives a better understanding of their inner life.”

And she’s right, you know. Of course she is. But don’t expect to get either illuminated or inspired by many of the titles on this list. Don’t get me wrong: these women are talking about great books. Some of the greatest, in fact. Throughout history. Ever. And through all time. But, come on: lighten up already. Sure: read your Love in the Time of Cholera, please. And dig on your The Sound and the Fury and your Middlemarch. But perhaps, while you’re at it, dig into something absolutely au courant. Something new and different to set your heart racing and jangle your nerves. And there’s some of that here: sure there is. But not enough.

Now all of that said, aside from a weird-but-smooth navigation system, GOOP is fairly terrific. In a review, EW sums it up quite well:
Without the celeb factor, GOOP would feel like a self-indulgent, if also helpful, blog. But Paltrow is famous, and given how much we clamor to be like Hollywood's elite -- from the contents of our makeup bags to the spots where we vacation -- isn't she just giving us what we want?
GOOP is here. Gwyneth and pal’s look at literature is here.


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