“Only a hermit could ignore Oprah Winfrey’s new magazine, and it should be out of the reach of TV, newspapers, radio, records and riot fans,” someone said a while back. a few weeks, except that he was actually thirty-five years old. six years ago and he was talking about John, Paul, George and Ringo and the quote was on the back cover of “Meet the Beatles!” Still. Oprah Winfrey, queen of all media, recently launched her latest unsinkable vessel and, in at least one Upper West Side magazine store, it sparked a brief surge in Oprahmania. Late in the afternoon, a few days after the launch, just as “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was starting, three female subjects of the queen entered the shop and, within two minutes, collected the three others. copies of the magazine, called Othat were stacked near the copies of Fthe magazine for school dropouts, Xthe treasure map collectors bible, and Ione of dozens of magazines vying for the niche of high-end, pretentious swagger.

Winfrey’s brand is everywhere in the magazine, starting with the cover: under the title, which comes from the nickname of its founder, are the words “The Oprah Magazine”, and seated in a wicker chair is Oprah herself. even, looking like a million dollars (which is 1/150 of what she earned in 1999). The cover looks a lot like another personality-focused magazine, Martha Stewart aliveand magazines contain complementary articles this month: in O we are told about the virtues of an all-white decoration, and in MSL we discover how to restore the original whiteness to our walls, marble floors and rubber spatulas. Both magazines happen to have calendars for the month of May, but the differences in the Weltanschauung of the two magazines can be more or less summed up by the entries for May 12: one of them tells you what She is going to do (“Wash the greenhouse windows”), and the other tells you what you should do (“Ask yourself what you’re really afraid of in life: Ridiculousness? Rejection? Loneliness? Instability?”).

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Many people find Winfrey’s show inspiring, but her magazine is built more around sweat. There is work to be done and you will need masking tape, fridge magnets and several notebooks. You’re supposed to keep a journal recording every brave act you do, “no matter how small”, and “make it a point to add a new item every day”. You are expected to make a list of your health goals, then complete and detach the “contract” provided. There’s a step-by-step planning guide to making your dreams come true. You’re supposed to write down the words “Take Nothing Personal” – one of the “Four Agreements” concocted by shamanic master Don Miguel Ruiz – and put them on your fridge. (Things you might take personally but shouldn’t take are, to use Ruiz’s examples, someone telling you, “Hey, you’re stupid” and “Hey, you look fat.” bother you, you’re a big idiot.) There are questions you’re supposed to ask yourself or members of your reading group, such as “How many of your statements might others interpret as criticism?” Next to this page are five bookmarks that you can rip and equip with tassels. On page 131, there are four of Winfrey’s favorite sayings printed on thick paper. “You can slip these tear-off cards into pretty frames, slip them into your purse, or stick them in a journal. Or you can follow Oprah’s lead and stick the cards on your mirror. Then, break out the blender and treat yourself to “Oprah’s favorite smoothie.”

Winfrey may be all over her magazine, but Oprah herself, the charismatic mountain mover, is oddly absent from its pages. In person – on TV, that is – she is an awe-inspiring figure with very real power to change lives, and she speaks to and listens to people with a respect and interest that many of them don’t. have ever known. In print, the force is not with her: it’s the difference between an audience with the Queen and a promotional brochure about the Queen’s lifestyle. O is basically just another one-dimensional women’s magazine, and it has a self-cancelling, numbing quality to it; there may be a play about a half-Korean woman who as a child watched her uncle and brother kill her mother for refusing to sell her into slavery right next to a play about “five fabulous things to do with fresh strawberries”. (May I suggest a sixth fabulous thing? Just try eating them.) The literal connection between the insane and the serious is not something that is worthy of Winfrey, and, unlike her TV show, which is new every day, you’re stuck with it for an entire month.

Another important quality lacking in O is Winfrey’s humor; on television, she manages to project seriousness and be funny at the same time. A recent guest was Sarah Ban Breathnach, who wrote a book that Winfrey is very proud of, “Simple Abundance,” which teaches you how to feel and express gratitude. (One way to do this is to keep a “gratitude journal”. The practice of writing things down in order to find, heal, nurture, and empower the real you has become so important to the self-help that a new word had to be invented for it: a woman interviewed in one of the stories of O says, “It took me ten years of journaling to figure out what I wanted.”) Breathnach’s book was very successful, and she told Winfrey that the book works for people “because I’m Everywoman .” Oprah, looking shocked and upset at this impersonation, said, “I thought I was Everywoman.” Whether she is or not, she can at least laugh at herself (and expertly disarm would-be Oprahphobes while doing so). I find Winfrey admirable and compelling, but I won’t subscribe to what she calls her “personal growth guide.” I feel a little bad about it, but come May 16, I should start feeling better. It is the day when, according to O schedule, I have to “practice saying no without feeling guilty”. ♦