Category: Oprah Winfrey

Oprah: No Medium for an Old Man

The body language said it all.

Throughout today’s much-touted interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, master writer Cormac McCarthy sat slumped, his head resting heavily on his hand. Was this the posture of a man who had lived to regret his decision to agree to his “first television interview ever”?mccarthy.jpeg

Oprah clearly couldn’t believe her good fortune and repeated that boast three or four times during the course of the broadcast. His first television interview and, yessir, she was the one who nailed this journalistic coup. Not “Sixty Minutes” or Charlie Rose, not Katie Couric or that cow Barbara Walters. It was Oprah who got her man.

But what exactly did she get? Certainly no great epiphanies. It was a minimalistic performance on McCarthy’s part. He wasn’t guarded or unforthcoming, more like indifferent or, at best, bemused. Opie started off with a truly sparkling observation, “You look just like you do on the back cover of your book” and it hardly got any better after that.

Their little chat was conducted, at his behest, in the comforting surroundings of the library at the Santa Fe Institute where he likes to hang out. He slouched back in his chair, trying to put as much physical space between the two of them as possible. Every few minutes there would be odd, jarring breaks, cuts to talking head shots of Oprah describing the narrative of the book before darting back to the interview.

McCarthy’s responses to her softball questions were…well, I don’t think it would be unfair to characterize them as monotonic. There was no depth to his answers. I scribbled notes on a pad as I watched and I’ve underlined words like sheepish, deadpan, neither alert nor particularly attentive. When Opie asks him to sum up the message of THE ROAD, the best McCarthy can do is murmur: “We should appreciate life more, be grateful for what we have”. This from a man noted for his mastery of the English language, the complexity of his prose? Oh, brother…

A thoroughly uninspired and half-hearted effort on his part. There was one particularly awkward moment when he stated that he has trouble understanding women and Opie piped up indiscreetly “But you’ve had three wives!” For a man noted for his privacy, I thought this a particularly stupid and indelicate comment. “You are a different kind of writer,” she giggled at the conclusion of the segment and I had to cast my eyes heavenward. Lord, forgive her for she is too dumb to know any better…

My notes conclude with the following observations:

If this interview was a magazine piece, it would have been rejected by every print publication of note. VANITY FAIR or ESQUIRE would have turned it down with a form reply. It is pure fluff, the subject exposes nothing, reveals nothing. He didn’t play with his interviewer a la Dylan or Brando, he merely reveals his utter indifference to the entire process. He foolishly accepted the interview and as a polite Southerner was determined to see it through to the end. It was an obligation to be fulfilled with the minimum expenditure of effort on his part…

McCarthy’s taking the Oprah gig was a head-scratcher to start with. His non-appearance neither redeems nor exonerates him. It was an ill-advised move on his part, a rare misstep for a man I still admire, despite his ill-fitting feet of clay…


See: my review