Via Andrea Harris: Starting with East of Eden, Oprah Winfrey is throwing her considerable cultural influence behind some literary works with at least debatable status as classics; the only question seems to be whether she has the standing to choose which works can be designated as such.
"I hope you know that you are stepping into the middle of what the '90s called the campus 'culture wars,'" said University of Louisville English professor Dale Billingsley.(Gratuitous quote included because it's by one of my two favorite professors at the old alma mater, and a man of considerable sense.)
I spent some years at U of L during the early/mid 80s in pursuit of an English BA, sorting through both canon literature and the hot contemporary writers at the time (mostly ChickLit and PoMos, with all the attendant axe-grinding everyone pretended to find so terribly interesting.) If Oprah wants to uphold some semblance of literary tradition and actually gets the people who normally wouldn't touch Steinbeck with a ten foot pole to want to read him--I'm all for it. Even if East of Eden isn't really part of the canon, it's still well written. And the more good writing you get people to read, the better able they're going to be to decide for themselves what is and is not worth their time.