O, the Oprah Magazine

These days, Oprah sure isn't feeling the love for her former favorite memoirist, James Frey. But that's okay, since the February edition of her O magazine is full-to-bursting with it. Love, I mean.

With a visual template heavily, er, borrowed, from Martha Stewart Living, (the pre-felon years) Oprah still appears on the cover and in many, many photographs throughout the issue. I've always wondered how she has the time to pose, perfectly and elaborately styled, in so many photos every month. Here she's practically radioactive in a bright orange V-necked sweater, under a matching orange O logo. The magazine has the same front-of-book monthly calendar that MSL used to feature: but, whereas in Martha's calendar, the world's most task-oriented "to-do-er" would spend a certain Thursday, say, retiling her roof, and the following Monday cleaning her canoe, O is more concerned about The Big House known as the mind. (Or in the case of this love issue, the mind/body connection and how it leads to loooove.) On Thursday the 9th, we're told to book a yoga teacher who makes house calls for two, and on the 18th it advises to "sit down with the PDA and block out some free evening and weekends, plus a romantic vacation."

Yeah, that would be nice, along with a free car. In fairness, there's also help for those without at PDA, a free evening in sight, or, for that matter, a partner. Initially paging through the magazine, I had to battle with the page of removable, inspirational postcards ("Till I loved I never lived--Enough." ) and found that about as annoying as the empty lines offered at the end of several articles in which readers could "journal." But all in all, it's a pretty good read, with the exception of Dr. Phil.

Anyone familiar with the show will recognize the usual suspects: Martha Beck guides us on "avoiding avoidance." The nice thing about getting this sort of advice in the magazine, rather than the TV show, is that it's less segmented and repetitious (on the show, we see what's "coming up" and then we see what's "coming up" again until it "comes up.") Although the Beck piece does open with a line straight out of a bad detective novel--"Melanie's life was shrinking like a cheap blouse in an overheated dryer"--it does offers some nice insights, for those who are journaling-inclined, like "experiential avoidance usually increases the hurt it is meant to eliminate."

The book review page covers fiction that I'd like to read--like Twilight of the Superheroes, the Deborah Eisenberg book of short stories about the "anxious failures of the well-to-do."

There's a regular celeb feature called "Books that made a Difference to..." and this month it's Hugh Laurie, star of '"House" on Fox. Hugh-Laurie-anything will catch my eye--he is the definitive postmodern hero, and cute, too. But my eyes glazed slightly from his list, which includes The Grapes of Wrath and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. That's before we even get to Moby Dick. I guess old Hugh is not big on chick lit.

There's a great article, "After the Beginning" by Michael Vincent Miller, Ph.D., that explains the difference between depression and disappointment (at the hands of love.) It's good advice that isn't preachy. I could have lived without the portraits of "happy couples" that might have appeared in any women's magazine. I was more into the recollections of writers like David Sedaris and Walter Kirn on love and loss.

The great thing about O Magazine is that it's the only general interest women's magazine that represents women of color equally in the mix--whether it's about fashion, psychobabble, or politics. There's an important profile of a Nigerian woman who against the odds managed to become a lawyer, and is working to defy Nigerian Islamic law that, among other things, sentences female adulterers to death by stoning. It provides some perspective for those who are totally bummed about, say, not being able to wear skinny jeans.

That said, there's also a mystifyingly bad piece about a pediatric obesity specialist (and MD) who herself weighed 290 and has dropped a hundred pounds from her 5'2 frame thanks to a "12-step method" (which is never named) and a personal trainer. Hey, there's an idea!

A box offers the "four things I've learned." Among them: "It's okay to ask for help." This from an obesity specialist? That's about as helpful as learning she lost the weight through "a 12-step program." (Has Overeaters' Anonymous gone all Scientologist or something? What's with the program that dare not speak its name? And why write about someone who can't tell us what she did?)

The still-overweight obesity expert is quoted as saying, "one thing I recognize is that my own success in losing weight has given me more credibility with my patients and colleagues." Is she living in some sort of parallel universe? Can she be this clueless? Where's an editor with a reality check around here?

The last page is Oprah's "What I know for sure." She uses two examples about guests on her show who have left a "heart print." Needless to say, James Frey is not mentioned--he'd be more in the category of a heart attack.

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