Last June, Oprah
Winfrey broke her publisher's heart. She had decided, she announced, to shelve temporarily her autobiography for Knopf, scheduled to appear in September and sure to be a blockbuster. True, the Titan of TV Talk didn't need the cash; this year Winfrey replaced Bill Cosby as the world's highest-paid entertainer (estimated income: $52 million). No, she simply wasn't prepared—yet—to commit her life's lessons to paper. "I am in the heart of the learning curve," declared Winfrey.
If so, it is but a minute pause in the pop-cultural symphony that is Oprah
. In daytime or prime time, with dervishlike energy, Winfrey was interviewer, actress and confidante—all the while cannily revealing just enough about her ever-fluid inner and outer selves to tantalize her extended family of viewers. Sitting down with Michael Jackson in an ABC prime-time special in February, she managed, if only momentarily, to coax out the human side of the eccentric pop star in front of 90 million viewers. Broadcasting her crusade on the plight of the underclass, Winfrey starred in (and her company produced) ABC's highly rated TV-movie version of There Are No Children Here, the grim best-seller about a violent Chicago housing project. When she wasn't promoting minority education (she donated $ 1 million to a Chicago high school in October), Winfrey continued to campaign for a federal data bank on convicted child abusers. But wait, there's more, and less: Thanks to a low-fat diet and a twice-daily exercise regimen, she dropped 60 pounds in eight months (she now weighs 150). Nearing her goal in August, she celebrated by running a half-marathon in San Diego.
The book wasn't the only thing Winfrey decided not to do. "I no longer feel...that I have to have a man in order to make myself whole," she explained, in declining so far to wed her fiancé of 14 months, Chicago sports-marketing executive Stedman Graham. Approaching her 40th birthday (Jan. 29), she says, "I feel there are important discoveries yet to be made.'' That book may be on hold for a long time.