Helen Fielding gains literary success
Sunday 15 January
126 lbs, (excellent), alcohol units 0, cigarettes 29 (v.v. bad, esp. in 2 hours), calories 3,879 (repulsive), negative thoughts 942 (approx. based on av. per minute), minutes spent counting negative thoughts, 127 (approx.)
On any given week, the bestseller list is a veritable boys’ club. The usual suspects — Clancy, Grisham, Crichton, King, and, this year, Tom Wolfe — specialize in testosteronated prose: military-industrial intrigue, litigious villains, sci-fi high jinks, white-knuckled horror, and exhaustive (and exhausting) sociopolitical girth. Given the hairy-chested competition, the phenomenal underdog success of Viking’s Bridget Jones’s Diary makes novelist Helen Fielding this year’s heaviest literary hitter. ”For something that started comparably small,” says John F. Baker, editorial director of Publishers Weekly, ”it’s gone pretty much through the roof.”
If Bridget Jones’s Diary was a movie (and by early 2000 it will be, courtesy of Working Title Films, the makers of Four Weddings and a Funeral), Hollywood would call it a ”chick flick.” But while Fielding invented a persona that apparently resonates with the entire 20th-century female population, she’s beguiled quite a few men as well, judging by the book’s top 10 success here and abroad: more than 3 million copies in print worldwide, 27 U.S. reprints, translations in 25 languages, availability in 33 countries.
It’s hard to imagine a more likable poster girl for what is becoming entertainment’s new preoccupation: the neurotic single woman (think the various female Friends, Grace of NBC’s Will &, not to mention Ally McBeal). But while Bridget may be self-obsessed and insecure (”…am fat, have spot on chin, and desire only to sit on cushion eating chocolate”), she’s also intelligent, funny, and painfully real — a ”spot-on” characterization, if you want to get British about it. And the world did indeed start speaking Bridget’s language: Her inventive lexicon — particularly Singleton (generic unattached female) and Smug Marrieds (self-satisfied couples, and there really aren’t any other kind) — seemed to hijack our vocabulary like a hardcover Austin Powers. As Four Weddings screenwriter Richard Curtis told ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY earlier this year, ”It’s almost Dickensian how [the novel] has become part of our language.” And this long before professional women the world over began referring to each other as ”Bridgets.” As one ”Singleton” American fan said at a recent promotional event hosted by apparel giant Jones New York and Elle magazine, ”This book is my friggin’ life.” So much for the fear that Bridget was too British.