Books: Hypewatch

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The author: Laura Zigman, a New York publisher turned media-sweet first novelist, who's now putting a transatlantic Manhattan-loft spin on those familiar thirtysomething, single-woman blues.

The book: Animal Husbandry (Hutchinson, pounds 10), in which lovelorn singleton Jane Goodall - yes, just like the chimp expert - converts her man-made misery into a jokey "New Cow" theory. She hauls odd scraps of bargain- basement Darwinism into an explanation of why men - those bred-in-the genes polygamists - "flip-flop from passion to panic until they finally disappear". After being dumped by fellow TV-producer Ray (a preppy heartbreaker who can't commit), Jane moves in as flatmate with wayward dreamboat Eddie; she turns her zoo-cage apercus into a magazine column. Happy ending in view? Not quite. Soundbites from Dawkins, Darwin and Des Morris pepper the plot, just like when Marshall McLuhan pops up in the movie queue in Annie Hall.

The deal: How long can the bull market in wacky, mixed-up spinsterati last? True, Bridget Jones still tops the charts and the likes of Jane Green and Arabella (Does My Bum Look Big In This?) Weir hogged the feature pages in her wake. With massive glossy-mag promotion, Zigman has been positioned as the Next Big Whinge, but some literary tipsters suspect the wave has peaked.

The goods: Although jilted Jane downs the odd Bourbon or three, what may strike most Brit readers first about this book is the vast gulf, not between guys and dolls, but between Greenwich Village and Greenwich. At heart a frothy, feather-light confection, Animal Husbandry comes with a two-page Oscar speech of acknowledgements. Forget Bridget's rueful self- flagellation; here we're talking sex-war with sociobiology attached, not to mention Jane's draft of punitive damages ("1 pint Jack Daniel's per week @ $7.50 per pint: $390"). Yes, the jokes can raise a smile, but the affected mini-sentences soon pall. They're about this long. Why? In case we don't. Get Bored. You suppose.

The verdict: Zigman will tickle the fancy of Friends and Frasier fans more readily than the ranks of Bridget Jones-clones, and US-soap freaks might well have a ball with her. Otherwise, her fixed-grin but self-important zaniness sinks in mid-Atlantic. We can do this stuff pretty well at home, thank you.

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