Column One: V. good. Bridget makes a move upmarket
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Wednesday 10 November 1999
YES, INDEED: she's back. Bridget Jones, last seen riding off into the sunset of W11 in a melancholy haze of vodka fumes and "lite" fag fug, will soon have a second session between hard covers. And, this time, Bridget is moving upmarket for her launch party - right up to the 28th floor bar of the Hilton Hotel, "Park Lane, London, England". Wow. "Dress v. glamorous but not too tarty, in manner of garish divorcee," she advises on her v. tasteful invite. Will do, Bridge.
The week after next, Picador will publish Helen Fielding's follow-up to Bridget Jones's Diary. It will carry the mystifying title of The Edge of Reason, which sounds like some really, really deep novel by Jean- Paul Belmondo or some other Exsistin... Existench... pissed-off but quite cute French bloke with sticky-up hair, a manky leather jacket and a crumpled pack of Gitanes.
The utterly gobsmacking impact of Helen Fielding's ditsy media babe - first as a column in This Newspaper, next in a Lesser Organ, finally in book form - left many British men with a teaser of quite ginormous proportions. Why should hundreds of thousands of otherwise sensible and efficient professional women want to identify with a scatty airhead who lurches woozily from one office calamity, naff party and Unsuitable Boy to another?
Anyway, Bridget Mark Two may at last reveal the Secret of her Success. And she has even summoned the top chap in the happening but a bit scary PR business to help her sell herself.
She (or Fielding's new book, at least) is a client of Matthew Freud. Yes, the gofer to Chris Evans, almost-best pal of Peter Mandelson, spin- doctor to the stars and, glitziest of all - image consultant to Frank Dobson. Plus it was Matthew's great-grandad with the beard that first had people on his couch. Well wicked etc. First reader to spot a front- page tabloid picture of Geri Halliwell with a copy of The Edge of Reason wins an extra-stiff Sea Breeze.
Fans will rejoice. Tills will ring. And a bookshop sales battle of Geri vs. Emma dimensions will unfold in the run-up to Christmas. Snugly ensconced at the head of the fiction charts, Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years has outsold all rivals for the past three weeks. Now the celebrity offal chef and New Labour renegade may find himself dislodged by a thirtysomething Notting Hillbilly of uncertain prospects and unsteady gait.
Surely their publishers should do something to stop such nice - if rather troubled - young folk from slugging it out in the stacks? Ms Jones can give young Mole a year or two, and the little fusspot might be a little shocked by her, er, lifestyle. Still, on the principle that opposites attract, the Date of the millennium must loom before long. Who could resist a Meet Cute between Bridget and Adrian, say in the Dome on New Year's Eve? All it needs is a speedy scriptwriter, a global rights deal - and a little stardust sprinkled by Mr Freud.
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