What does Helen Fielding’s comic heroine, Bridget Jones, have in common with David Jason, thespy national treasure of Only Fools and Horses fame? Nothing whatsoever, or so you’d safely assume: one is the nation’s favourite singleton, the other is the nation’s favourite cockney mucker, and never the twain shall meet.
So there was something perfectly ridiculous about the printing accident in which the joint-publisher of Fielding’s comeback book, Mad About the Boy, and Jason’s memoir, My Life, ending up tacking 40-pages of Jason’s life story into the middle of Bridget Jones’s travails as an older, but no less desperately single, 50-something.
The mix-up, which affected some editions of Fielding’s book, was apparently due to a fault in the printing process, but one can’t help marvel at its serendipitous timing, even discounting the irony in the fact that the publishing house responsible for the mistake had only just amalgamated, from two to one, as Penguin Random House. Had amalgamation gone to their heads or was there method in the mess-up? No, just a hiccup, they insisted: “Some copies printed on one day have given readers an accidental preview of David Jason’s autobiography. We are taking steps to remove these copies from sale and will be replacing misprinted stock as soon as possible.”
News of the mishap leaked yesterday, just as Fielding and Jason were poised to meet their fans at two rival bookshops – Fielding signing copies of her novel at Foyles as Jason navigated the hordes at Waterstones, in Piccadilly. All on Super Thursday, when the starter gun to the No 1 Christmas book slot is sounded. On your marks, get set… oops, an accidental comedy moment that brings both brands – quite literally – together.
Accident it may have been, but it couldn’t have been better devised by the guerrilla marketing buffs. Mash-up – the joining up of two literary genres – is all the rage. Ever since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies married Regency England with the undead, we’ve regularly seen the alchemical amusement of uniting two previously boring genres to create a new hybrid ‘hilarious’ one. Even if this wasn’t an imaginative publicity stunt – and it most probably wasn’t – the mash-up copies would surely be an improvement?
The botched copies of Mad About the Boy could well become limited edition collectors items: I’d buy one, and delight at the surprising turns that Bridget’s otherwise all too predictable trajectory takes – permanently-single-and-permanently-angsty-about-it, when that 30-something generational star has faded. I wish her story had accidentally slipped in-between the pages of Jason’s autobiography, just to mix it up a little bit more.
There is one more good thing that can come out of this fortuitous accident. The last chapter of Fielding’s book is left open-ended: I hope and pray she takes a leaf out of her publisher’s printing mistake and has Bridget meet Del Boy in deepest, darkest Peckham if she is planning a next instalment. They can discuss life, love and the price of fish over a packet of crisps down his local boozer. Or better still, the next time around could see Mr Darcy returning as a flesh-eating zombie.