Uncovered: the scary truth about Jordan

There is something discomforting about her being a role model for young women
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The Independent Online

In what would have been one of the stranger literary encounters of recent times. Monica Ali, author of the highly praised novel Brick Lane, was to be honoured as Newcomer of the Year at the British book awards, hosted for Channel Four by Richard and Judy. The person there to present the prize was a contender for next year's award, the model Jordan.

In what would have been one of the stranger literary encounters of recent times. Monica Ali, author of the highly praised novel Brick Lane, was to be honoured as Newcomer of the Year at the British book awards, hosted for Channel Four by Richard and Judy. The person there to present the prize was a contender for next year's award, the model Jordan.

But as Jordan swept majestically on to the stage, like a small but fearsomely prowed pink ship under sail, there was disappointment for the audience. Monica, Richard announced, had been unavoidably detained and was unable to attend. He went on to summarise the merits of Brick Lane but, as he spoke, another man, who turned out to be the distinguished figure of Ali's publisher, Patrick Janson Smith, appeared on stage, apparently expecting to collect the award on his author's behalf. This was not part of the script. "Who's he?" asked Richard. "Probably some pervert," Jordan replied.

The incident was edited from Channel Four's transmission of the awards, as was the moment when Richard asked Jordan if she identified with any character in fiction. "Dunno," said Jordan, who does not do banter. "Probably the Devil."

That Jordan - or Katie Price or whatever she is calling herself this week - is not a great reader was confirmed a few days when ago when she appeared on Women's Hour to promote her memoirs, Being Jordan. "I'm not sure whether they mentioned this in the book," she said at one point, guilelessly confirming that she had not yet managed to dip into the book of which she was nominally the author.

Not that such things have mattered too much. Since her book was published, Jordan has, indeed, turned out to be a notable newcomer among the ranks of authors, with 36,000 hardback copies sold in the first few days following publication. A printing of 100,000 has subsequently been doubled. At a single bookshop appearance by the author, in Brent Cross, north London, more than 2,000 people turned up. Without doubt, Being Jordan will be one of the bookselling hits of the year.

Success at this level, at least with a work of non-fiction, is interesting in that it offers a small snapshot of what is preoccupying and intriguing large numbers of people. Celebrity memoirs are a staple of modern publishing but many fail. This one, which has led thousands of people to buy a £16.99 hardback, could hardly be said to describe a life of extraordinary incident or achievement. Its narrator earnt a living from taking her top off. She has had several breast implants. She has been to bed with quite a few men, including a footballer and a contestant in Pop Idol. Her baby was born blind. She appeared in a reality television series. It is hardly the greatest story ever told.

So why are people buying Jordan's memoirs? Certainly not because its author is a sex symbol. Even the most enthusiastic male admirer of large fake breasts is unlikely to add a book of ill-written prose to his collection of videos and photographs.

In fact, it turns out that the vast majority of customers buying the book are young and female. There is something discomfiting about the idea of Jordan being a role model for women in their teens and twenties. Her public persona is a significantly different, colder thing than that of other manufactured sex symbols of the recent past. Unlike Samantha Fox (pneumatic and good-humoured), or Madonna (excitingly ruthless in pursuit of pleasure), the construct that is Jordan is hard-eyed, exploitative, somewhat joyless.

In an attempt to explain why apparently sane and liberated woman are so impressed by a topless model - Debbie Taylor, editor of the excellent literary magazine MsLexia has praised her for standing for parliament on a ticket of free plastic surgery for all - it has been said that Jordan represents the uncompromising independence of a truly modern woman.

Would be it naive to suggest that the persona that Jordan increasingly presents is not one of strength but of a brittle, rather sad fragility? The character who emerges from interviews, television shows and her book may be successful and famous, but her life seems almost entirely lacking humour, kindness or even pleasure.

Her greatest enjoyment appears to involve the belittlement of men - or at least those men who have made the mistake of finding her attractive. They are, like the publisher who appeared on stage at the wrong time, "perverts"; she is "the devil". And the more she abuses her own body by the increasingly grotesque inflation of her breasts, the more admirers drool. Once they have revealed their idiotic vulnerability, they become objects of contempt. According to critics, Being Jordan is a testament to the patheticness of men, a catalogue of the dumped whose sexual performance - too keen, not keen enough - or tiny private parts are sneeringly described, then dismissed.

It is surely at least possible that what is on public display here is not over-confidence but its very opposite. If there really are women all over the country who identify with this view of themselves and of their dealings with men, then Being Jordan may be the scariest bestseller we have had for some time.

terblacker@aol.com

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