Diary By Bridget Jones On a good day, Bridget Jones weighs no more than 120 pounds, smokes no more than five cigarettes, imbibes no more than three alcohol units, comes up with one or two clever ideas at the office meeting, and checks her voice mail maybe two or three times to see if her boyfriend has phoned. On a bad day – of which there are many – the statistics are less satisfying. Still, the obsessive Jones dutifully records them all in her hilarious but poignant diary: “Saturday 12 August: 129 pounds, alcohol units 3 (v.g.), cigarettes 32 (v.v. bad, particularly since first day of giving up) . .
. voice mail calls 22, minutes spent having cross imaginary conversations with Daniel 120, minutes spent imagining Daniel begging me to come back 90.” This thirtysomething Londoner is, in short, the exemplar of a contemporary type: the angst-ridden, ever-dieting, I-wonder-if-this-skirt-is-too-short-for-the- office junior executive who hears her mother nagging and her biological clock ticking but can’t seem to find a man who is not already married or interested merely in casual sex – or both. There’s a lot of truth among the laughs here. That’s why the charming novel “Bridget Jones’s Diary” has turned out to be a publishing sensation in Britain: 50 weeks on the best-seller lists and a million copies sold. That’s why “Bridget Jones” and her self-described marital status – “singleton” – have entered the language here as standard parlance among her thirtyish peers of both sexes. And that’s why “Bridget Jones’s Diary” is likely to make a large literary splash in the United States when Viking Press publishes the book this month.
The U.S. edition has already been named a main selection of the Book-ofthe-Month Club. Bridget’s creator, the author Helen Fielding, is set for a busy round-robin of the major U.S. talk shows. Fielding, a former BBC producer and freelance writer, has admitted that many of Bridget’s misadventures were based on her own life as a London singleton. And Jones is absolutely a product of, by and for London.
When Bridget complains that she had to walk past Whistles and buy her new outfit at Miss Selfridge instead, London readers know precisely the state of her bank balance. The gamble, then, for Viking – and for the publishers bringing out the diary in 16 other countries – is that there is enough that is universal about Bridget Jones to outweigh the intensely local parts of her story. It’s probably a good bet, at least for U.S. audiences. A society that has made cultural icons out of Ally McBeal and Cathy Guisewite should have no trouble accepting Bridget Jones as a soul sister.
There is no doubt that Bridget and her various obsessions are alive and thriving in the midpriced one-bedroom apartments of Washington, Denver, Seattle and probably every other U.S. city. There are certainly plenty of Americans who will bond with Bridget when they read of her emotional ups and downs on the weekend (the sadly typical weekend) of Jan. 6-8. First, we see Bridget’s reaction Friday afternoon at the office when a handsome executive at her publishing company sends a computer message asking for her home telephone number.
“Yesssss! Yesssss!” Bridget records in her diary. “Daniel Cleaver wants my phone no. Am marvelous. Am irresistible Sex Goddess. Hurrah!” The next entry, on Sunday, Jan.
8, tells what happened next. “Oh God, why am I so unattractive? Hideous, wasted two days glaring psychopathically at the phone and eating things. Why hasn’t he rung? Why? What’s wrong with me?” The editors at Viking have decided that moments like that require no translation. Still, they have made a few changes to accommodate American readers. While Bridget measures her weight in “stone” (a unit equaling 14 pounds), the U.S.
edition will convert the figure to “pounds.” A London production company called Working Title, which made “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” is gearing up to turn “Bridget Jones’s Diary” into a movie.