Thursday, 3 January 2008

Is Bridget Jones’s Diary One Of The Worst Books Ever Written? Or Am I Just Jealous and Wrong?

bulk :: 19st 13 (I don’t understand how. I feel like sobbing)
cigarettes :: 0 (but, I should add, I WANT A CIGARETTE!!!)
nails on fingers :: 0
pieces of Nicorette :: 12
calories :: 1000ish (I’m finding it difficult to count calories. How do you know how many calories are in a vegetable soup for instance? One you make yourself I mean and not one from a tin. I don’t know. I’m guessing. Plus I’m eating loads of bananas and carrots. I packed all the leftover chocolates and stuff from Christmas away in a box. I’m doing all right. But I’m not losing weight)
alcohol units :: 0 (too busy craving tobacco and food to really care)
grumpiness level :: 9

Right. I’ve just finished reading Bridget Jones’s Diary and I have to say, the human race is in dire need of some major cleansing. What a depressingly bad book. ‘Helen Fielding is one of the funniest writers in Britain,’ says Nick Hornby on the front cover, ‘and Bridget Jones is a creation of comic genius.’ What the…? Why is he saying that? Did he want to sleep with her? Had he already slept with her and this was his way of apologising? Same goes for Salman Rushdie. ‘A brilliant comic creation,' blurbs Salman. 'Even men will laugh.’ No, Salman. Salman - no. If a book is genuinely funny, then people will laugh irrespective of their gender. Obviously. ‘Even men will laugh.’ What kind of bullshit is that? As it happens, I did laugh. I laughed, if I remember correctly, four times. Out loud. On the other hand, I also shouted out in anger, annoyance and plain old despair at least forty times.

So what’s wrong with this book?

Well, in a nutshell: flaccid, half-dimensional characterisation; sickeningly pat plotting – the ending in particular is an embarrassing slap in the face for anyone who's ever shown even a passing consideration for the real world; downright adolescent ideas about style – those bits where she writes ‘drunk’ and ends up with her typing slurred are a disgrace. Also, I know Helen Fielding can’t exactly be blamed for this, but Jesus, you’d think Picador could afford a decent proof reader. There are so many incredible howlers in BJD that it beggars belief. On page 174 of the above edition for example, not only is there an ‘on one’ instead of a ‘no one’, but there is also – drum roll – this: ‘that’s a nice shirt your wearing’. NOOOOOoooooooo! God in Heaven, strike me down and bugger me.

Oh, and just to show that it’s not merely bad proof reading, Fielding also manages at one stage to use the expression ‘pales into significance’. Coming quite late in the book, this kick in the lexical balls tips Fielding – in my opinion - from ‘hideously bad’ into ‘without doubt one of the worst writers in the English language’.

One thing I particularly hated about the book was the woefully predictable oscillation of mood. Thus: ‘7pm. Opened bottle of wine feeling desperate and lonely and miserable. 7.30pm. Oh unassailable joy! Daniel called and declared his undying love for me. 8pm. Daniel called back and said he’d called the wrong number by mistake. He thought I was Ryan Giggs. (Who?) Opened second bottle of wine. Binged on marshmallow and lard and put on 3 stone in 20 minutes. 9pm. Oh insurmountable ecstasy! Mark Darcy called and declared his undying love for me. He’s coming over. Performed quick gastric bypass procedure on self and washed hair. Down to 9 stone but still look podgy. 10.30pm. Mark Darcy stood me up. Why am I so lonely? Why? Why? Why?’ Because you’re a bore, Bridget, that’s why. You’re a fucking bore.

Of course I know we don’t have to like our fictional protagonists. Patrick Bateman, for example, is vile. As is Humbert Humbert, and even Homer Simpson. Yet in each of these cases, it is possible to describe these characters using one or more of the following adjectives: ‘interesting’, ‘fascinating’, ‘funny’ or ‘well-written’. And all of these things are important. However, if you insist on creating a character who is dull, slow-witted, utterly charmless, and self-indulgent to the point of mentally ill, then you’d better make sure that you write them well. Otherwise no one will read your book.

So, I suppose the next question has to be: how could I believe so passionately that what I’m saying is true and yet at the same time be so wildly and obviously wrong?

Bridget Jones's Diary has apparently sold more than four million copies worldwide. It has also picked up astonishing reviews by the likes of the inestimable Jilly Cooper and (a clearly fuckstruck) Salman Rushdie.

My instinct is to say that these people are all wrong and that I know dross when I read it and that Bridget Jones’s Diary is utter, utter dross. But… what if it’s me?

This is a chilling thought. Ordinarily at this point I would smoke a cigarette. But obviously now I can’t. So instead I shall just sit here, in my study, in nothing but the light from my computer monitor and I shall weep until dawn.

Amount of people who obviously can be wrong :: 4 million, including Salman shitting Rushdie

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Anonymous said...

I hated "Bridget Jones's Diary" too. Her character reminds me of that awful comic strip woman, Cathy. I want to choke the life out of both Cathy and Bridget.

Alas, I'm writing to tell you I found a typo in your blog. It must be a typo because there's no way you could possibly be tardy enough to misspell the word.

By the way, I adore your blog, and cannot wait for your next entry! This is quite funny because I pretty much hate all blogs and those who write them. Such self-indulgence is generally revolting.

Me... said...

First up, it's good to know that it's not just me who hates Bridget. And don't even talk to me about Cathy. Seriously. Don't.

Secondly, what typo?! You must tell me at once. I'm anal to the point of self-harm but I honestly don't have the time to read all this tripe again.

Finally, thank you for your kind words. I'm not entirely sure you're not being slightly sarcastic, as I feel a little ashamed at the level of self-indulgence this blog is bringing out in me. That is the point, obviously - it is all about me indulging myself, and being quite upfront about that - but it is a little sickening.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

The problem can be found directly under that picture of Jon Gaunt. Here, I'll help.

"I also read cookery magazines as I’m always on the lookout for recipes to modify slightly and pas off as my own for the couple of cookery columns I write for old ladies’ magazines. "

That "pas" is driving me nuts. (Were you trying to ineffectively incorporate French into that post so as to make a connection to your blog's title? No, I don't think so.) If I'd wanted to be cruel I'd have just laughed and told you to find it yourself, but it seems you've suffered enough cruelty in your life. Thus, I've decided to be kind.

No sarcasm. Yes, this blog is self-indulgent, but you seem like you deserve a right to self-indulgence. Ya know? Since you're so ugly and all. I really, really want to know what you look like.

I'm stalking you on WLF. When you log back on you should be able to figure out who I am, I mean, since you're smart and everything.

Also, Cathy. Cathy, Cathy, Cathy. I'd surely stuff her mouth with a ball gag if I ever encountered a real life version of her.

Anonymous said...

I have tried twice to read BJD to the end, but have failed because it is so turgidly, poorly written.

Also as a woman who weighs more than a stick instict, I don't find much humour in "Weight 18 st 13" or "Weight 9 st 5lbs mega fat".

These are the musings of someone who does NOT have a weight problem -- if only Helen Fielding had made her heroine a more definitely and obviously podgy 12 stone the whole premise would have (to me) carried so much better.

As a very overweight woman reading this borderline bulimic with body dismorphic order (she thinks she's fugly but obviously she is actually exceedingly attractive and averagely slim) it is just HORRID, horrid, horrid.

Weirdly, I did actually quite like the film (especially not having to read the boring shit about calories and her totally normal body weight all the time) but sometimes Hollywood does manage to turn a fairly dross book into something better (and, as we know, can also turn wonderful books like Bonfire of the Vanities into total dross, but there is the condundrum!).

Not having gotten into the BJD thing when the book was new, or when it had started off life as a column in The Independent, I also find it very hard to fathom what the other 4 million readers found so witty and amusing in the book!

ade said...

I felt much the same way about Coldplay's third album. I thought it was the audible equivalent of a steaming pile of poo, yet on the internet it was getting rave reviews - especially on the "You Can Review a CD" part of the BBC website.
The general public are just a bunch of morons when it comes to books, telly, films and music. How else can you explain the success of James Blunt, The Sunday Night Project, High School Musical 2 and The DaVinci Code?
Seeing as this comment is buried deep in your archives I doubt it will ever be read, but I'd just like to say that I think this is a terrific blog (and I've only just finished reading December 2007). Keep up the good work!