Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Lack Of Reason

By Shelly Ridenour

MARCH 20, 2000: 

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding (Viking Press), $25, 338 pages

While finger-pointing critics have been tripping over themselves anointing the "American 'Bridget Jones'" (everything from Suzanne Finnamore's "Otherwise Engaged" to Melissa Bank's wonderfully smart "The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing"), the truth is that American pop culture already has its own urban party girl, and she's better than Bridget.

After all, Candace Bushnell's "Sex and the City" column, when it ran in the New York Observer, generated the same kind of frenzied hype as Helen Fielding's "Bridget" when it first appeared in a London paper. Women on both sides of the Atlantic claimed to immediately identify with Carrie/Bridget's nights of wine and less-than-rosy romances. But, while "Sex and the City" (the HBO show) just keeps getting better, "The Edge of Reason," the follow-up to Fielding's wildly successful first Bridget novel, is a wake-up call -- but, unfortunately, the kind you don't want to get.

Suddenly, Bridget isn't cute so much as silly. I can no longer suspend my disbelief that a woman who can't get it together enough to make it to work on time, or do her laundry, or catch a flight, would be dedicated enough to record her calorie/cigarette/alcohol intake each day. A carpenter hired to add on a room to her flat knocks a hole in the wall, then doesn't finish the job -- and she doesn't do anything about it for six months?! Given a crack at a celebrity interview, she makes a fool of herself and then blows the deadline?! An ex who accuses her of not knowing where Germany is, is, in fact, absolutely right?! And while Bridget continues to get tangled up in the goofy web of paranoia and flightiness she weaves for herself, it feels like "Ab Fab" lite as she travels to Thailand and winds up in jail after being unknowingly duped into drug smuggling (or is that "Brokedown Palace" lite?). But where Patsy and Eddie went over the top and fell straight down into hedonistic hilarity, Bridget and Co. seem to teeter in hesitation, worrying what some man or another will think of them.

Fielding's sequel has been criticized as one-note. But perhaps it's a matter of get me once, shame on you; get me twice, shame on me. In other words, I don't want to identify with Bridget Jones. I am horrified that I recognize even parts of my life (i.e., checking my messages too frequently) in these blithering, dithering "diary" pages. I don't want to know her, either; if a friend tried to talk me out of returning a love interest's phone call by quoting John Gray, I like to think I know which one of them would be cut from my life. Maybe Bridget is an inspiration to identify with. Tuesday, March 14 -- Weight: Who knows?, Calories: Who cares?, Goals: Don't waste time reading silly sequels.

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