By SARA SMITH
The Kansas City Star
Theres a new Bridget Jones book coming out this fall, and I would really, really like to review it, I announced to my editor, Steve, a Hemingway scholar who does not share my love for 9 to 5 or Heathers.
He gave me a sarcastic look of regret. Sure, its all yours.
Undaunted, I scribbled Bridget Jones book! on my desk calendars October page, then spilled coffee over the whole year.
Steve forwarded me an announcement from the publisher: The title will be Mad About the Boy.
Babies, I thought. Or a younger guy. Or Mark Darcy frolicking with their little boy.
Oh, how I missed Bridget. Author Helen Fieldings late-90s everywoman was a London-dwelling hot mess prone to girdle mishaps. Fielding constructed her novel from diary entries detailing Bridgets wildly wobbling weight, alcohol intake, cigarettes smoked and insecure sexual daydreams. But an acerbic wit always slipped out between bites of chocolate croissant.
It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party, she observed. Its like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting Cathy! and banging your head against a tree.
Eventually Renee Zellweger brought the accident-prone, hung-over singleton heroine to the big screen, where she proved to be just as awesome, blurting out in a job interview, Ive had to leave my job because I shagged my boss.
I even liked the sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, before they made the movie version into a Cathy cartoon instead of sticking with the plot derived from Jane Austens Persuasion.
Steve dropped the advance review copy of Mad About the Boy on my desk. It landed next to the pilot DVD of a show called Beauty Queen Murders.
Ooo! Yaaay! I exclaimed, earning another pained shake of the head. I strongly relate to Bridgets path in life, I tried to explain. Steve put out a hand:
Say no more.
Surely snitching the format for this review from its source material requires that I make up cutesy monikers for my husband and 2-year-old son as Bridget would in her own diary entries, so they can be Mr. Skeptical and Prince Harry.
Mr. Skeptical, who pretends he hasnt watched the six-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries with me even when were alone, looked up from his laptop and asked me if Id heard the news about the new book (spoiler alert).
So have you seen the people freaking out because the guy named Darcy whos named after the other guy named Mister Darcy is dead? In like, the book? And its the same guy?
Translation: Word was out that Fielding had killed off Mark Darcy, the love of Bridgets life, based on cloned from? Elizabeth Bennets lover in Pride and Prejudice. And she did this after making sure Bridget and I pictured him as an honorable, smoldering Colin Firth from the beginning.
OK, thats just really mean.
Oct. 4, 6 p.m.
Right. Just got home from work and realized I should really have read the book, not just thumbed through the prologue. After Prince Harry is bathed, his light-up ladybug is deployed and the basset hound fed and soothed, I will make friends again with Bridget.
Really hoping new Bridget book is not about raising a 2-year-old with the emotional stability of Alec Baldwin. Because a little escapism would be nice.
Finally, will just relax with hound dog on couch and read.
So. Bridget is now 51 and raising two kids alone. She introduces them in vivid scenes of simultaneous intestinal flu geysers. The British spell it diarrhoea, really? Oh, and they have head lice, which they call nits.
Tempted to watch another episode of House of Cards on Netflix to better emulate Kevin Spaceys ambition before trying again.
Oct. 5, 4 p.m.
Prince Harry just left for a sleepover with his Auntie. There is really no excuse now not to concentrate on the book. Kevin Spacey would have had the ending leaked to the press by now.
The only entity on Earth with more false starts than me at this point is the K-State offensive line. What is going on, Wildcats???
Right. Focus. Plenty of time. Aggravating K-State game on mute, and Bridget lets see has managed to let her kids spread nits through her entire social circle.
Fantastic evening taking out Talithas hair extensions. Was really satisfying, though incredible challenging, as had to rub oil on the glue bits, and pull out, then inspect for nits. Was a bit like Anne Hathaway dying of a bad haircut in Les Miserables, except more moaning and crying.
Talitha is one of the friends who slapped Bridget back to her senses four years after what happened to Mark. After a disturbing trip through another eating disorder, the widow Jones no longer weighs 175 pounds (horrors!) and has signed up for Twitter, where she strikes up a flirtation with a handsome 29-year-old.
Because thats how Twitter works. Every time.
Their first date includes a lot of vomit, which they refer to, like the Brits they are, as sick.
Seriously, what happened to Mark Darcy?
After hundreds of pages of all-too-familiar fumblings and one-liners, I have reached the pages where Bridget, wallowing in grief, digs out the box of newspaper clippings about how Mark died.
Now Im sobbing in tandem with Bridget while she remembers her 2-year-old son running through the house crying I lost Dada! Why cant the funny-sexy chapters pack that kind of punch?
Mr. Skeptical, confused, attributes my swollen red eyes to allergies and college football.
So. Widowed Bridget is a self-absorbed one-percenter with a full-time nanny and a smartphone glued to her face while she maintains a junior high-esque infatuation through pages of texts and tweets that are mainly fart jokes.
Am I really expected to care about this kid with washboard abs and Oedipal issues who goes by Roxster? And since when did Bridget start bragging about her Cirque du Soleil flexibility in bed? Too much detail about the wheelbarrow position, Bridge! Especially with those kids in the next room.
Clearly, this Roxster cat, with his charming-yet-flaky ways, is Frank Churchill from Jane Austens Emma. Wheres the serious-minded, sometimes-judgmental love interest who goes by Mr. Something, as in Mr. Knightley?
There he is.
Hes criticizing her for getting Botox.
Must admit, the naughty Bridget of old shows up every now and again, and motherhood has provided a bevy of tiger moms for her to taunt. Ill bring the vodka, she volunteers in the email chain devoted to stocking the school field day with healthy snacks. We drink it neat without mixers, all agreed?
Gah. Its not just that Bridget hasnt learned anything about men, or love, or herself. She cant even humiliate herself in new ways.
From The Edge of Reason: I had applied dark gray eyeshadow to my cheeks instead of blusher: the sort of thing that could happen to anyone, obviously, as packaging identical.
From Mad About the Boy: have put waterproof mascara on top lip as same Laura Mercier packaging as lip gloss and will not come off. Oh, God. Am going to be late with black lips.
Surely it is not normal to want to read the movie script Bridget is writing rather than anything more about her? Especially since shes actually sold the rights under the working title The Leaves in His Hair: Based on the play Hedda Gabbler (sic), by Anton Chekhov (double sic).
Just realized the whole point of Bridget adapting Hedda Gabler. So that she could scream, from the depths of her depression, at the blithely cheerful faces around her, Its not a rom-com, its a tragedy!
But after that great setup, Bridget got another rom-com ending anyhow. It wasnt even interesting thats the tragedy.
(Spoiler alert) It didnt work out between the 51-year-old mom and the untethered hipster 20 years her junior? Shocking. At least the British dont have an alternative word for cougar, as the speedy felines are not indigenous. And they spell inevitable and predictable the same way, too.