Monday, June 07, 2004

Chick lit joins the war on terrorism

Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination, by Helen Fielding, has arrived. Kind of.

Though Olivia may have more self-assuredness than Bridget, it sounds to me as if her author is less certain of her character's identity than she would have you believe.

Introducing the "anti-Bridget":

Instead of a low-level publicist mooning over boyfriends at boozy London dinner parties, Olivia is a self-made, self-confident, globe-trotting style writer turned international spy, who quaffs martinis while hunting Al Qaeda operatives in Miami, Africa, Los Angeles and the Caribbean.

As much as I loved Bridget (as much as I feared women would aspire to be her), I always suspected Helen Fielding was more lucky than talented. Sometimes funny, sometimes just plain stupid:

"I always had the idea that if you were a successful writer you would live in the south of France and to me, L.A. is like that — only with shopping," said Ms. Fielding.

The book was reviewed in the New York Times a few days ago.

Olivia seems like a misplaced character, doomed to wander, page by page, chapter to chapter, from one sort of novel into another, as this dreadfully plotted story meanders its way through an anthology of genres. Sometimes, Olivia is the ditsy screwball heroine of a light chick-lit comedy, coping with fashion emergencies and bad hair days. Sometimes, she is a wannabe spy, part Girl From U.N.C.L.E., part Austin Powers, part Harriet the Spy, trying to parlay her job as a freelance fashion writer into something more important.

I hate to admit it, but I know — I just know — there will come a day when, bloated with PMS, I'll fix myself a bowl of popcorn and a Bloody Caesar, and I'll read the damn thing.

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