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Dumped

Zoë Heller: Girl Talk, 19 February 1998

Animal Husbandry 
by Laura Zigman.
Hutchinson, 304 pp., £10, January 1998, 0 09 180219 9
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Bridget Jones’ Diary 
by Helen Fielding.
Picador, 310 pp., £5.99, June 1997, 0 330 33277 5
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Does My Bum Look Big in This? 
by Arabella Weir.
Hodder, 246 pp., £5.99, March 1998, 9780340689486
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... Ray), got dumped by her boss and eventually mended her broken heart. In Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding’s novelisation of her very successful Independent column, Bridget, a funny, smart, insecure publishing junior, guides us, entry by entry, through the year in which she falls in love with her boss (a specious creep called Daniel), gets dumped ...

The Beautiful Undead

Jenny Turner: Vegetarian Vampires, 26 March 2009

Twilight 
directed by Catherine Hardwick.
November 2008
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Breaking Dawn 
by Stephenie Meyer.
Atom, 757 pp., £12.99, August 2008, 978 1 905654 28 4
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... often a sign that a person may be ‘crossing the threshold’ to the ‘altered realm’). As Helen Fielding did with Bridget Jones, Meyer has hitched a ride on the Mr Darcy plotline, but without bothering to give her heroine any of Elizabeth Bennet’s spirit – raising a reprise of the Bridget question, why would a man of any style or substance ...

Working under Covers

Paul Laity: Mata Hari, 8 January 2004

Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War 
by Tammy Proctor.
New York, 205 pp., $27, June 2003, 0 8147 6693 5
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... match, Cate Blanchett is rumoured to be portraying Mata Hari in a Robert Altman TV film, and Helen Fielding has created Olivia Joules, in her Bond-parody follow-up to Bridget Jones, Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination.† There’s nothing of the Amazon about Olivia: she’s a curvy blonde, wears Prada and uses her face powder to dust the ...

Dream On

Katha Pollitt: Bringing up Babies, 11 September 2003

I Don't Know How She Does It 
by Allison Pearson.
Vintage, 256 pp., £6.99, May 2003, 0 09 942838 5
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A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother 
by Rachel Cusk.
Fourth Estate, 224 pp., £6.99, July 2002, 1 84115 487 3
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The Truth about Babies: From A-Z 
by Ian Sansom.
Granta, 352 pp., £6.99, June 2003, 1 86207 575 1
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What Are Children For? 
by Laurie Taylor and Matthew Taylor.
Short Books, 141 pp., £6.99, January 2003, 1 904095 25 9
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The Commercialisation of Intimate Life 
by Arlie Russell Hochschild.
California, 313 pp., £32.95, May 2003, 0 520 21487 0
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... It a working-mother version of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Pearson is a more literary writer than Helen Fielding (and almost as funny). On the other hand, both novels, while seemingly on the side of their plucky post-feminist heroines, revel in their pratfalls and humiliations. And both send conservative, ultimately dispiriting messages about women’s ...

Black Electricities

John Sutherland, 30 October 1997

The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. Vol. XXV: January-December 1850 
edited by Clyde de L. Ryals and K.J. Fielding.
Duke, 364 pp., £52, September 1997, 0 8223 1986 1
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Reminiscences 
by Thomas Carlyle, edited by K.J. Fielding and Ian Campbell.
Oxford, 481 pp., £7.99, September 1997, 0 19 281748 5
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... a larger entry in the Index than ‘Dickens: novelist’. A gem is Jane’s account to her cousin, Helen, of the great ball they went to at Bath House in July 1850, at the height of the London season. ‘Mr C.,’ Jane reports, ‘was “quite determined for once in his life to see an aristocratic ball”.’ Seeing was one thing, being seen another. What ...

Grousing

James Francken: Toby Litt, 7 August 2003

Finding Myself 
by Toby Litt.
Hamish Hamilton, 425 pp., £14.99, June 2003, 0 241 14155 9
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... which is perceived or marketed as appealing to young women’ – it is not the fault of Helen Fielding’s comedy of manners. Fielding’s blundering, know-nothing heroine, ‘rudderless and boyfriendless’ at 32, has been imitated in any number of opportunistic rip-offs, in which the incidental comic ...

Secrets are best kept by those who have no sense of humour

Alan Bennett: Why I turned down ‘Big Brother’, 2 January 2003

... Van and The Clothes They Stood Up In as their this month’s read. It’s actually the choice of Helen Fielding, whom I’d imagined utterly metropolitan but turns out to come from Morley, though now living in Los Angeles presumably on the proceeds of her two bestsellers. After the segment we have tea in the Pierre and talk about Leeds, and I walk down ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... Horace Walpole ... twenty, plus the recognised fathers of the novel ... Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Tobias Smollett and Lawrence [sic] Sterne; generosity indeed to double the number!’ A list so nakedly daft obviates detailed scrutiny. It may be worth asking how Lever (born 1806) contrived to predate Jane Austen. If Spender wants ...

Getting high

Charles Nicholl, 19 March 1987

The Global Connection: The Crisis of Drug Addiction 
by Ben Whitaker.
Cape, 384 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 224 02224 5
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... the perceived benefit is to get well or to get high. After the Trojan War, according to Homer, Helen gave Telemachus a draught of nepenthe – almost certainly a reference to a Theban opium – to ‘banish memories’ and ‘calm grief and anger’. I am not sure whether this was medical or recreational. The use of hallucinogens in mystical and ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... Hugo Gernsback invented SF, that the ‘rise of the novel’ is synonymous with Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, there is something usefully corrective in the Companion’s counter-claims. They are not the first to be one-sided. It is astonishing, looking back at Ian Watt’s book, for instance, to find that no woman novelist figures in his account. In Michael ...

Fiction and E.M. Forster

Frank Kermode: At the Cost of Life, 10 May 2007

... convert to Roman Catholicism, a bestselling author and a tormented nun, very properly named Sister Helen of the Transfiguration, but we don’t have to wait to the end to know about all that; her future is frequently mentioned proleptically. The narrator seems to be looking down on a completed action and picking out events at will; chronological sequence is ...

Another Mother

Frank Kermode, 13 May 1993

Morgan: A Biography of E.M. Forster 
by Nicola Beauman.
Hodder, 404 pp., £20, May 1993, 0 340 52530 4
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... rate in any recognisable manner, even in his private journals. One is reminded of the comment on Fielding and Hamidullah in A Passage to India: they regretted the death of Mrs Moore, ‘but they were middle-aged men, who had invested their emotions elsewhere, and outbursts of grief could not be expected from them over a slight acquaintance.’ Furbank, who ...

Touching and Being Touched

John Kerrigan: Valentine Cunningham, 19 September 2002

Reading after Theory 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £45, December 2001, 0 631 22167 0
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... to join ‘the chorus of mere whingers against Theory, all those mouthy conservatives from (say) Helen Gardner . . . to Roger Shattuck . . . with their romps up and down the glooming critical slopes of the Blooms, Allan and Harold’ – this is a fair sample, unfortunately, of his idea of lively prose. He accepts that post-structuralism, new ...

‘Disgusting’

Frank Kermode: Remembering William Empson, 16 November 2006

William Empson. Vol. II: Against the Christians 
by John Haffenden.
Oxford, 797 pp., £30, November 2006, 0 19 927660 9
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... Empson explained to his publisher Ian Parsons that along with studies of Donne, Joyce and Fielding his work on Milton was designed to show how ‘the neo-Christian movement has greatly upset the natural and traditional way of reading such authors,’ and to ‘challenge’ this heresy. In the event Milton got a whole book to himself. It shows a Milton ...

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