BJD was probably the first novel I’ve ever read in English. I was doing my ERASMUS in Glasgow on such a tight budget that I couldn’t go home for Christmas. So I spent those holidays getting to know the city, visiting free museums and reading the books my flat-mates left behind. I had books, the apartment to myself, central heating, the white Christmas I’d been longing for since I was a kid, and the company of other stranded exchange students. Overall, things weren’t so bad.
I remember being puzzled by a lot of the slang in BDJ, but in general thinking it was one of the most hilarious things I’d ever read. This was a time when I was mostly into the serious stuff, like the Russians and other classics, and BJD opened a whole new world to me.
As in my Mists of Avalon post, I’m not going to bother with plot, but just focus on what changed since that winter of 2001.
It was hilarious then and it’s still hilarious now, I’m glad to report. Now I’m even able to get some British-inside-jokes I’m sure I missed at the time. For instance, now I can really understand the level of rejection that equates to a rejected British Rail sandwich:
When someone leaves you, apart from missing them, apart from the fact that the whole little world you’ve created together collapses, and that everything you see or do reminds you of them, the worst is the thought that they tried you out and, in the end, the whole sum of parts adds up to you got stamped REJECT by the one you love. How can you not be left with the personal confidence of a passed over British Rail sandwich?
And I hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights:
It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.
On a different note, the whole office flirting with Daniel stinks of sexual harassment. I remember already thinking back then that they were going a bit too far, but this time around I was positively shocked. Was messaging things like “PS. I like your tits in that top” to your employee considered acceptable back in the mid-90s?!
My biggest fear with this re-reading was that I’d start thinking of Bridget as a self-absorbed, small-minded woman, with whom I’d have little in common except the love of ice-cream and Pride and Prejudice. I was pretty annoyed with her for her message-exchange with Daniel, but in general she surprised me. Bridget is a bit self-absorbed, and often dense, but she’s also someone who’s always actively trying to be better, to improve, and I must respect and admire her for it. She does it through the traditional healthy living resolutions, but also has the confidence to quit her job and a bad relationship.
By making her famous list of the men she’ll stay away from (alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobic’s, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits or perverts), she’s acknowledging her tendency to make wrong choices and, with the help of her honest Diary, change for the best.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I was really surprised by Bridget’s will-power and perseverance, even after historical skew-ups.
It is proved by surveys that happiness does not come from love, wealth or power but the pursuit of attainable goals: and what is a diet if not that?
The corruption of the good by the belief in their own infallible goodnes is the most bloody dangerous pitfall in the human spectrum. Once you have conquered all your sins, pride is the one which will conquer you. A man starts off deciding he is a good man because he makes good decisions. Next thing, he’s convinced that whatever decision he makes must be good because he’s a good man. Most of the wars in the world are caused by people who think they have god on their side. Always stick with people who know they are flawed and ridiculous.
And finally, during this re-reading, just like more than 10 years ago, I got upset about Bridget’s mom Portuguese lover. His name is Julio when in Portuguese its written Júlio, with an accent. Unlike, say, in Spain, it’s not a common Portuguese name, but I would be willing to accept it better if I wasn’t almost 100% sure that in her head, Helen Fielding was pronouncing the “Ju” as “Rru”, the Spanish way, instead of “Ju”, as in “Jubilee”, the Portuguese way. Also, the mom comes back from Portugal bringing castanets and a “straw donkey”. Again, perfect souvenirs, if you’re IN SPAIN.
Still, apart from these little details, I still enjoyed myself and look forward to the re-reading The Edge of Reason, of which I remember almost absolutely nothing.