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Success and the Single Girl

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Knopf is betting that Otherwise Engaged will be a "big book"; ordering up an initial run of 75,000. But its release next month will put it directly in the path of Bridget's paperback debut, on May 24. Viking plans a blitzkrieg release of 460,000 copies, with all the attendant fanfare. Fielding herself touches down for a frenzied round of morning shows and book signings June 1. Tellingly, her stops will include Bloomingdale's as well as Barnes & Noble.

While Finnamore jokes about Bridget's omnipotence ("Bridget is like Jesus Christ. Everything is B.B., before Bridget. We're P.B., post-Bridget!"), her publicist is alert to the risks in the comparison. As Katie Roiphe notes, the fascination with the thirtysomething single gal could have a limited shelf life. "The genre has a danger of being annoying," she says. "It's like Ally McBeal. It was interesting in the beginning, but you can't stand that much of it." In England, Bridget has devolved from an icon into something of a punch line. "Her moment is so past," sniffs Sally Ann Lasson, who writes Tatler's "Sex in Society" column. Even the Bridget Jones movie, which Fielding is writing for Working Title Films (Four Weddings and a Funeral), is rumored to be on hold because of the book's overexposure.

Detractors wouldn't be sorry to see the genre wear out its welcome. To Danielle Crittenden, the Lit Girls' spirited high jinks mask a real anxiety that still accompanies the state of being single in your thirties. It's an opinion shared, somewhat surprisingly, by Marcelle Karp, the 35-year-old cofounder of the femzine Bust. Many of the new books, she points out, paint single life as a long, sexy party: "Everyone gets laid a lot and wears Prada. But they're glamorizing something that is vaguely uncomfortable. The reality is, single women in their thirties are only going out to fill the void. I don't know one woman who doesn't want a boyfriend. If she's single and 35 and saying she doesn't want children, she's only saying that because she's afraid she won't have them. I go out every night of the week because it's better to go out than be home alone."

"Single women today may have lots of problems," counters the 40-year-old Webzine editor Marisa Bowe, "but they're certainly having more fun than their mothers did. Which is better, to be single but lonely sometimes or be stuck in the suburbs, carting your kids around to their lessons while your husband is gone all day and people make you feel like you're a moron? That's why Valium was so popular."

Last Tuesday night, at Kate Bohner's 32nd-birthday party, there was no Valium in sight but plenty of other libations available. The festivities, held at a spanking-new apartment in Trump's Riverside Boulevard complex, seemed like a scene from a Bushnell book come to life. Bohner and Bushnell are, after all, best friends, but tonight Candace, stuck in England, couldn't make it. (She called from the plane.)

Bohner, looking fetching in a light-blue sheath, a matching shawl tucked under her spaghetti straps, stood by the bar in a huddle with the women she calls the Sisterhood: a group that includes Sarah Colleton, who produces movies with Penny Marshall, and the novelist Karen Moline, whose second novel, Belladonna, sold for a million dollars. Both are, of course, still single. Around them, several dozen guests -- carefully groomed and studiedly casual women -- guzzled chilled Dom Perignon. Nobody bothered with the hors d'oeuvre.

"There was a time when turning 32 would have seemed scary," giggled Bohner, who had been an investment banker, a Forbes columnist, and a CNBC correspondent all before she was 30. "Now it's like, fuck, who cares! We take care of ourselves. It's the way plate tectonics works in socioanthropology," she explained, pouring herself another glass of champagne, and coolly surveying the room.

"The New York scene is like continents that shift. There are more thirtysomething women now than ever before. We're the genre with the biggest continent." She laughs. "And we're moving in on everybody else."


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