On the treadmill to oblivion Back when at least a few entertainers owned both intelligence and a sense of the fitness of things, Fred Allen, the great wit and radio comedian in his case, not mutually contradictory terms wrote his autobiography and titled it Treadmill to Oblivion. It is an inspired title to an inspired book, one of the points of which is that no matter what you do or how well you do it on your path in life, almost inevitably it will lead to being forgotten.

The seemingly dour but actually quite prosaic outlook expressed in that title might seem an odd introduction to Helen Fielding's much-heralded screwball novel, Bridget Jones's Diary. But I believe it is valid, especially for readers who have not only intelligence and a sense of the fitness of things, but also a few years on them i.e., those of us in the geezer or pre-geezer geologic strata who might think that a novel, however hilarious, about the romantic entanglements of an unmarried, thirtysomething British woman could hold little interest for them.

Wrong. First, if you are a member of the generation that considered living together before marriage shacking up, you will be much amused, with your treadmill-to-oblivion perspective, by the emotional gyrations of Bridget Jones and her generation, knowing that in a matter of fleeting decades they will amount to naught. This, of course, is an attitude that irritates the hell out of the Bridget Jones generation and is to be encouraged.

Besides that, the book is just plain funny. There have been many English diarists over the centuries, from Samuel Pepys to Adrian Mole, and while Bridget may not quite be the equal of Sue Townsend's 13-and-3/4-year-old Adrian in sharp observation, she certainly rivals Mr. Pepys in personal revelation.

The book is told in the form of a diary over the course of one year, chronicling Bridget's Singleton anxiety that she may never find Mr. Right, her doubts that there is such a thing as Mr. Right, and her resentments that she feels she has to be on such a search at all. I sat, head down, she writes on September 9, quivering at their inferences of female sell-by dates and life as a game of musical chairs where girls without a chair/man when the music stops/they pass thirty are

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