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”), how many openly admire her writing, are edified by her opinions, and find her sartorial advice useful?
In other words—and this is the question that surely exercised her publishers as they calculated the sum to bid for Girl Least Likely To—what proportion of her incontrovertibly rapt audience are potential hardback book buyers rather than mere hate-readers?
These gifts are fully on display in Girl Least Likely To, an autobiography of sorts that traces the rueful course of the author’s self-loathing, from her deprived Essex beginnings as the youngest of seven siblings, to her teenage descent into the iron grip of anorexia, to her determined yet constantly precarious progress as a journalist.
(When she declared that Stephen Fry’s suicide attempt “took real guts,” one journalist tweeted that it was “the most dangerous irresponsible thing in any paper this year.”) But Jones, like most outrage-provoking commentators, starkly divides opinion.She would pore over her older sister’s teen magazines, but was also obsessed with Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut: “She was my ideal …pigtails, a crumpled face, that bony sternum, that perfect S-bend her childlike body made as she hovered and teetered on the bar.” Then when a Vogue smuggled into hospital recommends an 800-calorie-a-day diet, this justified her continued starvation.The confessionalism has scaled such heights—or plumbed such depths—that, according to her fellow Mail on Sunday contributor Rachel Johnson (Boris’s sister), Jones has “single-handedly killed off the ordinary female columnist.”Yet however you feel about Jones’s stock-in-trade of oversharing self-obsession, to dismiss her as not a good writer, or an interesting one, or an occasionally very funny one, is to reveal yourself as either blinded by dislike or a poor arbiter of writerly merit.Jones’s prose, at its best, is effortlessly readable, with a deceptively artless simplicity and a self-abnegating-bordering-on-masochistic candor that mesmerizes.