"The Adrian Mole Diaries" is an amusing book and a publishing phenomenon. You couldn't visit London last year without becoming aware of it. The paperbacks were everywhere (it was originally two books, "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4" and "The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole"), and concurrently an Adrian Mole TV sitcom and an Adrian Mole musical comedy were enjoying a parallel success. Adrian Mole bids fair to become the James Bond of the '80s, for like Bond he is a figure universally comprehensible, an archetype. He is what we have all been (or may still be): a callow youth. He is the truth behind the daydream we shared when we read "The Catcher in the Rye" and discovered that we were all Holden Caulfields, lonely, sensitive teen-agers in a world of corrupt adults.
Of course, like Adrian, we might have had to restrain our rebellion against school authorities, not having Holden's golden parachute, but even as we did our homework we seethed inside, and we knew ourselves to be, intellectually, the equals of anyone. Here is Adrian on a theme on which he often reflects -- what it's like to be an intellectual:
"6 p.m. I am very unhappy and have once again turned to great literature for solace. It's no surprise to me that intellectuals commit suicide, go mad or die from drink. We feel things more than other people. We know the world is rotten and that chins are ruined by spots. I am reading 'Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom' by Andrei D. Sakharov.
"It is an 'inestimably important document' according to the cover.
"11:30 p.m. 'Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom' is inestimably boring, according to me, Adrian Mole.
"I disagree with Sakharov's analysis of the causes of the revivalism of Stalinism. We are doing Russia at school so I speak from knowledge."
Adrian has equally weighty things to say about the joy of love, the torment of desire and the abuses of authority, as when Mr. Scruton, the headmaster at his school, insists that Adrian's classmates abandon their "experimental" Nativity play:
"He said he wanted to see a traditional Nativity play, with a Tiny Tears doll playing Jesus and three wise men dressed in dressing gowns and tea towels. He threatened to cancel the play if Mary, alias Pandora, continued to go into simulated labour in the manger. This is typical of Scruton, he is nothing but a small-minded, provincial, sexually-inhibited fascist pig. How he rose to become a headmaster I do not know. He has been wearing the same hairy green suit for three years."
Adrian does have some blind spots. The reader is likely to become aware of his parents' adulteries and of his mother's pregnancy long before Adrian himself. And his poetry, though it gathers some remarkable rejection letters from highly placed figures at the BBC, is not yet of the first rank.
With 5 million copies of the book sold in England, a reviewer is scarcely needed to testify that a proportionate number of American readers will probably be amused by Adrian's diaries. Like Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon Days" and Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker" series, Adrian Mole first came before the public as a radio program, and as sitcoms go, Adrian is right up there with Archie and Edith Bunker and the Honeymooners. It seems a good bet that he will be adapted to the American TV market: an American Adrian who doesn't refer to strange brand names or British politicians but is callow in an authentically American vein. If you don't want to wait for the networks to spin that off (it should take them at least a year), then join the 5 million and enjoy the prevideo version.