Fabulous Shoes, Toxic Bachelors, Paralyzing Loneliness

Sex And The City by Candace Bushnell

Candace Bushnell has gleaned fascinating and haunting insights into the love lives of the rich and randy from her popular New York Observer column and here they have been freshened up and airbrushed into an oddly touching collection.

While the privileged, beautiful, pony-skin-boot-wearing folk she reports on seem ripe for parody, Bushnell has chosen to humanize them. The earlier articles feature Bushnell herself; she wisely removes herself from the later pieces, writing with the detached grace of an early Didion, and allows her friend and alter ego Carrie to do the reporting.

In one story, Carrie and her friends journey to Connecticut’s wealthy suburbs to attend a wedding shower, complaining all the way. Bushnell perfectly captures the poignant moment when the New York group, glossy and single, realize that they are in fact jealous of their settled friend. The realization leads to a series of confessions; One friend nervously admits that she broke her ankle while rollerblading in an attempt to impress the younger man she was dating.

Many of these pieces focus on the rise and fall of Carrie’s relationship with “Mr. Big,” who is a better date than most of the model-obsessed men she meets, but who is also a “toxic bachelor”—unappreciative, self-centered, allergic to commitment—all the same.

Bushnell’s point, at its simplest level, is that what the glamorous women she writes about really want is a husband. But her writing is more sensitive than that, subtly catching the ways in which, beneath the veneer of Manolo Blahnik and the unending parties and the late nights at trendy bars, New York is a cruel place for smart, older women. Whatever lip service their male peers pay to equality, what men really want is perpetual youth.

Often funny and occasionally bleak, this is a captivating look at the “Age of Un-Innocence,” in a city in which the glittering diversions don’t quite make up for the fact that “Cupid has flown the coop.”

Sex And The City by Candace Bushnell (Atlantic Monthly, 208pp, ISBN: 0-87113-642-2)

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Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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