IT'S LITTLE WONDER that Sex and the City darling Sarah Jessica Parker, as sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw, is seen clutching a frosty pink Cosmopolitan during nearly every show. Author Candace Bushnell, the real-life Carrie Bradshaw and creator of the now-huge HBO series, seems to see everything in girlie pink: pink drinks, pink toes, pink panties, pink lips, pink steak, pink pills—all ultra-femme objects.
by Candace Bushnell (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24)
There's such a pre-engineered, sugary pink glow choking each woefully glamorous woman in Bushnell's latest, 4 Blondes, that it feels like being trapped inside someone's birth-control case. A collection of novellas that showcases four Manhattan women and their vinegar-hearted methods of finding men, careers, and money, it rarely strays from the cocktail-hour cynicism Bushnell poured into Sex and the City.
Bushnell was never exactly complex, but she was fun and honest. Women appreciated that, and showed it by making her once-small sex column into a megahit. But the retread feel of 4 Blondes seems to demonstrate that she's shown us all she's got. Nearly everyone is ultra-rich, ultra-beautiful, and ultra-fucked up. Those who aren't are barely noticed. This Harlequin Romance tunnel vision is OK for beach reading, but summer's over now.
Four narrators show us their hell: A fading supermodel only sleeps with men who can offer her a nice summer home in the Hamptons; a bitter but successful journalist obsesses over whether to leave her reporter husband; a mentally ill socialite marries the most-wanted bachelor in the world, only to hit rock-bottom; a sex columnist travels to London to do some "research," only to find true love. Depressing sex, pat gender roles, tired feminazi rants, and a dizzying array of designer names pepper each story. No one gives a shit about anyone else, and considering their lame life philosophies, it's no surprise.
That's not to say this isn't an enjoyable read because the characters are evil (that's likely their only redeeming quality); it's just that reading about them and their weak life choices makes you feel like Judy Blume nailed this ruthless-modern-chick bit nearly 20 years ago. The book's plotlines are as skeletal as the models and New York socialites who populate its pages, and the Darwinism Bushnell employs to select her characters makes for a vapid canvas.
In "Highlights (for Adults)," the pissed-off career woman, Winnie, hates her husband so much she makes Dynasty bitch Joan Collins look caring. Bushnell answers every other sentence with a subconscious parenthetical retort—a distracting and annoying device:
[Winnie and James] hate people who do drugs. They hate people who drink too much (unless it's one of their friends, and then they complain bitterly about the person afterward). They hate the Hamptons (but rent a house there anyway, on Shelter Island, which, they remind themselves, isn't really the Hamptons). They believe in the poor (they do not know anyone who is poor except their Jamaican nanny, who is not exactly poor).
THERE IS, HOWEVER, one lovable girl in this mean old world. "Platinum," the third story, shows us neurotic Princess Cecilia Kelly Luxenstein, a simple Massachusetts girl who managed to meet and marry a real prince. Tabloid covers document her every move. But she doesn't do anything. Paparazzi live in Princess Cecilia's bushes, but she doesn't care. She writes in her journal in all caps while snorting crappy coke and wonders why her beautiful husband doesn't like her anymore. She can neither eat nor hold an average conversation, and wears a bastardized wardrobe of Prada, stained sweatpants, vomit, and bedhead. Like a refugee from Valley of the Dolls, she's stark raving mad—and we love her for it.
Beyond Cecilia's story, though, nothing strays outside of Sex and the City's co-op of drinks, lust, and loneliness. Bushnell's strong distaste for any woman under 30 is a yawn, and her fortysomething haughtiness leaves her stale (the songs on the radio are pedestrian hits from three years ago, for example). Avoid the dreadfully forced last story ("Single Process," get it?) at all costs. Bushnell thinly disguises herself as the main character and goes to London to see if English men really are as tiny-dicked as everyone tells her.
There are two options. Either watch that cute little Sarah Jessica on TV, or pick up the far craftier Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks. Both have the same sentiment but dance the tango around this beauty-salon mush. Sorry, Candace, but it sounds like you're all sexed out.
More books, please!!