Sex & the City Revisited. Chick-lit.
I am currently on a chick-lit binge. It started a few weeks ago very prim and proper when I picked up Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and since then I have not been able to stop and it just keeps getting worse and worse until stumbling upon the likes of Tamara Mellon’s (Jimmy Choo creator) autobiography, and along the way stumbling across Candace Bushnell’s ‘other’ books. I use the quotation marks because really, as we all know, Bushnell has written only one book: Sex and the City. And so I read that too.
I have watched the TV series over and over. I can recite the plot lines, episodes, the post-it break-up, and on and on. Bushnell has often been compared to Austen in the sense of capturing the subtleties of society and human nature in general. Its the gift of capturing unspoken rules that I most admire in both writers. And then there is the fact that maybe Bushnell has also been copying a bit of Austen; maybe she chose Austen as her novelist mentor. In regards to single, rich, men:
“He was feted and petted and continually fixed up on blind dates, because there is nothing more exciting to society than a newly single man flush with a fortune he isn’t exactly sure how to spend…” – on Mr.Big
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want for a wife….this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters” – opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice.
So it makes me wonder if Bushnell just had the intelligence and creativity to take a model of observation and apply it to her own ecosystem, the New York City of the 1990s. She captures it with acute precision – the finance men, the upcoming models, the gentrification of parts of the city, the gritty parts, the cynicism, even the amount of print journalists portrayed in the novel speaks of an era. The characters in the book versus the TV series are a lot less important – they almost seem like excuses, characters invented to act out the many anecdotes Bushnell writes about. Fashion plays a much less significant role; yes the outfits are described in detail but there is not emphasis on brands, which was a key part of the tv series. Carrie is a lot more superficial and Mr.Big is actually a lot nicer and much more romantic.
And then if this were written today… often Girls has been quoted as the Sex and the City of the 21st century… So I wonder what is next. Who will next be able to so amusingly capture it all? And then I wonder if for the next novel/series I won’t even be able to relate anymore OR if it is Austen says and these are universally accepted truths that will always remain the same?
PS – I couldn’t write this post without mentioning my other favorite chick-lit writer Edith Wharton who captured New York just as well but a century and a half ago but whom I have not been reading on this chick-lit binge but will surely come back to in the upcoming months…