Bushnell, Candace 1959(?)–

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Bushnell, Candace 1959(?)–

PERSONAL: Born c. 1959, in Glastonbury, CT; married Charles Askegard (a ballet dancer), July 4, 2002. Education: Attended Rice University and New York University.

ADDRESSES: Home—Manhattan, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Hyperion Editorial Department, 77 W. 66th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10023.

CAREER: Writer and journalist. New York Observer, New York, NY, columnist, 1994–c. 1998; Sex, Lives, and Video Clips (talk show), VH1, host, 1997.

WRITINGS:

FICTION

Sex and the City, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Four Blondes, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Trading Up, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.

Lipstick Jungle Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including Self, Mademoiselle, and Ladies' Home Journal.

ADAPTATIONS: Sex and the City was adapted by Darren Star into a television series for Home Box Office that ran from 1998 to 2005; Four Blondes was adapted to audiotape; Trading Up was adapted to audiotape by Audiobooks America, 2003; Lipstick Jungle was adapted to cassette and CD, 2005; television adaptations of Lipstick Jungle and Trading Up are being considered.

SIDELIGHTS: Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City is a collection of twenty-five semiautobiographical columns originally written under the same title for the New York Observer. Writing with humor and insight, according to Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Sandra Tsing Loh, Bushnell humanizes the glamorous substratum of New Yorkers who are models, artists, and book publishers, as well as other high-profile individuals at work in business and advertising. While the author's focus is on her characters' search for romance, she reveals at the same time the social fabric from which they are cut.

Bushnell thinly disguises the identities of her subjects with such names as "Mr. Big" (a publisher) and "Bone" (a model). Mr. Big, remarked a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "is a better date than most of the model-obsessed men" described in Sex and the City; however, Mr. Big is also selfish and unable to maintain a serious romantic relationship—a "toxic bachelor," as Bushnell puts it. In Time, Ginia Bellafante summed up the ethic by which most of the author's characters seek partners: "Men just want to go out with models; women just want to marry moguls."

Bushnell has "an absolutely uncanny ear for dialogue," maintained Loh. Basing her reports from such locations as a swingers' club, a gallery opening, and a book publicity launch, Bushnell focuses more on talk about sex and dating rituals than sex itself. A Kirkus Reviews contributor remarked that the book "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.'" In 1998 Sex and the City became a popular television series for Home Box Office (HBO). Bushnell served as a consultant during the first two seasons of the series.

Bushnell's next book, Four Blondes, also looks at the sex lives of glamorous women in upscale professions, but they are women who enter into relationships for reasons other than love. The book contains four loosely connected stories, all with titles referring to methods of hair coloring. "Nice N' Easy" is about a model who has affairs with wealthy men so she can summer at their homes in Long Island's exclusive Hamptons area. "Platinum" concerns a woman who marries into royalty but finds being a princess does not make her happy. "Highlights (For Adults)" deals with a wife and husband, both journalists, who are discontented with their marriage and seek excitement through extramarital liaisons. In "Single Process," a beautiful New York writer travels to London to research an article on the differences between British and U.S. ideas about sex.

People reviewer Anne-Marie O'Neill commented that the protagonists of Four Blondes "set feminism back decades" by seeking identity and status through the men in their lives, yet they are somehow sympathetic. The author also manages to show "the tarnish behind the glitz" of her characters' rarefied environment, O'Neill related. New York Times Book Review contributor Kim France granted that "Bushnell has her milieu down cold," but added: "She is not the satirist these times so richly deserve, and the reader quickly grows tired of the sulky, faux world-weariness of her blondes…. No one in these stories experiences any manner of education, redemption or meaningful resolution." Booklist's Donna Seaman voiced a similar criticism, commenting that the book's "bitter little tabloid tales are too tired and careless for genuine satire and too nasty and lacking in soul to even qualify as entertainment." A Publishers Weekly contributor, though, deemed Bushnell's work "mercilessly satirical" and full of "scathing insights and razor wit," with characters who share the "universal human fear" of "dying without having left their mark."

One of the characters from Four Blondes is featured in her Trading Up, Bushnell's satirical look at American society. Her heroine is the shallow lingerie model for Victoria's Secret named Jamie Wilcox. Jamie finds success by embracing a shallow lifestyle only to learn in the end that she must reevaluate her life and relationships. A somewhat more serious look at women's lives in modern society came next with Lipstick Jungle. In this novel, Bushnell's heroines are three successful career women in their forties: Nico O'Neilly is a magazine publisher, Wendy Healy is a film studio executive, and Victory Ford is a fashion designer.

The title of the novel refers to the working world of women, and in Lipstick Jungle the gender roles seem definitely reversed. Bushnell's female characters are strong, successful, and at least fairly confident figures, while the men in their lives are shown as often weak, lazy, indecisive, or unambitious. However, the emphasis in the book is more on personal fulfillment through careers and female friendships, rather than romantic relations. Critics of the novel predicted that the high-society setting would attract her current fans, while a Publishers Weekly reviewer added, "Bushnell's emphasis on female friendship and career ambition may also win her a legion of new readers." While Andrea Y. Griffith of the Library Journal had some reservations concerning "awkward plot machinations" in the book, she praised the "likeable yet strong characters."

When the television series Sex and the City finished its last season on HBO in 2005, talks began between network executives and the author concerning a new television show based on Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle. The author told Knight Ridder/Tribune interviewer Kara Kridler: "There's an interest in turning Trading Up into a show as well."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of Four Blondes, p. 2073.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1996. review of Sex and the City, p. 796.

Knight Ridder/Tribune, July 17, 2003, Kara Kridler, "'Sex and the City' Author Bushnell Dishes on Life and Her New Book."

Library Journal, August 1, 2005, Andrea Y. Griffith, review of Lipstick Jungle, p. 65.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 28, 1996, Sandra Tsing Loh, review of Sex and the City, p. 3.

New York Times Book Review, October 15, 2000, Kim France, "They Don't Have More Fun."

People, September 25, 2000, Anne-Marie O'Neill, review of Four Blondes, p. 51.

Publishers Weekly, July 3, 2000, review of Four Blondes, p. 46; July 11, 2005, review of Lipstick Jungle, p. 60.

Time, August 12, 1996, Ginia Bellafante, review of Sex and the City, p. 66.

ONLINE

Candace Bushnell: Official Site, http://www.candacebushnell.com (January 14, 2006).

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