In a way, Candace Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle
picks up where her career-defining book Sex and the City
left off, in the money-soaked, power-hungry, beauty-obsessed jungle that is New York City. This time around, the ladies are a bit older, a lot richer, but not particularly wiser nor more endearing than Bushnell's earlier heroines.
Lipstick Jungle weaves the stories of Nico O'Neilly, Wendy Healy, and Victory Ford, numbers 8, 12, and 17 on The New York Post's list of "New York's 50 Most Powerful Women." But this is 21st Century New York, and to get ahead and stay ahead, these women will do anything, including jeopardizing their personal and professional relationships. Take for example Nico, editor-in-chief of Bonfire magazine, who betrays her boss to rise to the top of the entire magazine division at media mega-giant Splatch-Verner. As president of Paradour Pictures, Wendy may be poised to win an Oscar for her 10-year labor-of-love, Ragged Pilgrims, but her marriage is in shambles and her children care more about a $50,000 pony than their mother. And for single, 43-year-old fashion designer Victory, pleasing tough critics may be more important than ever finding the real relationship she's convinced herself she doesn't need.
This racy tale of women behaving badly manages to shrewdly flip the tables to show us how gender roles are essentially interchangeable, given the right circumstances. Whether that was Bushnell's intent when crafting this wicked tale is another story. --Gisele Toueg
10 Second Interview: A Few Words with Candace Bushnell Q:
Were Victory, Wendy, and Nico inspired by any real-life women? A:
The characters and situations in Lipstick Jungle
were inspired by the real-life women I know and admire in New York City. As with Sex and the City
, I spent a lot of time thinking about where women were today, and what I noticed was that there was a fascinating group of women in their forties who were leading non-traditional lives. They were highly successful and motivated, they often had children, and usually were the providers for their families, and yet, they didn't fit the old stereotype of the witchy businesswoman. Indeed, so many of these women were the girls next door, the girls who reminded me of my best friends when I was a kid and we used to fantasize about the great things we were going to do in life. Like the women in Sex and the City
, the Lipstick Jungle
women are charting new lives for themselves, redefining what it means to be a woman when you really are as powerful, or more powerful, than a man.
Of course, you probably want specifics, so I will say that there was a moment when it all clicked. Tina Brown used to write a terrific column in the Washington Post
, and one of the things she was always mentioning was how there was a group of powerful women who were meeting and lunching at Michael's restaurant. They'd been working for over twenty years, their children were now in their early teens and didn't need them every minute, and now, in their forties or early fifties, they had time to strive for new career goals and to spend more time with their girlfriends. I thought, "Aha--that's the Lipstick Jungle." Q:
What kind of research did you do to cover fashion, film, and publishing in one book? A:
To research fashion, film and publishing, I did what I always do--I talked to my girlfriends! Of course, it helps that I've worked in magazine publishing and have had my share of experience with Hollywood. I'm also lucky enough to have a couple of girlfriends who are top designers, who offered to help me out with the specific details. I still remember the afternoon when one of my girlfriends and I sat down to talk--she was over eight months pregnant, and I was worried that we were going to have to run to the hospital!
Amazon.com's Significant Seven
Candace Bushnell graciously agreed to answer the questions we like to ask every author: the Amazon.com Significant Seven.
Q: What book has had the most significant impact on your life?
A: So many books have affected my life it's hard to pick just one. When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with Kurt Vonnegut, and Evelyn Waugh; when I was in my early thirties, a girlfriend and I re-read House of Mirth, and freaked out--we didn't want to end up like Lily Bart. Most recently I read Angela's Ashes for the first time and was absolutely stunned.
Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?
A: Make Way for Lucia, by E.F. Benson, a book that I always hope will never end; Van Morrison's greatest hits; and Pride and Prejudice, the six-part mini-series..
Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told?
A: "My e-mail isn't working." I'm not a good liar. It's one of my flaws. I'm too forthright and usually have to apologize the next day for telling the truth the night before.
Q: Describe the perfect writing environment.
A: All I need is a desk, a chair and my computer. Once I start writing, I don't notice my environment. In fact, I've had people try to talk to me when I'm writing and I literally can't hear them. I see their mouths moving but no sound comes out.
Q: If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?
A: "I don't ever want to be asked about my own epitaph!"
Q: Who is the one person living or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
A: Tolstoy. I've read that he loved gossip. It would be great to have a good old gossip with him.
Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: Flying, of course. Who wouldn't want to be unfettered by gravity?
Though Bushnell's fourth book opens in familiar Sex and the City
territory—a fashion show in Bryant Park where attendees sport Jimmy Choo and Baume & Mercier—the novel quickly takes off for deeper waters. For once, men—how to get them, how to keep them—aren't Bushnell's central focus, and her three main characters, all women in their early 40s, are surely her richest to date. Two of the three are married with children; all are at the top of their field. Wendy, a movie executive at the Miramax-like Parador, struggles to finish a potentially Oscar-winning flick while placating her unemployed hubby at home. Nico, editor-in-chief at Bonfire
magazine, juggles the Machiavellian politics of her corporate parent-company with the needs of her naïf boy-toy lover and her savvy Columbia professor husband. And while fashion designer Victory Ford may date a Mr. Big-like character, she takes the relationship lightly. Most of her energies are directed to saving her business, which has fallen on hard times since she launched a new, more innovative line. Bushnell herself won't face the same problem. There's plenty of the old razzle-dazzle to satisfy her fans. Her characters lunch at Michael's, go on dates to the Whitney Biennial and shop for ponies at the Palm Beach Polo Club. There's a make-out session in a bar bathroom, panty ripping on a kitchen countertop and many frank descriptions of urban sexual mores. But Bushnell's emphasis on female friendship and career ambition may also win her a legion of new readers. Her characters want "the sweet, creamy sensation of power," and it's Bushnell's account of how they got it, and how they keep it, that will really keep readers turning pages. Expect a splashy debut, followed by a long run of sales.
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