on September 24, 2008
I had never read a Candace Bushnell novel before this and never seen a complete episode of Sex and the City, though I had heard of it. I've been disappointed by most of the recent (and ballyhooed) novels I've read. But on previewing an excerpt of One Fifth in Vogue, I was intrigued by the profoundly shallow character of Lola Fabrikant, a fabricated girl with a name to match. Now on reading the book, I am genuinely impressed. Candace Bushnell is a true storyteller, and that's no small praise. She's written a pageturner, crafted memorable characters, imbued them with individuality and personality, and given them the most luscious lines to speak. Her subject is not sex despite what you may think, and though there is considerably more explicitness than in Edith Wharton or Jane Austen (you may skip, as I did, the overly anatomical descriptions), Bushnell's real subject is the pursuit of status and success in New York City at the present moment. Many have tried this subject before, but the Jayne Krentzes and Rona Jaffes of the past were hacks compared to Bushnell. She's not an artist, but she is very clever and even wise. And she spins a darn good story, which is what a novel, to me, should be about. Almost every character in One Fifth Avenue is lacking his heart's desire, is deeply dissatisfied, and these frustrated desires, which conflict with those of their neighbors, drive the plot lines of the novel. The greatest desire of all is not for love, but for real estate, in the form of a penthouse triplex at One Fifth Avenue, up for sale after the death of its centenarian socialite owner, felled on her own terrace in a driving rainstorm. A crowning irony is that this aged doyenne who possesses the acme of desire, the immense apartment atop Manhattan's coveted address, dies of pneumonia because her servants can't locate her in time in the 7,000 square foot apartment. Such is the futility of possession.
on September 23, 2008
Candace Bushnell is a genius in this medium. She is a wonderful literary talent who mixes comedy with dark drama in the most interesting of New York settings. ONE FIFTH is a comedy that both New Yorkers and Americans alike can relate to as the tenants of this grand building trample over each other when some try to reach their way to the top of the social scale and buy what is certainly one of the best penthouses in NYC's famous Greenwhich village. Where the fervent Bushnell fans will be delighted to see familar-type faces; the young Lola Fabrikant, the gorgeous actress Schiffer Diamond, that everyone wishes they were. New readers will maybe find a bit of themselves in the reserved but intelligent character of Annalisa or the overachiever, Mindy Gooch, who just never finds happiness, no matter how much she has accomomplished. ONE FIFTH is surely one of the most revelent books on the shelves right now and the best thing about it is, it's a damn good read. TS
on October 20, 2008
I am a huge fan of Candace's previous work, addicted to Sex In the City, watch Lipstick Jungle faithfully - so I was excited to see this come out and grabbed it immediately. I have struggled repeatedly to get through this book, and force myself to keep coming back to finish as I keep hoping something better will happen. Almost too many character storylines fighting for attention, hard to keep track! Not only does it also seem overdone, some even seems like "I've read it before" in her other books. I too think the characters are shallow and not even quite sure of the point of some of them - even for the staunchest of fans, I wouldn't recommend it.
on April 1, 2010
If you haven't heard of One Fifth Avenue, chances are that you've been living under a rock somewhere in the middle of the desert, for everyone has heard of New York City's One Fifth Avenue. It is the singular address on the East Coast, where only the true crème de la crème of society hang their hat. A building which people stop in their tracks to admire, hoping that they'll catch a mere glimpse of a celebrated actresses gloved hand as she scurries through the oversized doors dividing those who belong from those who do not; or expecting a chance encounter with a screenwriter who holds the power to launch their career. There is one resident, however, who will never allow this to happen; and that is Mindy Gooch - head of the board.
Mindy Gooch and her journalist husband James are not of the same type of breeding as the rest of the One Fifth Avenue residents; thus the reason Mindy spends so much time trying to stop each and every idea they try to implement. And as the head of the board, Mindy has the ability to put up a good fight; but not good enough.
When Louise Houghton, a true Queen of New York Society passes on, leaving a vacant apartment within One Fifth, Mindy wants nothing more than to scoop it up; but alas, she lacks the funds. Hedge-funder Paul Rice and his beautiful, if not slightly plain, attorney wife Annalisa, on the other hand, are quite well-endowed. For them, $15 million dollars is pocket change; and so, they invest in the swankiest apartment in the building. Mindy could not be more pleased; after all, if she can't have it, the highest bidder should. But when Paul attempts to install a wall-unit air conditioner in his new abode, Mindy doesn't let it fly, and Paul, unused to being told no, wages a war that slowly but surely drags each and every One Fifth resident into battle. Something that aging actress Schiffer Diamond wants absolutely no part of.
Schiffer Diamond was all the rage years ago, but she fled New York City for the bright lights of Los Angeles under the guise of furthering her career. In all actuality, her goal was to escape from the up and down relationship she shared with screenwriter Philip Oakland - a man whom she still carries a torch for. When the opportunity to work on a new TV show presents itself, Schiffer leaves her LA life behind to head back to the Big Apple, One Fifth, and...old flame Philip.
Philip Oakland has never gotten over Schiffer Diamond. Women have come and gone from his life over the years, but it is Schiffer who has forever stayed on his mind. When he learns that she's returning to New York - specifically, One Fifth - there's a small flicker of hope that the two of them may have the chance to rekindle their romance; until twenty-something Lola Fabrikant enters the picture.
Lola is a gold-digger of the worst possible kind. A supposed Southern Belle from Atlanta, Lola is a cunning girl who will do anything and everything to claw her way to the top and claim her title as the next Carrie Bradshaw; and if she happens to snag herself a billionaire during her climb...even better. When she begins successfully seducing Philip, Lola believes that she is on the road to accomplishing her goal. But there's someone who won't let that happen...
...gossip columnist Enid Merle, Philip's Aunt and fellow One Fifth resident can see right through Lola Fabrikant. As a wealthy individual who built herself up from scratch, she has no respect for a girl who uses her body to get what she wants, and refuses to give the budding relationship between Philip and Lola her blessing. Rather, she is determined to push Lola as far out of the picture as possible; and, while she's at it, bring Schiffer and Philip together once and for all.
One thing that I have come to associate with Candace Bushnell during the course of the years that I have been reading her work is that she never ceases to amaze you. While the characters who star within the pages of Sex and the City,Lipstick Jungle,Trading Up, and 4 Blondes all share common traits and characteristics; not a single one of them has mimicked another, where you feel as if their persona has been done before. Each and every one of them has a uniqueness about their personality, even if it's just a single trait, that sets them apart from one another, and keeps the storyline fresh, fun, and fabulous - as visible within One Fifth Avenue.
As per usual, Bushnell has crafted a story not unlike a soap opera, with an eclectic cast, all of whom draw out such powerful emotions in the reader, making you feel as if you are a part of the story; something that doesn't happen everyday. You love them, you loathe them, you want to see them fail, you want to see them succeed. Bushnell brings these people to life in a way that makes them seem real. As if you'll pass them in the hallway on your way to the office or the corner store. They are not simply characters, they are true individuals; and it is that quality that keeps you turning the pages. Stock up on supplies; you won't be leaving the house until you've read every last word!
on November 25, 2008
I must say, I was extremely disappointed with Bushnell's latest novel. I had to fight with myself to finish it. I was more than halfway through the book before anything even remotely exciting happened, and then when it did, it wasn't developed very well. I am an avid reader and I always read books until the end, but this one I actually dreaded picking back up again. Lola's character is annoying and James and Mindy Gooch are so bland that it makes my head hurt. Too many characters and not enough substance make this a book I wish I would have left on the shelf. If there was a half star rating I would have given it!
on November 17, 2008
The pursuit of money and the extravagances it can buy, and what it is like to live when money is no object, is the fascinating social commentary written by one of New York's premier 21st-century novelists, Candace Bushnell. Those who possess old money and new money are striving for status, art, publicity and New York real estate.
The reader is seduced by New York City and the fantasy that if you can make it in the Big Apple, you can make it anywhere. Money, odd couple relationships and age are recurring themes with Carrie Bradshaw-style commentary by Bushnell: "Perhaps too much money was like too much sex. It crossed the line and became pornographic."
Bushnell's fifth novel shines the spotlight on an eclectic group of people who currently live at or who are scheming to live at One Fifth Avenue. Bushnell's characters are socialites, writers, gossip columnists, actresses and hedge-fund managers, and for contrast she has thrown in Mindy Gooch, who writes a blog titled "The Joys of Not Having It All." She is the outsider looking in, even though she resides at One Fifth.
When the "queen of society" Louise Houghton dies leaving her "legendary collection of jewelry," including the mysteriously stolen Cross of Bloody Mary and her historical penthouse at One Fifth with a domed ballroom and a 360-degree view of Manhattan, the race to see who can acquire the coveted real estate first begins.
The idea that money seduces us and creates aspiring social-climbing whores and that "Forty million isn't real money. A hundred million is getting there" paints a picture of our society that is alarming but possibly true. Bushnell concludes that the young are afraid to grow up to be the "establishment" --- that is, until money talks. There is power in having limitless amounts of money, but she also writes characters like Annalisa Rice who are unhappy, despite their billions and Chopard watches.
Philip Oakland grew up at One Fifth. He has won a Pulitzer Prize and an Oscar, and is writing screenplays for Hollywood, yet he is restless, out of touch and easily seduced by the much younger Lola, who is seeking to marry into money. Lola's character is the energy in this novel. She has the "unbridled confidence of youth," a keen sense of status and the power to use sexual temptation to elevate her social status. Each of her conquests is a writer, and her sexcapades are the only sex here. Romance is absent in ONE FIFTH AVENUE, but surprisingly the older women are ultimately winners over the younger ones. Age, wisdom and money still have clout, but sex without romance is like marriage, and Bushnell's readers are used to fantasy and lovers who excite us.
If you are looking for another SEX AND THE CITY with rich relationships between female friends, lovers and sexy shoes, or another LIPSTICK JUNGLE, with women working and sleeping their way to the top, you will not find that in this latest Bushnell effort. The author has matured, and in many places I felt she was writing her own experiences about million-dollar book advances, two-week book tours, fleeting fame and growing older in a city that requires mega money to surpass your peers in the "playground of New York society."
ONE FIFTH characters all share a love for New York and lead glamorous lives full of photo shoots, private dinners, ad campaigns, red carpet events, society photos, fashion and gossip. Enid Merle is a gossip columnist living at One Fifth who harbors the secrets of the bastion of the wealthy. Actress Schiffer Diamond returns to New York after a Hollywood divorce and pursues former lover Philip Oakland.
To put the characters' silver-lined lives into perspective, one of the most memorable conversations in this book is between Schiffer Diamond and society escort Billy Litchfield: "He keeps turning up like a bad penny, doesn't he?" "More like a million-dollar bill," Billy said. Now this is the Bushnell we have come to know and love. One never knows when their very own "million-dollar" lover will jet them away to Fifth Avenue for life's greatest indulgences. Don't forget --- Champagne, Chopard and Chanel are a girl's best friends!
--- Reviewed by Hillary Wagy
on March 17, 2009
In 1967 I applied to sub-let an apartment at One Fifth Avenue. It was unique, there was a sofa in the kitchen, a fireplace in the bedroom, a maze of isolated rooms and halls. And it was affordable. But, since nobody in their right mind would sub-let to an eighteen year old, I was disappointed...but I never forgot that apartment.
So, when I saw the title of the book, advertised in Vanity Fair, I just had to read it. I was especially excited, because I absolutely loved every single second of every single episode of "Sex and the City."
So, I paid full retail at an airport book store. But my flight offered more stimulating reading material in the pocket of the seat in front of me. Yes, that in flight rag-mag was better written.
But, having shelled out $28.00, I was determined to plow through the whole book, hoping for one single laugh, one tidbit of entertainment, one glimpse of the mind that created Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and the darling Charlotte. But it never happened. I hated every character in the book. They were all one dimensional stereo-types, with no redeeming qualities.
But...several of the characters did have one interesting characteristic: they had twenty foot long expanda-arms. They could press the button on the elevator while walking across the lobby. Like so many high school sophomores, Miss Bushnell, seems to think that dangling participles makes her writing sound more creative.
Usually, I loan out my books until they don't come back. This one went straight to the recycling bin....after I defaced the "authors" photo.
What a shameful waste of paper and ink.
on October 9, 2008
This novel, "One Fifth Avenue," gets its name from the Art Deco building in New York's ultra-hip Greenwich Village. Living there has a certain status to which the middle-aged main characters aspire. In "Sex and the City" it was shoes. In this book, it's real estate.
Mindy Gooch is the building's board president. She's a bitter blogger, whose husband, James, writes a commercially successful novel. Schiffer Diamond is an actress who has a relationship with a fellow tenant, a Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning author, Philip Oakland. Philip's Texan aunt, Enid Merle, is an 80-something gossip columnist; and the woman who has turned Philip's head is a schemer named Lola Fabrikant (what a name!) The designated bald, gay man is Billy Litchfield and the designated beauty queen is Annalisa Rice, who gets a strong lesson in the social rules of One Fifth Avenue. As a host of characters come and go (a LOT to keep track of particularly at first), the story is filled with competition for success and sexual tension and ultimately pulls together. There are philosophical generational conflicts (middle-age characters are "snobby," and 20-something characters are "without conscience") coupled with the age-old conflict of old and new money.
Like Candace Bushnell's previous books, it's more about colorful characters than good writing. I believe both "Sex and the City" and "Lipstick Jungle" made better television series than books and my guess is the same is true for this title. 3.5 stars.
Michele Cozzens is the author of It's Not Your Mother's Bridge Club.
on July 6, 2009
I'm not a big Candace Bushnell fan but I do appreciate a light, fluffy, juicy book about NYC inhabitants now and again. However, when the character Mindy was talking about the family finances totaling ~700K or so and that just not being enough for "her world" I just wanted to b***h slap the character and say get over it and throw the book down. However, I slogged on hoping that something interesting would happen. It didn't
The actions of the Mindy and James characters did not match the income - you can live quite well on what she would make - and save. I guess ego and appearance got in the way? But the author made it sound like they had nothing - 10 yr old sheets - come on. I have sheets newer than 10 yrs old and I'm not even close to the same tax bracket. OK - they have a son who they are sending to a $35K/yr school so maybe that explains it.
And the Lola character. OK maybe this is just the older generation (sorry Ms. Bushnell) trying to portray the younger generation (that they don't quite understand) but while we can debate about the "me-ness" or self-centeredness of the younger generations, the portrayal of a shallow character does not have to be shallow itself. I can't believe that characters who are supposed to be so rich and intelligent (especially authors and actresses) have not read the internet enough to understand or at least hear about blogs, tweets, sms, etc. It seems that the other characters may do these things (sms and blog) but only Lola is demeaned for her use of these tools - maybe because her uses are shallow and the others uses are supposed to be utilitarian and/or important?
I can't go on. I absolutely hated this book. And I read the entire thing.
on November 30, 2008
The book is such a drag. The characters are boring. The story is boring.
I feel ripped off by the author using her celebrity status to create more wealth for herself and giving nothing to her fans. If this becomes a movie, lookout! I feel it would need a huge re-write!