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Sex and the City Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 2006
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Sex and the CityBy Candace Bushnell
Warner BooksCopyright © 2006 Candace Bushnell
All right reserved.
My Unsentimental Education:
Love in Manhattan?
I Don't Think So ...
Here's a Valentine's Day tale. Prepare yourself.
An English journalist came to New York. She was attractiveand witty, and right away she hooked up with one ofNew York's typically eligible bachelors. Tim was forty-two,an investment banker who made about $5 million a year. Fortwo weeks, they kissed, held hands?and then on a warmfall day he drove her to the house he was building in theHamptons. They looked at the plans with the architect. "Iwanted to tell the architect to fill in the railings on the secondfloor, so the children wouldn't fall through," said thejournalist. "I expected Tim was going to ask me to marryhim." On Sunday night, Tim dropped her off at her apartmentand reminded her that they had dinner plans for Tuesday.On Tuesday, he called and said he'd have to take a raincheck. When she hadn't heard from him after two weeks,she called and told him, "That's an awfully long rain check."He said he would call her later in the week.
He never did call, of course. But what interested me wasthat she couldn't understand what had happened. In England,she explained, meeting the architect would have meant something.Then I realized, Of course: She's from London. Noone's told her about the End of Love in Manhattan. Then Ithought: She'll learn.
Welcome to the Age of Un-Innocence. The glittering lightsof Manhattan that served as backdrops for Edith Wharton'sbodice-heaving trysts are still glowing?but the stage is empty.No one has breakfast at Tiffany's, and no one has affairs toremember?instead, we have breakfast at seven A.M. and affairswe try to forget as quickly as possible. How did we getinto this mess?
Truman Capote understood our nineties dilemma?thedilemma of Love vs. the Deal?all too well. In Breakfastat Tiffany's, Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak were faced withrestrictions?he was a kept man, she was a kept woman?butin the end they surmounted them and chose love overmoney. That doesn't happen much in Manhattan these days.We are all kept men and women?by our jobs, by our apartments,and then some of us by the pecking order atMortimers and the Royalton, by Hamptons beachfront, byfront-row Garden tickets?and we like it that way. Self-protectionand closing the deal are paramount. Cupid hasflown the co-op.
When was the last time you heard someone say, "I loveyou!" without tagging on the inevitable (if unspoken) "as afriend." When was the last time you saw two people gazinginto each other's eyes without thinking, Yeah, right? Whenwas the last time you heard someone announce, "I am truly,madly in love," without thinking, Just wait until Mondaymorning? And what turned out to be the hot non-Tim AllenChristmas movie? Disclosure?for which ten or fifteen millionmoviegoers went to see unwanted, unaffectionate sex betweencorporate erotomaniacs?hardly the stuff we like to thinkabout when we think about love but very much the stuff ofthe modern Manhattan relationship.
There's still plenty of sex in Manhattan but the kind of sexthat results in friendship and business deals, not romance.These days, everyone has friends and colleagues; no one reallyhas lovers?even if they have slept together.
Back to the English journalist: After six months, some more"relationships," and a brief affair with a man who used tocall her from out of town to tell her that he'd be calling herwhen he got back into town (and never did), she got smart."Relationships in New York are about detachment," she said."But how do you get attached when you decide you want to?"
Honey, you leave town.
LOVE AT THE BOWERY BAR, PART I
It's Friday night at the Bowery Bar. It's snowing outside andbuzzing inside. There's the actress from Los Angeles, lookingdelightfully out of place in her vinyl gray jacket and miniskirt,with her gold-medallioned, too-tanned escort. There'sthe actor, singer, and party boy Donovan Leitch in a greendown jacket and a fuzzy beige hat with earflaps. There'sFrancis Ford Coppola at a table with his wife. There's an emptychair at Francis Ford Coppola's table. It's not just empty: It'salluringly, temptingly, tauntingly, provocatively empty. It'sso empty that it's more full than any other chair in the place.And then, just when the chair's emptiness threatens to causea scene, Donovan Leitch sits down for a chat. Everyone inthe room is immediately jealous. Pissed off. The energy ofthe room lurches violently. This is romance in New York.
THE HAPPILY MARRIED MAN
"Love means having to align yourself with another person,and what if that person turns out to be a liability?" said afriend, one of the few people I know who's been happilymarried for twelve years. "And the more you're able to lookback, the more you're proven right in hindsight. Then youget further and further away from having a relationship, unlesssomething big comes along to shake you out of it?likeyour parents dying.
"New Yorkers build up a total facade that you can't penetrate,"he continued. "I feel so lucky that things worked outfor me early on, because it's so easy not to have a relationshiphere?it almost becomes impossible to go back."
THE HAPPILY (SORT OF) MARRIED WOMAN
A girlfriend who was married called me up. "I don't knowhow anyone makes relationships work in this town. It's reallyhard. All the temptations. Going out. Drinks. Drugs. Otherpeople. You want to have fun. And if you're a couple, whatare you going to do? Sit in your little box of an apartmentand stare at each other? When you're alone, it's easier," shesaid, a little wistfully. "You can do what you want. You don'thave to go home."
THE BACHELOR OF COCO PAZZO
Years ago, when my friend Capote Duncan was one of themost eligible bachelors in New York, he dated every womanin town. Back then, we were still romantic enough to believethat some woman could get him. He has to fall in lovesomeday, we thought. Everyone has to fall in love, and whenhe does, it will be with a woman who's beautiful and smartand successful. But then those beautiful and smart and successfulwomen came and went. And he still hadn't fallen inlove.
We were wrong. Today, Capote sits at dinner at CocoPazzo, and he says he's ungettable. He doesn't want a relationship.Doesn't even want to try. Isn't interested in theromantic commitment. Doesn't want to hear about the neurosisin somebody else's head. And he tells women that he'llbe their friend, and they can have sex with him, but that's allthere is and that's all there's ever going to be.
And it's fine with him. It doesn't even make him sad anymorethe way it used to.
LOVE AT THE BOWERY BAR, PART II
At my table at the Bowery Bar, there's Parker, thirty-two, anovelist who writes about relationships that inevitably gowrong; his boyfriend, Roger; Skipper Johnson, an entertainmentlawyer.
Skipper is twenty-five and personifies the Gen X doggeddisbelief in Love. "I just don't believe I'll meet the fight personand get married," he said. "Relationships are too intense.If you believe in love, you're setting yourself up to be disappointed.You just can't trust anyone. People are so corruptedthese days."
"But it's the one ray of hope," Parker protested. "You hopeit will save you from cynicism."
Skipper was having none of it. "The world is more fuckedup now than it was twenty-five years ago. I feel pissed off tobe born in this generation when all these things are happeningto me. Money, AIDS, and relationships, they're all connected.Most people my age don't believe they'll have a securejob. When you're afraid of the financial future, you don't wantto make a commitment."
I understood his cynicism. Recently, I'd found myself sayingI didn't want a relationship because, at the end, unlessyou happened to get married, you were left with nothing.
Skipper took a gulp of his drink. "I have no alternatives,"he screamed. "I wouldn't be in shallow relationships, so I donothing. I have no sex and no romance. Who needs it? Whoneeds all these potential problems like disease and pregnancy?I have no problems. No fear of disease, psychopaths, or stalkers.Why not just be with your friends and have real conversationsand a good time?"
"You're crazy," Parker said. "It's not about money. Maybewe can't help each other financially, but maybe we can helpeach other through something else. Emotions don't cost anything.You have someone to go home to. You have someonein your life."
I had a theory that the only place you could find love andromance in New York was in the gay community?that gaymen were still friends with extravagance and passion, whilestraight love had become closeted. I had this theory partlybecause of all I had read and heard recently about the multimillionairewho left his wife for a younger man?and boldlysquired his young swain around Manhattan's trendiest restaurants,right in front of the gossip columnists. There, Ithought, is a True Lover.
Parker was also proving my theory. For instance, whenParker and Roger first started seeing each other, Parker gotsick. Roger went to his house to cook him dinner and takecare of him. That would never happen with a straight guy. Ifa straight guy got sick and he'd just started dating a womanand she wanted to take care of him, he would freak out?hewould think that she was trying to wheedle her way into hislife. And the door would slam shut.
"Love is dangerous," Skipper said.
"If you know it's dangerous, that makes you treasure it,and you'll work harder to keep it," Parker said.
"But relationships are out of your control," Skipper said.
"You're nuts," Parker said.
Roger went to work on Skipper. "What about old-fashionedromantics?"
My friend Carrie jumped in. She knew the breed. "Everytime a man tells me he's a romantic, I want to scream," shesaid. "All it means is that a man has a romanticized view ofyou, and as soon as you become real and stop playing into hisfantasy, he gets turned off. That's what makes romanticsdangerous. Stay away."
At that moment, one of those romantics dangerously arrivedat the table.
A LADY'S GLOVE
"The condom killed romance, but it has made it a lot easierto get laid," said a friend. "There's something about using acondom that, for women, makes it like sex doesn't count.There's no skin-to-skin contact. So they go to bed with youmore easily."
LOVE AT THE BOWERY BAR, PART III
Barkley, twenty-five, was an artist. Barkley and my friendCarrie had been "seeing" each other for eight days, whichmeant that they would go places and kiss and look intoeach other's eyes and it was sweet. With all the thirty-fiveyear olds we knew up to their cuffs in polished cynicism,Carrie had thought she might try dating a younger man, onewho had not been in New York long enough to becomecalcified.
Barkley told Carrie he was a romantic "because I feel it,"and he also told Carrie he wanted to adapt Parker's novelinto a screenplay. Carrie had offered to introduce them, andthat's why Barkley was there at the Bowery Bar that night.
But when Barkley showed up, he and Carrie looked at eachother and felt ... nothing. Perhaps because he had sensedthe inevitable, Barkley had brought along a "date," a strangeyoung girl with glitter on her face.
Nevertheless, when Barkley sat down, he said, "I totallybelieve in love. I would be so depressed if I didn't believe init. People are halves. Love makes everything have moremeaning."
"Then someone takes it away from you and you're fucked,"Skipper said.
"But you make your own space," said Barkley.
Skipper offered his goals: "To live in Montana, with a satellitedish, a fax machine, and a Range Rover?so you'resafe," he said.
"Maybe what you want is wrong," said Parker. "Maybewhat you want makes you uncomfortable."
"I want beauty. I have to be with a beautiful woman. Ican't help it," Barkley said. "That's why a lot of the girls Iend up going out with are stupid."
Skipper and Barkley took out their cellular phones. "Yourphone's too big," said Barkley.
Later, Carrie and Barkley went to the Tunnel and lookedat all the pretty young people and smoked cigarettes andscarfed drinks. Barkley took off with the girl with glitter onher face, and Carrie went around with Barkley's best friend,Jack. They danced, then they slid around in the snow likecrazy people trying to find a cab. Carrie couldn't even lookat her watch.
Barkley called her the next afternoon. "What's up, dude?"he said.
"I don't know. You called me."
"I told you I didn't want a girlfriend. You set yourself up.You knew what I was like."
"Oh yeah, right," Carrie wanted to say, "I knew that youwere a shallow, two-bit womanizer, and that's why I wantedto go out with you."
But she didn't.
"I didn't sleep with her. I didn't even kiss her," Barkleysaid. "I don't care. I'll never see her again if you don't wantme to."
"I really don't give a shit." And the scary thing was, shedidn't.
Then they spent the next four hours discussing Barkley'spaintings. "I could do this all day, every day," Barkley said."This is so much better than sex."
THE GREAT UN-PRETENDER
"The only thing that's left is work," said Robert, forty-two,an editor. "You've got so much to do, who has time to beromantic?"
Robert told a story, about how he'd recently been involvedwith a woman he really liked, but after a month and a half, itwas clear that it wasn't going to work out. "She put methrough all these little tests. Like I was supposed to call heron Wednesday to go out on Friday. But on Wednesday,maybe I feel like I want to kill myself, and God only knowshow I'm going to feel on Friday. She wanted to be with someonewho was crazy about her. I understand that. But I can'tpretend to feel something I don't.
"Of course, we're still really good friends," he added. "Wesee each other all the time. We just don't have sex."
NARCISSUS AT THE FOUR SEASONS
One Sunday night, I went to a charity benefit at the FourSeasons. The theme was Ode to Love. Each of the tables wasnamed after a different famous couple?there were TammyFaye and Jim Bakker, Narcissus and Himself, Catherine theGreat and Her Horse, Michael Jackson and Friends. AlD'Amato sat at the Bill and Hillary table. Each table featureda centerpiece made up of related items?for instance, at theTammy Faye Bakker table there were false eyelashes, blueeye shadow, and lipstick candles. Michael Jackson's table hada stuffed gorilla and Porcelana face cream.
Bob Pittman was there. "Love's not over?smoking isover," Bob said, grinning, while his wife, Sandy, stood nextto him, and I stood behind the indoor foliage, trying to sneaka cigarette. Sandy said she was about to climb a mountain inNew Guinea and would be gone for several weeks.
I went home alone, but right before I left, someone handedme the jawbone of a horse from the Catherine the Great table.
LOVE AT THE BOWERY BAR: EPILOGUE
Donovan Leitch got up from Francis Ford Coppola's tableand came over. "Oh no," he said. "I totally believe that loveconquers all. Sometimes you just have to give it some space."And that's exactly what's missing in Manhattan.
Oh, and by the way? Bob and Sandy are getting divorced.
Excerpted from Sex and the Cityby Candace Bushnell Copyright © 2006 by Candace Bushnell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
- Publisher : Grand Central Publishing; Reissue edition (August 1, 2006)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0446617687
- ISBN-13 : 978-0446617680
- Item Weight : 5.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.15 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #722,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Top reviews from the United States
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Truly, if you're going into this expecting the story in the TV, you may as well not read this. It's a great book, truly, written in a unique, fluid style that gets at the truth with no apologies. By comparison, the show sugar coats the pure cynicism of the characters and their experiences.
It's always cool to read about the way things happen to people, unfettered. There are so many topics related to sex and being single in NYC that it makes me wish I could go back and read ALL the columns.
Now I'm going back and watching the series to compare. IMO, the first season is most true to the book, but after that, it takes on a life of its own.
I'm a believer that the book is almost always better than the film adaptation. True in this case, but it's a close race.
I obviously thought that I would adore this book, but it was a big no for me. It was a "what the heck did I just read" and I hate that for me. I went into this book thinking it was a novel told from Carrie's POV, I thought I was going to see my favorite 4 single NYC girls living their best lives. That is not at all what I got. What I got was a collection of stories told from who knows POV, all those stories kind of mixed into each other and Carrie and Mr. Big didn't even seem to like each other. I'm so sad! I did enjoy that some of the lines from the shows were in there and I loved it when they threw a name of a character in the show out there, but Magda the maid/nanny was a random girl and Charlotte wasn't York, and was British. I think I remember Miranda's name being mentioned like 2 maybe 3 times. Now I know that this book was published before the show, and that the show was based on this, but I ask how? Miranda worked at a cable company, there was no Steve Brady, Skipper Johnson was like a wannbe playboy (ummm NO Skipper Johnson is the nice guy), Samantha was a director or something and worst of all, the free spirit " I love you, but I love me more" Samantha Jones was on the hunt for a relationship. Again I ask how. Had I read this book all those years ago instead of watching the show I 100% would have never watched the show.
I own The Carrie Diaries and Summer in the City, I will eventually read them, but I don't have very high hopes.
In SITC, you get to listen to the snippets of the rich and famous, the ultimately wealthy, and the downright notorious; something you don't get at home.
Though built upon shallow ideals, the characters are anything but shallow; they are witty, charming, self-centered, goal-orientated, and real. The storyline, though it is told in fragments not unlike a diary that many people have written in, manages to stay smooth and yet spontaneous in its wandering courses.
Both the Cable Show and the book stem from a column Candace Bushnell started writing for The New York Observer back in 1994, where she decided to remove the sentimental value from relationships and mating rituals and replace it with a healthy, well needed injection of sardonic humor. Thanks to Ms. Bushnell, we have such wonderful glimpses into this taboo subject like "The M&M's", "The Modelizers", "Psycho Moms", "Bicycle Boys", "Dweebs, Nerds, and Losers", "Comparison Shopping", "The Nanny Camera", and many more.
SITC is a wonderfully fun, kick-back-and-relax kind of book; a lively and fun story that reminds you not to take yourself so seriously all the time. I highly recommend it for a lazy afternoon or a sunny day at the beach. Enjoy!
Top reviews from other countries
It’s not good. It’s just a random collection of articles. Vast amount of “characters” who make fleetingly appearances and have no depth of character development. Lots of contradictory personality traits that just don’t ring true. Badly written, with bad grammar and punctuation. The writing is very stilted and clumsy.
The thing that got me the most, however, was just how banal, shallow, and childish all these conversations or “interviews” with a huuuge list of characters were.
I didn’t live in Manhattan in the 90s, so maybe it was genuinely like that, but it just screamed “school playground” to me. All these incredibly privileged, rich young people, floating around in NY (at least a few bankrolled by their parents), constantly out and parties and out for dinner / cocktails, spewing out meaningless soundbites about their personal / sex lives. Who lives like that?
The narrator was constantly being called by “acquaintances”’ and invited to dinner and parties etc where they would have these weird discussions, seemingly apropos of nothing. On one occasion she’s in a bar and “at the bar, a businessman, his female associate, and their client were talking about sex. “I think men are turned off by women who have sex on the first date” the woman said….”you’ve got to wait at least three dates if you want the man to take you seriously.””
Hhhm. Really? The whole thing just sounded very much like children playing at being adults. Nobody focused on their job or family or anything really. Just constant meeting new people and talking to them about sex. Seems very contrived and it got tiresome very quickly.
The people that managed to create SATC out of this did very well, because there’s really not much here at all.
However, it has dated, and that's more to do with the tv series than the passing of time (though that has a part to play). It's not nearly as explicit, in places it shies away from being so, but the topics, to an officianado of the series felt a little - well, stale, occasionally a bit boring. So in that sense, not at all like Jane Austen. I suspect this book's success was built largely on its shockability and now that it's gone. then - well, it explains why I had to get it second hand and it wasn't available on kindle, I suspect.
But for all that, I'm glad I read - an exercise in style with some really funny bits. Almost, in its own way, dystopian even.
Its an easy but interesting read - I finished the book in one day. Is it a chick flick - it sure is, but its a great book to read as well :-)