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More glamour, dish from the 'Sex'-y gal

A decked-out Candace Bushnell exudes city-girl style as she talks about her new novel.

August 07, 2003|Susan Carpenter | Times Staff Writer

In her famed New York Observer column-turned book-turned-award- winning HBO series, "Sex and the City," she introduced us to self-centered, commitment-phobic "toxic bachelors" and "modelizer" men who only date the lean and leggy. Now Candace Bushnell brings us deep into the heart and mind of a shallow, scheming social climber in her first full-length novel, "Trading Up," the deliciously gossipy page-turner she was hawking at Book Soup Tuesday.

Unusually glamorous for a writer, Bushnell looked much like her high-fashion "Sex and the City" alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). Decked out in a pink polka-dot skirt, floral stiletto mules, a glitter applique jacket and rhinestone-studded reading glasses, the 44-year-old writer was every bit as much a character as the women who populate her books, as was her audience.

Most of the three dozen or so people who came to the reading were twenty- and thirtysomething women with flawless makeup and perfect ponytails, though few, if any, appeared to be wearing Manolos.

It was hard to tell, however, if any of them had anything in common with Janey Wilcox, the heroine, or antiheroine, of Bushnell's new book. One of the blonds she chronicled in her bestselling book, "Four Blondes," the Wilcox character is a semi-successful lingerie model who connived her way into rich men's hearts and, each summer, their vacation homes in the Hamptons.

In "Trading Up," she continues on the same path, landing -- then manipulating -- the chief executive of a successful cable channel. Wilcox, Bushnell said, "is one of those characters I can't get rid of."

The stunningly beautiful woman men always seem to fall in love with, she's the prototypical female character of the classic novels Bushnell likes to read, but never fully explained.

"Classic novels never get into these women's heads," she said. "I wanted to know why men fall in love with them."

Getting into women's heads is what Bushnell does best. Whether it's the real-life adventures of "Sex and the City" or the fictionalized travails in "Trading Up," she's able to crack open the mind of the single city girl and see what makes her tick, doing it so well and with such wit and wisdom that reading her books, you'd swear the characters were based on people you know.

"What I write about is young women who go to the big city to seek their fame and fortune. It's about the different decisions people make," Bushnell said in a digressive answer to a question about whether she was influenced by Dorothy Parker.

Asked whether marriage has affected her writing, she said it hadn't. "What affects one's writing more than anything is, frankly, getting older," she said.

The rumor that the four "Sex and the City" girls were really four gay men was merely urban legend, she said, and finger-pointed conservative author Ann Coulter as its source.

As to whether she will ever delve as deeply into the male psyche, as she has with women, she said she's "fascinated" by men in their mid 40s who "can't get it together with relationships" -- men who were once entirely career-oriented but have since lost their ambition and are miserable.

"I'll probably put a guy like that in my next book."

Boys beware.

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