I really hope that all New Yorkers aren’t like the ones in this book. Thoughts on Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City (by Jill)

satc cover

Sex and the City was my August Numbers Challenge selection. I put it in my list for several reasons, not the least of which was that I actually wanted to read the book that the HBO series was based on. I really loved that show. It was my favorite means of procrastination during the middle of vet school. It was this glimpse into a glamorous and fun life that I was very much not living at the time, and I genuinely cared about Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda and their trials and tribulations in Manhattan in the late nineties and early 2000’s. This book is not at all like the series. Yes, versions of these women all make appearances. But they are sort of terrible people, or rather, Bushnell doesn’t flesh them out enough, so all we see are the least attractive parts of their personalities. I know that the book is essentially a compilation of Bushnell’s Sex and the City columns she wrote for the New York Observer in the mid-nineties and it’s not meant to be a novel. This is the major reason why it took me the better part of four years to find it at Borders—it wasn’t in the fiction/literature section. I think it was in journalism or somewhere like that. I happened upon it accidentally one day, I think in 2008, if the price tag on the back of my copy is any help. Also the front says “Now a Major Motion Picture” on it, which puts us at 2008 (when the first Sex and the City movie came out) as well.

I started this book on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday evening I emailed Bethany and said that I didn’t think I could finish it because it was so awful. She told me that she likes it when I don’t like books so I should keep going. So I did it for her, and because sometimes it’s fun to say not nice things about a book. In short, this book was not what I was expecting. I was expecting to see the genesis of the characters from the TV show, maybe some early adventures of the four BFF’s. While some of the stories contained in this book are present in the show, the “modelizers;” Carrie, et. al.’s trip to the suburbs for a bridal shower; Carrie’s disastrous first go-round with Mr. Big (which was so much more painful to read than watch); and others that seemed vaguely familiar, it was like this book had the worst of that world on display. The callous courtship rituals of the upper middle and upper classes of Manhattan society made me sick to my stomach, and it wasn’t just the way men talked about women. The women were equally culpable. Apparently in Manhattan in the mid-nineties it was all about appearances and drugs and partying and the people who got away from that world were just not worth anyone’s time. Maybe this makes me an old country bumpkin from Sacramento. I mean, I love to go out and drink and have a good time, but nightly? All night? For decades? It makes me tired to just think about the shenanigans these people were up to. Oh and the Carrie that’s in the book is a freaking crazy person. She needs medication and rehab. I never thought that way about the version on TV, but maybe I would now since the last time I watched that show was ten years ago. It’s possible that I would have a different opinion now.

The people who ran the show at HBO did a smart thing: they picked four of the names from the book/newspaper column, fleshed them out, and focused on them in particular. I don’t think that the show would have gotten very far if it had maintained the format of Bushnell’s original work. I haven’t had an urge to watch Sex and the City for a long time, but now I do. I want to know if I still feel the same way about Carrie, Big, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte. I hope that I do, but I’m worried that I won’t.

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This entry was posted in Candace Bushnell, Fiction - general, Reviews by Jill, The Numbers Challenge, TV/Film Adaptations. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I really hope that all New Yorkers aren’t like the ones in this book. Thoughts on Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City (by Jill)

  1. Maria says:

    I never watched the show but one time when I was in NYC on tour and was channel surfing. I have to say, as a TV less person, I was somewhat appalled by the one episode I saw, but then I have been out of media mainstream for a long time. What you describe about the book sounds like what a lot of people write about a certain strata of Manhattanites, and what Woody Allen somewhat referred in Blue Jasmine in his main character. Those people leave me completely cold, and I could care less about them. So, HBO would have had a dud if they hadn’t made those characters at least a little palatable to us country (and city) bumpkins. On the other hand, the Manhattanites I know are very interesting cool regular people, all one of them! Also, the ones I meet tend to be musicians and artists, an entirely different creature. I am glad you write this review, it was interesting to read, because it is always interesting how media change stories to appeal to the widest possible audience.

    • badkitty1016 says:

      I’m glad to hear that there is at least one Manhattanite who is relatively normal! The show was initially pretty shocking to me, but after a time either it toned down or I just got used to it. Mostly I liked the characters and wanted to see what was going to happen to them. It was a bit soap opera-y which to me means addictive tv. I don’t watch nearly as much tv now as I did back then, mostly because I don’t want to get hooked on a show and stop reading/writing/exercising in favor of the boob tube. Sex and the City was a great escape from my very not glamorous vet school years….

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