(originally published 1997)
I read this while at my parents’ house and so don’t have a copy to refresh my memory. This is a collection of Bushnell’s newspaper columns, originally written in the New York Observer from 1994, and detailed her own and her friends’ experiences of dating in the city as thirty- and forty-somethings.
I gather it’s quite different to the television series: although Carrie is a major character, and other characters called Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte (as in the TV series) do appear, they aren’t the same as Carrie’s best friends in the TV version. Judging by the reviews on Amazon, a lot of people have come to the book through having watched and enjoyed the TV series and found that the book is a very different animal. There’s no real overarching storyline, though Carrie’s relationship with Mr Big does change and develop, and the book is quite bitty. Carrie seems more interested in the idea of a relationship between her and Mr Big rather than the actuality of it, and her friendships don’t seem very long-lasting or deep.
While not engaging with any of the characters (and there is a very large cast of characters, men and women alike, gay and straight and bi), the impression I came away with was actually rather sad – none of these people seem to believe in love, and while they may get married, it’s often more because the woman wants children than because she’s found her true love. While this is probably quite realistic, I did feel somewhat disconnected. Bushnell shows us very little of her characters’ interior lives, and her group interviews, while often revealing (and often amusing), are more anthropological than fictional. She discusses such ideas as ‘the toxic bachelor’ or the threesome and other such subjects related to sex and dating. While she focusses mostly on male-female relationships she does also mention same-sex relationships, though to a much lesser extent.
It’s hard to determine which people are real (or at least fictional versions of real people) and which are completely invented. Oddly enough, I felt most sympathy for male model ‘Bone’, because he actually seemed like a real person with genuine feelings and emotions: everyone else seemed rather selfish. I don’t think that this is because Bushnell is a bad writer: in fact, I found Sex and the City almost compulsively readable (despite my general lack of sympathy with the characters).
If you’re a fan of the TV series, then don’t read this expecting something similar.