Is Candace Bushnell Finally Sick of Being Carrie Bradshaw?

Candace Bushnell at her Connecticut Home, Courtesy Grand Central Publishing.

Legendary Manhattan It-girl, best-selling author, and the woman responsible for Manolo Blahniks being strapped to the feet of women everywhere, Candace Bushnell has made a career of writing gossipy novels that rip back the curtain on Manhattan’s social elite.

Lately she may have traded in some of her Prada with a move to rural Connecticut (across from Alexander Calder’s old studio), but the allure of Manhattan still inhabits her work. Her new book Killing Monica is raising some over-plucked eyebrows because of its premise: Pandemonia “PJ” Wallis is the glamorous New York author of a wildly successful series of books-turned-films about a sultry heroine named Monica, but now PJ wants desperately to distance herself from books’ reputation—and from the actress who portrays her on the silver screen. Sound familiar? Uhh-huh. Candace insists that her life was not an inspiration for Killing Monica in the slightest. We’ll take her at her word.

Here we speak with Candace over the phone in her West Village pied-à-terre about feminism in the arts, what she thinks about Tinder, and if, once and for all, she’s sick of being Carrie Bradshaw.

Since we’re talking on the phone, I have to start off by asking: what are you wearing?

Oh my lord. I’m wearing Feel Good flip-flops, purple Lulu Lemon yoga pants, cropped just below the knees, a gray t-shirt with thin straps, and a pink shirt that says, “Turks and Caicos Sporting Crop at Ambergris Cay” that’s made for fishing. This is my usual sort of outfit.

What originally got you into writing?

I knew I wanted to be a writer from an early age, and I can’t exactly say why, but I come from a creative family. My father is a scientist, he had gotten a patent to make something they used in the first Apollo space rocket and he was considered a genius, so I grew up in the sort of environment where creativity and making a contribution to mankind was something important. As a kid I had this weird thing where I’d try to get into someone’s skin and feel what they’re feeling and know what they’re thinking, and I think that’s one of the things that makes people want to become writers.

Why do you chronicle the social stratosphere of metropolitan women in particular?

I was always fascinated by books about people in New York, like Eloise, and it just resonated with me and I just so wanted to live in New York, even before I had ever been there. Once I arrived, I immediately started writing short stories about being in New York, all the different characters there, and all the societal aspects fascinated me. And I love books about society like Anna Karenina and Edith Wharton’s books, so those books were always the kinds of books I wanted to write. It was really just about pursuing my instincts as a writer.

Your new book Killing Monica seems very roman à clef — a woman who wants to escape the reputation a fictional version of herself has taken on the big screen. There seem to be obvious parallels to your own life and work; is this an accurate analysis?

You know, I’m always very confused by that question. I’m always interested and think “Oh God, people see me that way.” I don’t see myself that way. And for me as a writer, my inspiration comes from other books. People always think that writers get their inspiration from “real life,” but I actually don’t. It comes from other books. It’s like being a musician — you get your inspiration from the great artists who come before you. And it’s the same thing with actors, too, they get their inspiration from other actors. So in this particular book, I was inspired by Philip Roth, and I think it’s sad to me that you feel that way, and I think you missed all the great wonderful things in the book and the great writing. Do you remember that tennis scene? I mean you have to read that scene and think, “this is a great scene.”

Killing Monica

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell, Courtesy Grand Central Publishing.

I just think, given the subject matter, it’s natural for people to make that connection when they’re first getting into the book.

People are going to make whatever connection they’re going to make, and I don’t have any control over that. I only have control over my work, my art, and where my creative voice is taking me. So for me, Killing Monica is a farce. My influences on this book were Philip Roth, Groucho Marx — It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

That’s where I got my inspiration and for me, this was an experimental book. It started off as being very, very surreal and I really wanted to make something that would pop — that had a ’70s, bright-colored, Pop Art feel to it. And that’s why I added that line of emojis to the book, and I even wrote a theme song for it, and I’m making a music video and hiring dancers.

Could you expand a little more on the world you’ve created, and are continuing to create with Killing Monica?

When I was writing the book — I can’t even tell you where the book took me, like there was one point when Pandy went on a psychedelic trip and she thought she was 17, and it’s just crazy stuff — I just had to go with my imagination. I started listening to a lot of pop music again, and I loved the female empowerment of the pop singer. I feel like its one of the few places where women are allowed to truly speak their voice. And in TV, movies, books, you just don’t see that level of empowerment.

So I started listening to it again, and then as soon as I handed in the manuscript for Killing Monica, this weird thing came over me where I had to learn GarageBand. I’m not kidding. It only took me about two or three hours to learn, and I started playing around with and thought that I really needed to write a theme song for Killing Monica.

Since you’re learning GarageBand and created a line of emojis, I’m sure you’re keeping up with the innovations of social media today. You know what Tinder is, right?

I have a swipe right/swipe left emoji in my line, but here’s the thing — it’s important to remember that these apps were created by men, and all the coding and etc. were also created by men, so if you really want to use those tools, they have a certain male logic to them.

It would just be wonderful if we had female inventors who — and I’m gonna get in trouble for this — would put more of a female logic to these apps. I mean you’re always getting explanation from a man, not a woman. And for some women, that’s a boundary at the point of entry. It would be like asking a man to come to a girl’s night for a few hours and say nothing.

Is there pressure to be a strong female voice in the writing world, for yourself and as an example for other women?

I always thought that the very best feminism was to be the very best person, and woman. It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, all that matters is being your best self. To me, that’s inspiring to women.

I think it’s about empowering women to be self-actualized. There are a lot of messages out there about who you’re supposed to be and who you’re supposed to look like, and I think it’s important for women to find self-esteem through outlets other than their looks. We certainly do have that, but I think it would be great if we had just a little more than that.

Do you ever get sick of getting compared to Carrie Bradshaw or having that relationship at all?

No, I really don’t. Sex and the City is something I wrote a long time ago, and it just really took off, and it felt like the world was turning on the same axis as Sex and the City at the time. But there’s such a strong entertainment factor added to it that I don’t see in my own skin, so watching the TV show I’m just like, “Oh, that’s so great!” So all these things are fine, they don’t bother me. I have such a strong sense of self and I know what’s real and what isn’t, and my work is just my guiding light. And who knows, Killing Monica could be sold to the movies and become a huge thing, too. And if that happens, then I’ll just continue writing my next book.

Killing Monica is on sale today from Grand Central Publishing.

 

How to Maintain Your Holier-Than-Thou New Yorker Mentality When in a Foreign City

Oh, hey there, New Yorker. Do you know where you live? The greatest city in the world. This is not a lie; it is a fact. How do we know? Well, the tiniest mayor in the history of the world, Bloomberg, reminds us of this every time he takes to NY1 with an announcement about this or that—you know, right before he says the same thing in his horrifically bad Spanish.

It’s hard being a New Yorker. We’re so fancy, sophisticated, well-dressed and overall far superior to everyone else in the world. Don’t disagree with me; we all know that’s our repeated mantra in the mirror every morning: We. Are. The. Best.

So, when it comes to traveling to a foreign land, it’s extremely pertinent that everyone around you know that you’re a New Yorker. To quote Carrie Bradshaw when she was in Paris and asked if she was an American: “New Yorker.” Hell, yeah. You’re hardly an American; you’re a fucking New Yorker, so act like it.

In acting like it, it means always making sure everyone within a 5-mile radius knows you’re a New Yorker and not some hillbilly from Tennessee. Respect a New Yorker, because we’re the fucking shit. Here’s how to make sure you’re not mistaken for being for some plebe from—gasp!—another part of the United States. Gross.

You’re a fucking New Yorker. Like Carrie, always respond with “I’m a New Yorker.” Even if you’re fluent in the language being spoken, you still have an American, er, New York accent that, to the untrained ear, may be mistaken for, god forbid, the middle of the country. Stop anyone in their tracks and put them in their place: You’re a fucking New Yorker.

You’re a fucking New Yorker. So, you’re at lunch, you’re solo and you’re waiting for your meal. What do you do to kill time besides tweeting and Facebook bragging as to where you are? Pull out your New York Magazine. It’s not like people in other countries read it, but everyone recognizes the words “New York.” Everyone: the waiter, the busboy, fellow patrons—everyone. Flip through it casually, laughing loudly from time to time. You know, because New Yorkers are funnier than the rest of the world, and obviously, we laugh better, too.

You’re a fucking New Yorker. Sometimes you’ll find yourself amongst the common people of other countries in, say, Spain. It is your duty as a New Yorker to school that group of tourists from Australia about how New Yorkers refer to things. For example, we call the subway, the “train,” we refer to our BFF Diet Coke as “DC,” and we snub Staten Island because it really shouldn’t be part of the five burroughs. Yo, Australian tourists, don’t ever go to Staten Island. As a New Yorker you need to trust me. New Yorkers know everything.

You’re a fucking New Yorker. Did you know there’s a food truck near the Eiffel Tower? Hahaha! No, Seriously: Hahaha! You know what they call this shit? “Très Brooklyn.” So how does a New Yorker alert those around them that food trucks are no big deal? Example: “Have you guys had the tacos from the truck in the back of Union Pool? They’re the shit! This taco truck is far from ‘très Brooklyn.’ I’m not an asshole! I’m a New Yorker!” No one can argue you on either account.

You’re a fucking New Yorker. You’re lost, and you can thank Google maps for steering you in the completely wrong direction. What do you do? Yell; that’s what a New Yorker would do. We’d yell, kick something, then call someone back home in the States – a friend, a co-worker, your mom, your absent-minded assistant – and yell like there’s no tomorrow. While mid-yelling you fall into a deep and downward spiral of neurosis: Is everyone out to get me? Does my breath smell? Are these not tight enough? And just as you’re saying these things out loud, you’ll probably get a discerning look from a local… to which you respond: “I’m a fucking New Yorker, OK? I haven’t seen my analyst in TWO WEEKS.” Truth.

You’re a fucking New Yorker. You’re out for dinner in Italy and are about to order, but you have a question: “Is this pasta full of carbs and gluten? Because I’m allergic.” The response: “Huh?” You: “I’ll just have some lettuce with pasta sauce on it… I’m a New Yorker. Graz—you know, whatever.”

You’re a fucking New Yorker. At some point you have to head home to your beloved New York City, how do you handle the coach situation at the airport? “What do you mean I can’t be upgraded? I’m a fucking New Yorker!” End result: first class, warm nuts, champagne and blankets that have actually been washed.

Takeaway? No matter where you are, you’re a fucking New Yorker. You’re better than everyone. People should be dropping to their knees to kiss your calloused feet. You win. You always win no matter where you are. Why? One more time for the cheap seats in the back: You’re a fucking New Yorker.

Follow Amanda Chatel on Twitter.

It’s Time To Finally Break Up With ‘Sex and the City’

Dear Sex and the City, exactly where would this world be without you? How would we function, define ourselves and know how to act when it comes to dating in New York City? How would we know how to exist, in general, in accordance to the laws of life, if it had not been for you?

Without you, all of us would be nothing. We wouldn’t be capable of realizing our own dreams or understanding such important terms like “frenemies,” or “tookus-lingus.” We wouldn’t be able to pigeonhole ourselves into only one of four types of women—as clearly, only four types exist—nor would the world be able to reference you on a daily basis. You were great in your heyday, Sex and the City, but like every relationship with an iconic (yes, it’s often called this) TV series, we’ve seen better days. It’s time we break-up; it’s time we all, every one of us, break-up with you and move on with our lives. In fact, we shouldn’t even keep in touch. You’re ruining everything.

When HBO’s Girls first aired, the show was immediately dubbed Sex and the City for women in their 20s. Hannah is to Carrie, as Marnie is to Miranda, as Shoshanna is to Charlotte, as Jessa is to Samantha, and there’s little space to argue it. As for the “Big” role, you can’t completely equate that character to Hannah’s Adam Sackler, but considering the initial unattainable vibe and the challenge it was to get him to be her boyfriend, there are definitely more than a few parallels. And just as it was when Sex and the City first aired on HBO in 1998, women are yet again defining themselves by these characters. In 1998, I was Carrie with a dash of Samantha; in 2012, I’m Hannah with a dash of Jessa. If I don’t use HBO characters to explain myself, I lose all sense of meaning. I might, god forbid, have to be me.

No matter where you live, it’s probably hard to get through a day without a mention of or a reference to a Sex and the City situation. Every time someone has a break-up it’s compared to Carrie and Big, when your friend does something that might fall under the tier of promiscuous, she’s pulled a “Samantha,” and if I have to listen to my friend Matthew go on and on anymore about the “hot French twinks in that episode where Carrie is in France with the short Russian,” I may scream. However, I’ll be a hypocrite in doing so; I’ll probably quote the series at some point within the next 48 hours. It will awkward and embarrassing, but it’s sometimes all I know. I am the Sex and the City generation (http://thegloss.com/culture/sex-and-the-city-middle-age-women-830/), and if I wasn’t, it wouldn’t matter because it’s still everywhere. What poster does Girls’ character Shoshanna have on her wall in her apartment? How old would she have been when the show premiered? About 11 or 12—maybe even younger.

Whenever a series that’s about single people in a city launches on any network, Sex and the City is used as an explanatory analogy. It’s as though a show that centers around the lives of single men and women can’t stand on its own without this comparison. From Girlfriends (about African-American ladies, although canceled in 2008) to Lipstick Jungle (another Candace Bushnell novel) to Hunting Season (on LOGO now about gay fellas), all of these shows found themselves labeled with “the Sex and the City for [insert a demographic here.]” It’s exhausting, boring and unoriginal to boot.

The only way we can break free of this and escape the never-ending semblances is to make a pact with ourselves and the rest of world to kick our Sex and the City addiction. The world functioned just fine long before Carrie Bradshaw and company penetrated our homes through the television, so we can live that way again. We can live in a Sex and the City-free society if we really want to, and honestly, we’ll be better for it.

Although hard at first, break-ups actually lead to good eventually. We’re able to get ourselves back, appreciate time with our real life friends as opposed to douchy television characters that are unable to love us in return, and we’ll finally be forced to use maybe, oh I don’t know, literature or art as a means to quell heartbreak or justify everyday mishaps as opposed to Carrie’s drama. People will stop living out the dreams that were prescribed to them by a show that’s been over for eight years now. It will be glorious! We will live again! We will be free.

The next time you find yourself mid-conversation with someone and something that could be equated to Sex and the City comes up, stop yourself. You can have the thought, you can even allow the words to do some dallying around on the tip of your tongue, but that’s where it should come to an end. This isn’t just a one-on-one break-up; this is a group break-up. We can’t do it alone; we need everyone in on this one if we’re to get through it with our sanity intact. All break-ups have some negative residual effect at first, and Ben & Jerry’s can’t solve everything.

So who’s in? Can we finally kick the SATC ladies to the curb?

Follow Amanda Chatel on Twitter.

American Carrie Bradshaw Annoys Japanese Carrie Bradshaw

With her childish mien and penchant for ridiculous outfits, you’d think Carrie Bradshaw would be big in Japan. Not so, apparently. The woman who dubbed Carrie’s voice in the Japanese version of Sex and the City 2 seems irked by the heroine manqué.

Japanese actress Yuko Nagashima, who voices Carrie’s lines in Japanese, tells the Wall Street Journal that “Sometimes when I’m playing her I think, why are you worrying and stressing about such a trivial thing and sometimes I even think why do something so stupid.” Nagashima goes on to say “There are times though when I wish she would leave things alone and keep her mouth shut.” Yeah, us too. Check it out here.