Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A New Breed of Feminist: Candace Bushnell

For many, hearing the name Carrie Bradshaw conjures up images of Sarah Jessica Parker running through the streets of Manhattan in her Manolos, and that’s understandable. SJP played Carrie brilliantly through six seasons and two movies, and her fantastic portrayal launched the character into iconic status. But for me, when I hear that name, I think of the real life Carrie, the true feminist and cultural icon, Carrie’s creator, Candace Bushnell.

As a writer, Candace Bushnell is everything I hope to be, and I don’t mean because of the multiple best-sellers and translation of her work into TV and film. (Though, naturally, that would be nice.) Candace Bushnell is my literary hero because she’s smart, witty, heartfelt, and – the most difficult of all to pull off in this day and age – completely original. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton before her, Bushnell impeccably captures a very specific social set and a very specific time, and does so with biting humor, brutal honesty, and detail so fantastic that the reader is immediately transported, left to revel in the glitz and glamour of the world she depicts, the dirt underneath, and all the hearts that live in between.

Not only is her voice utterly her own, but with each new release, she proves that she is not the type of writer to rely on the same old tricks. She followed up her groundbreaking debut, Sex and the City, a collection of her columns from the New York Observer, with Four Blondes, a compilation of four novellas. Her novels range from wry social commentaries (Trading Up and One Fifth Avenue), to tales of women powering their way through male-dominated careers (Lipstick Jungle, a fantastic book which went on to become a marvelous - and, sadly, gone-too-soon - TV series.) While some authors may stick to tried-and-true formulas, Bushnell produces something new and interesting with each release, making every book stand apart from the one before it, and making each story uniquely its own.

Of course, the most wonderful thing about Candace Bushnell is that she has given a definitive voice to a new generation of women. Before Carrie and Co., it was almost taboo to say that you didn’t want to get married or have children, or if you did want those things, it was wrong to say that you wanted to have a career first. Single women in books, TV and film were portrayed as desperate, neurotic, unwanted. There was something wrong with them, and only love could fix it. The word itself – “single” – had a stigma, unless it pertained to men, of course, because men were “bachelors,” “unattached,” or “playing the field.” But then Carrie came along – and Carrie was single and fabulous. She proved that single was a choice. All of Bushnell’s women showcase that it’s not only okay to put yourself first, it’s essential. Now, it’s rational to say that we want it all, because we know we’ll work hard to get it – whether it’s Jimmy Choos, a published story, our own TV network, an apartment in the most elite building in the city, or a family and a house in the suburbs. And by bouncing her characters between Bergdorf’s and the boardroom, Bushnell has proven that we can make our way in what was once a “man’s world” while still embracing those feminine things that we love as women.

Today marks the release of Summer and the City, a follow up to last year’s The Carrie Diaries. With these books, which chronicle a teenaged Carrie Bradshaw’s journey from small town Connecticut to the city of New York, Bushnell shows her range yet again, expanding her market to young adult readers. Though geared towards a YA audience, this series is a must-read for any fan of Candace’s -- or Carrie’s. Fun, funny and touching, these books allow us to get to know Carrie Bradshaw before she was acquainted with the ins-and-outs of Manhattan, modelizers and Mr. Big, when she was just a girl with a dream, who knew that she wanted more out of life and was trying to find the path of how to get there. The books are about finding your way in the world, finding your voice, and finding the you you never knew you could be. Themes such as these defy any age demographic, and like the rest of Bushnell’s works, they will never go out of fashion.

So in honor of Carrie, Samantha, Victory and all of her other fabulous heroines, let’s raise a cosmo to Candace Bushnell, nouveau feminist – and my hero.

Thank you for being so fabulous.

If you're a fan like I am, don't forget to catch Candace on the Today Show tomorrow morning on NBC!

1 comment:

  1. While I openly admit I have not the foggiest idea why people are interested in a wedding that is taking place in a foreign country.
    Or - what the obsession with Sex in the City is - not to mention that this Candace Bushnell nit wit who is responsible for ruining future generations of women.
    I also must admit that Steph makes all of these uninteresting subjects actually interesting to read.
    Seriously - a British Wedding, some chick who teaches young girls it's cool to wear expensive shoes that make your feet hurt - and - freakin' Barbie!
    But yet I keep reading and wondering what's next?
    Possibly Oprah's new diet? Ellen decides to date men? A new shade of pink turns up in new 64-pack of Crayola Crayons?
    Either way - I'll keep reading!
    One more things - can someone please explain what the eff a "Brontes" is?
    It sounds like some sort of new Emiril Lagasse brand of Sausage; however, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say my guess is incorrect!