Maybe it's just us. Really, we shop at Target for heaven's sake. We know nothing, zip, zilch and nada about social ranking in New York City, summering and throwing parties in the Hamptons or what it's like to be a beautiful whore.
Based on reactions to Trading Up, Candace Bushnell's latest page-turner, Bushnell does indeed know about all those things and more. Now don't misunderstand, we're not saying she's a whore herself; we don't know her, and we'd never go there. But main character Janey Wilcox has no shame about having slept her way up and down all sorts of ladders. Therefore, we innocently surmise that Bushnell must know someone on which to base her character, and that's what lends to the air of authenticity. After all, one doesn't have to be a vintner to know her wine.
Booklist called Trading Up "satisfyingly dishy and as addictively readable the second time around." We'll be honest; we haven't even finished the first round. Dishy, yes, but addictive may be a bit strong. We're convinced that some of the positive press stems from Bushnell's ever-popular creation and television fashion guide Sex and the City. Three chapters in and her "brilliant comic voice" (Book Description) has yet to get us rolling, our tummies not yet taut from belly laughs. We are dumbfounded at this culture that calls up Paris Hilton and her like who all work their old money and very little talent. It must be a different world where people are known for throwing parties and providing helicopter transport to and from them.
So we trudge on. Chapter 10 and we swear that there's been some sort of mistake. Janey's the main character, the protagonist of the book, or so the inside flap declares, and we couldn't care less about what she's up to (unless it involves humiliation, and then we're rather into it). And we are especially repulsed that her "trademark lipstick" shade is "Pussy Pink." We rather prefer the debacle of true love that surrounds her sister Patty. We like Patty and her rock star husband. We don't like Janey and her money-hungry manipulations. (We are also making reference here to the excessive use of italics Bushnell uses to affect the dialogue.)
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Being avid readers, we understand that sometimes an author attempts to dissuade the reader from actually liking the main character at the onset, thereby creating a path that allows the character to grow on the reader by the end of the book. But we're nearly there, and we don't care for her yet, finding her scandalous affairs to be very much her own fault. What we're really thinking is how the representation of marriage in the book reflects on Bushnell's own recent hitching. The über-single takes the big leap as her new book featuring scads of infidelities and failed relationships hits the stores. Trading Up is far from pro-matrimony, and in fact, it makes pointed jabs at how marriages have expiration dates.
Yet somehow we're committed to finishing the saga and finding out just how badly Janey will humiliate herself and those around her. So despite all the bitching and dissection here, we realize this technique of fostering hatred of characters may be just what makes Bushnell's work so successful. It's a world we middle-class can't possibly understand, and with the many generic "women's fiction" books that are continually released, maybe we can value such a book that incites any reaction.
By tonight, we'll have finished Trading Up. Tomorrow we'll begin writing out our few pointed questions for the author, in the hopes that as she signs copies of her latest on Tuesday, she'll grant us a few answers.
At least we can be confident that Bushnell isn't like those she writes about. She's just very knowledgeable of their kind. After reading Trading Up, we have full confidence that none of her characters would give us Barnes & Noble customers the time of day, and we really wouldn't want them to. Of course, feel free to discuss this with us as we do our best to impress Bushnell, waiting patiently in our fake Manolo Blahniks and seriously fake Prada halter.