Tuesday, June 08, 2010
One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
A really incisive book from Candace Bushnell is One Fifth Avenue, published in 2008. It’s a story about One Fifth Avenue address in New York and its glamorous (or not so) tenants. Fifth Avenue is THE street in Manhattan – the street of rich, the street of powerful, the street of those who are on top. And One Fifth Avenue is THE address – the most coveted, the most craved, the most desired, the chicest, the hottest, the one with the best pedigree, the one with all the most interesting people. If you live on One Fifth Avenue, you really made it.
The intrigues at One Fifth Avenue are tangled by its tenants themselves. Philip Oakland, a writer. Enid Merle, his aunt, a gossip columnist. Schiffer Diamond, a Hollywood actress. James and Mindy Gooch, a writer and a journalist. Annalisa and Paul Rice, a lawyer and a businessman. And of course, Lola Fabrikant, One Fifth Avenue tenant wannabe.
Once Mrs. Houghton, the old social queen of New York, is dead, the battle for her penthouse apartment at One Fifth Avenue is on. It’s won by the Rice couple, rich people from Washington. Once they move in, the conflict between the building tenants is going to be more tense than ever. Everybody is craving for Mrs. Houghton’s luxurious penthouse apartment from One Fifth Avenue, but not everybody can actually afford it, hence the tensions between the building tenants. Mindy Gooch is the one to suffer the most from the tenant changes in the building, because she is frustrated by living in the best building in the city, but occupying the worst apartment in it, an apartment on the main floor which used to be a storage space before it was upgraded to a living apartment. So she constantly badgers her husband James about their living conditions; about buying a better apartment in the building which they can’t actually afford because they are just a middle class couple; about his books which aren’t really on the bestselling list; about their marriage which is far from perfect as well, and so on.
Another hilarious character, so Candace Bushnell-esque, is Lola Fabrikant, the One Fifth Avenue tenant wannabe, and Philip Oakland’s girlfriend wannabe as well. Lola, a young but ambitious girl, comes to New York “to make her life”. She manages to get hired by Philip Oakland, and soon after that she manages to seduce him, calling herself his girlfriend. If it seems to you that she’s a stupid girl, don’t be fooled. She may not know any serious things about life, she may not know what hard and honest work means, she may not have ever tried to do something notable in her life by herself, but she knows perfectly what she wants, and she always finds a way to get it. And what does she want? Nothing special – just a nice place like One Fifth Avenue to live, and a nice man like Philip Oakland to pay for her expenses. Things are going according to her plan for a while, while Philip is caught in this relationship “by default”. But once Phillip detangles himself from Lola and gets engaged to love of his life Schiffer Diamond, Lola quickly finds another man to pay her bills – James Gooch, who suddenly does become a best-selling writer and gets rich overnight. Lola Fabrikant is one of Candace Bushnell’s characters often met in her books – women who don’t want to move a finger to do anything decent in their lives, but who want to fool some rich man to provide for them.
Fake marriages are also present in this book, just like in other books by Candace Bushnell. It’s surprising how two people who have nothing in common get married and manage to live together for years, just to get to a point where they practically hate each other. One of these couples is Mindy and James Gooch. Although they have had a long marriage, although they have a teenage boy, they act like total strangers. More than that – they hate each other. Mindy hates her husband for not being a successful writer, for not being a multi-millionaire, and for not being able to afford a more expensive apartment in their building; while James hates Mindy for not being a supportive wife and for always underestimating and undermining him.
Another fake marriage is that of Annalisa and Paul Rice. They are the rich couple who manage to snatch the coveted penthouse apartment from One Fifth; but what they can’t manage to do is to get beyond their money and their banking accounts. Their marriage goes from fake to dangerous; thoughts of killing spouse cross their minds; and so, Annalisa finds a way to get rid of her husband who started to step on her toes.
Once again, Candace Bushnell serves us a sharp and outrageous book about New York people and their social habits. One of these habits is that everyone is a writer, or a writer wannabe. Philip Oakland and James Gooch are, of course, credited writers. But there are lots of other writers in this book. Enid Merle, Philip’s aunt, is a gossip columnist. Mindi Gooch works in Publishing and writes a blog about her frustrating life. Thayer, a friend of Lola's, is a blogger who writes a very popular blog about social events and people from new York. Even Lola Fabrikant fancies herself as a writer at some point and starts to write a sex column on a blog. An inflation of writers in New York City.
And One Fifth Avenue is not the only book by Candace Bushnell abounding with writers or writer wannabes. First of all, her consecrated character Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City and The Carrie Diaries is a writer. Then Janey Wilcox from Four Blondes and Trading Up comes along, attempting “to be a writer” and trying to write a movie script. Either she finishes it or not, that’s another issue. Then the other blondes from Four Blondes write as well – the journalist Winnie Deeke and the writer Minky. Lots and lots of writers in Candace Bushnell’s book, literally an invasion of writers. Some of them are real writers all right, like Carrie Bradshaw for instance, but how about the others? While reading Candace Bushnell’s books, I couldn’t help but wonder – does everybody in New York aspire to be a writer?
Read One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell, and you’ll have real fun – it’s a great page turner.