"Is There Still Sex in the City?" (Grove Press), by Candace Bushnell
Carrie's back! Or at least her real-life alter ego, Candace Bushnell, whose loosely autobiographical newspaper columns and book about the dating adventures of single women in their 30s became the basis of the hit HBO show "Sex in the City."
This time, Bushnell and her posse are hurtling toward their 60s, dealing with a range of middle-aged problems including broken marriages, second careers and vaginal dryness. Only this time the gang is bigger than Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte.
There are at least six gal pals, plus friends and acquaintances, making their stories a little harder to keep track of in "Is There Still Sex in the City?" But their trials and tribulations and outrageous escapades — on Tinder, with men 20 or 30 years younger, in the high-priced salons of Madison Avenue — are narrated in the smart, sassy voice that legions of fans came to love during the six-year run of the show in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
"Is There Still Sex in the City?" begins with a brisk update on Bushnell's real life since she got famous — a marriage, divorce and a couple of shrewd real estate deals that gave her the means to acquire a small apartment in Manhattan and "a quaint run-down farmhouse" in the Hamptons.
Much of the action takes place in the latter, where she ultimately meets a smart, sexy, age-appropriate guy who becomes her MNB — "my new boyfriend" — one of several acronyms in the book that indicate a type or a condition. The book is dedicated to him, which suggests that everything worked out happily ever after, as it did for Carrie when she ended up with Mr. Big. But it would be a mistake to dismiss this book as romantic fluff. Bushnell's style may be arch and breezy, but many of the characters deal with disappointment, heartbreak and perhaps just as lethally, resignation.
A young woman who regularly uses Tinder asks Bushnell wistfully, "What were dates like when you were young?" A 40-something divorcee's decision to marry for money the second time around is seen by her friends as "payback for men using women for, well, just about everything."
A rich but not particularly attractive 75-year-old man blithely assumes that women will sleep with him because "society colludes to tell men they're a little bit better than they actually are while it tells women they're a little bit worse."
From Cosmos to rose, her current beverage of choice, Bushnell may drink pink. But she knows how to write dark.