met a model back then who blurred the lines between money and sex. and asked if Bushnell would be interested in considering a similar lifestyle. ‘I said no.’ says Btishnell. “But still. I thought: the money? I was a broke student. Of course I would never take [cocaine] and I wanted to be a writer. but if one had nothing. if one had no career in sight'."
Another thematic lightning rod: desperation. Not desperation in its literal sense. but that desperate need to find security and belonging. 'She sees danger in the sense that she doesn't know w hat‘s going to happen once her beauty fails her.’ says Btishnell of Trading ('p's anti— heroine. ‘llow is she going to turn her beauty into something'.’ Beautiful women are told that their looks are worth money. ever since they were little girls think of those beauty contests. But it’s actually very dangerous to base your life on your looks.‘
‘But then came an emotionally sickening thud, when you wondered what was the point of life, what was the point of your life, especially?’
Hence the rich partners. 'Ii‘utliiig 1]) has already attracted lidith Wharton/Jane Atisten comparisons for its satirical nod towards procuring a good match. Where comfortable dowries and a good family name were once match- clinchers. they have been replaced by a certain model of Jaguar or choice of tailor. More interestingly. Bushnell comments on the current age-inversion of dating. which pairs older men with beautiful. trophy wives. and bored. middle-aged wives with young polo players. New York. it seems. is rife with elicit dalliances. but few lead to a slow walk tip the aisle. ‘I noticed that people who have been married once. sort of get over that mystique of marriage.‘ says Btishnell. who recently wed ballet dancer (‘harles Askegard alter an eight-week relationship. ‘They are not so eager to get married again. You already know that somebody wanted you.’
Finding a soulmate may be a universal desire. but is one rendered ludicrous when you shine the bright lights of New York’s social scene on any relationship. As Trading (3/) illustrates. social circles are elitist cliques and friendships v'actious at best. ‘New York is a place where you can know people for years without being friends.’ says Bushnell. ‘But then you change your position in society and people start looking at you in a different way and decide to be friends with you.‘ Indeed. in Four Blonder. Janey hooks up with a ‘good friend' — a comic. whose profile is rising in Hollywood who she calls maybe once a year.
‘Janey had reflected that while New York could certainly be superficial, it was a glorious sort of superficial, especially if you were on the inside.’
Bushnell herself has ‘traded up'. successfully permeating New York's .-\-list set. The daughter of a scientist. she was born in 1958 in (‘onnecticut but escaped. age l8. to live in New York. While her career as a journalist took her through vai'iotis women‘s maga/ines and editorial positions. her personal life was just as tasty — she had relationships with publishing mogul Ron (ialotti (the inspiration for ‘Mr Big') and linglish venture capitalist Stephen Morris.
Now happily hitched. New York society‘s queen of
fictional scandal doesn’t appear to be mellowing with marriage. If anything. her take on sex and relationships has become even more frank. which makes her first appearance in Britain in four years all the more invigorating.
Trailing ('p‘s finest commentary is a general desensitisation about sex: gender and otherwise. Blowjobs are offered and accepted with the same regularity as champagne. women are emotionally detached. liveryone is
42 THE LIST FESTIVAL GUIDE 27 Ami—.2 S-ﬁ-p 23-5“?
Sex and the City shocked and titillated with the stark reality of women who use and abuse men
‘YOU WON'T FIND THE WORDS SACRIFICE OR COMPROMISE IN THE VOCABULARY OF
THE MODERN YOUNG WOMAN'
so immersed in a culture of se\ that nothing shocks or surprises anymore. ‘You won't find the words sacrifice or compromise in the vocabulary of the modern young woman] says Bushnell. ‘lt's probably more an instrument. In bed she’ll be very passionate and totally into it. btit she is guilt-free. In that sense she is a woman who can ha\e sc\' like a man. She wants to haye her cake and eat it too. and that's what she does.‘ Another leg up. or met: the ladder.
23 Aug, 8pm, £8 (£6). Trading Up is published by Little, Brown priced £12.99.