Ms. Big

Photo: Patrick McMullan

Abandon your assumptions about Candace Bushnell: The fortysomething heroines of Lipstick Jungle have little use for Jimmy Choos—except, perhaps, as a product to market. Wendy is a brilliant film producer whose 70-hour-a-week Oscar quest takes a toll on her family. Anna Wintour–ish editor-in-chief Nico plots her fatal strike in a kill-or-be-killed office duel—and cheats with a male model. And despite her creative drive, fashion designer Victory’s proverbial power suit always feels two sizes too big.

While Bushnell’s latest may look like standard chick lit—check out the cherry-red lipstick on the cover!—it’s more concerned with the minefields of success (and the glory of the corner office) than erotic wiles. The author laces her pages with astute insights on power—and why a woman who wields it is so often viewed negatively. “The clichéd idea is she’s a dragon lady and a bitch,” says Bushnell, 46, who lives in the West Village with her ballet-dancer husband, Charles Askegard. “But the women I know who are successful in their forties are all women’s women.”

For added value, there’s the Manhattan guessing game: who’s who at all the Ziegfeld premieres and lunches at Michael’s. But the real satisfaction here is the book’s surprisingly thoughtful pop feminism, at once sharp and sweet.

Lipstick Jungle
By Candace Bushnell
Hyperion September 1 ($24.95).

Ms. Big