She continued writing and worked as a freelance journalist for various publications, struggling to make ends meet for many years. She created a humorous column for the paper — Called "Sex and the City," the column was based on her own personal dating experiences and those of her friends. The series aired from through , and starred Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw , a socially active New York City sex and lifestyles columnist, a character whom Bushnell has stated was her alter ego.

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By this they mean that their limited world is failing to deliver what they think it owes them, or that it has somehow, mistakenly, given all the prizes to someone less deserving by which they usually mean less beautiful, or - worse still - more beautiful and less talented. In this world, however, that simply means that the coke-fuelled movie premieres are getting boring.

But the unspoken emphasis on the primacy of the individual at all costs lurks on as the sub-text. But this new book brings her closer to Choderlos de Laclos and the machiavellian sexual ballet of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Those who do, meanwhile, discover that the Grail of marriage merely produces a new set of dissatisfactions and neuroses.

Tellingly, the two authors called on to provide the obligatory jacket quotes here are Helen Fielding and Brett Easton Ellis, but although in Britain Bushnell is as often compared to Fielding as she is to Austen, she belongs firmly in the Easton Ellis school.

Her women are no less grasping and self-obsessed than the brash Wall Street cast of American Psycho, and they do not know how to laugh at themselves; there is no room here for gentle Bridget Jones-like self-deprecation about wobbly thighs.

In this hard-nosed, hard-bodied New York society, wobbly thighs can mean the end of the world - or at least of a relationship or a career, which amounts to the same thing. The four novellas here share a social landscape and a central pool of characters, but are linked more pertinently by the physiognomy of the female protagonists, who occupy different points on the same graph while keeping their thirty-something insecurities in common. Winnie and James Dieke are successful journalists in their late thirties, with an attractive child, established careers and an enviable circle of famous friends.

Why, then, are both so frustrated and angry with the world? Are they scared of them too? Do they hate them? Do they ever have fantasies of pushing their wives down on the bed and ripping off their underpants and giving it to them in the butt? It is the final, short story that is the most intriguing. An unnamed American journalist, whom the reader is invited, knowingly, to identify as a Bushnell alter-ego, arrives in London.

Believing that relationships between the sexes are more relaxed here, she proceeds to reinforce all the textbook transatlantic stereotypes, under the pretext of exploding them. I wanted the big, great, inspiring story about an unmarried career woman who goes to London on assignment and meets the man of her dreams and marries him. She gets the big ring and the big house and the adorable children, and she lives happily ever after.

But stories are not reality, no matter how much we might wish them so. Like Wilde or Nancy Mitford, Bushnell has chosen to examine human behaviour in a world that appears at first implausibly one-dimensional. That she can elicit sympathy and indeed empathy for these characters is testament to her skill as a writer, particularly her gift for brilliantly waspish dialogue.


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