One Fifth Avenue

By Candace Bushnell.

Voice. 433 pp. $25.95


By Joy Tipping


Fans of Candace Bushnell may be surprised to learn that her latest book focuses more on high-rises than high heels.

The

Sex and the City

author turns her trenchant wit and eye for social folly to real estate with

One Fifth Avenue

, which focuses on characters inhabiting a landmark art deco building in New York City's Greenwich Village.

In addition to

One Fifth Avenue

and

Sex and the City

(which began as a series of columns for the New York Observer), Bushnell has written three other novels, including

Lipstick Jungle

, the basis of the NBC series. She hosts a New York-based Sirius radio show called

Sex, Success, and Sensibility

, and is working on two young-adult books for HarperCollins about

SATC

's Carrie Bradshaw during high school and college.

The idea for

One Fifth

sprang from her own youth. Bushnell grew up in Glastonbury, Conn., where she learned firsthand how crazy people can get over their property. Her mother, Camille, was a real-estate agent.

"She taught me how real estate is so deeply ingrained in people's psyches, very deep-rooted and complicated," Bushnell says. "It really goes back to the caveman days - who had a bigger cave than someone else? And whose cave had a parking space?"

In

One Fifth

, one of the most hilariously disturbing episodes is when nouveau-riche tech guru Paul Rice is thwarted in his efforts to buy, at any cost, the building's sole parking space, which is distributed through a lottery each year.

Despite his gazillions, Paul discovers that, as Bushnell puts it, "money not only can't buy you happiness, it can't even buy a parking space. And there is still some fairness in life - but it may not be fairness as Paul sees it."

The real-life One Fifth Avenue skirts Washington Square Park and is home to Blythe Danner, Sam Shepard, Tim Burton, and Helena Bonham Carter, among others, according to the New York Post.

In her novel, Bushnell populates it with Paul and his nicer-than-he-deserves wife, Annalisa; Philip Oakland, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who's now slumming with screenplays (

Bridesmaids Revisited

); a movie star in his 40s who's slumming with television and who is the author's ex-lover; Lola Fabrikant, a would-be Carrie Bradshaw who is the author's current lover; Enid, a Liz Smith-esque columnist; and the hideously pretentious Mindy Gooch, president of the owners' board.

Hovering over them all is the figurative ghost of Louise Houghton, a society doyenne of the Brooke Astor mold whose death sets off a frenzy over the disposition of her fabulous three-story apartment.

Bushnell pays tongue-in-cheek homage to both

Sex and the City

and her own heritage in the book. Lola, a character so reprehensible that she somehow becomes lovable, is described as someone who has seen every episode of

Sex and the City

at least 100 times - and has come to New York with one goal: snagging her own Mr. Big.

In addition to the horrors of real estate, Bushnell notes, the book also touches on how the new always eventually replaces the old - people, buildings, this week's most-wanted bling - despite one character's lament that "all the best people are dead."

And of course, if they can't get that parking space, they might as well be.

Joy Tipping writes for the Dallas Morning News.