[dl] Books

Sex and the City’s best man, Evan Handler, dishes on Harry and Charlotte Goldenblatt, overcoming cancer, and phony press releases. By Allison Winn Scotch

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Evan Handler could use a hearty bowl of Charlotte York Goldenblatt’s homemade matzo-ball soup. His Italian in-laws, who are visiting him and his family at their Los Angeles–area home, have brought a cold with them, and he has caught it. Still, that’s not going to keep him down. After all, a cold is nothing compared to Handler’s five-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia, which, by his own admission, he was lucky to survive.

Handler wrote about that fight, which began when he was just 24, in his first memoir, Time on Fire: My Comedy of Terrors, in 1996. Now, at 47, and after spending two seasons on Sex and the City as Charlotte’s divorce lawyer turned husband, he’s returning to the subject of himself in a second memoir, It’s Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive, due out on May 1. The new book chronicles his life after recovery from the disease and even shares a few tidbits about that oh-so-tiny movie you might have heard of that’s being released later this month, Sex and the City. In the film, Handler revisits his role as Harry Goldenblatt, everyone’s favorite shark lawyer by day and softie husband by night. Here, Handler fills us in on movie rumors and tells us why, in It’s Only Temporary, he wrote his life story out of chronological order.

So, Sex and the City. Is anyone looking forward to that? I don’t go anywhere in the world without people stopping me and saying, “I can’t wait for the movie.” There just seems to be a wild appetite for more. In New York, our shoots were like a freak show -- people were 200 deep. And people were even writing about a fictional hiccuping condition.

Right -- your hiccups. Reportedly, they shut down filming, but that, of course, turned out to have been a false report. Speaking of making things up, I know that the movie producers have been doing their best spin control and even putting out fake spoilers to deter overzealous fans. You know, I think that when the press is so hungry to write anything, it’s easy to keep them writing stuff. So if actors are seen wearing clothes as if they’re going to a wedding, then you put out a press release saying, “We’re dressing people up for a wedding to mislead people,” and then the press will write that you are dressing people up for a wedding to mislead people. The Sex and the City people have a way of manipulating the press to their advantage.

In regard to the film, was there still a lot of story to be told with Harry and Charlotte? There are lots and lots of Harry and Charlotte stories to be told, but this movie doesn’t tell them. In the movie, Harry and Charlotte are held up as a perfect, happy couple and left there. I mean, hey, they are a couple who just had their first three years of parenthood, so there are plenty of stories that could have been told, but that’s just not what the movie concentrates on. The truth is that I’m just a cog in the wheel. It was a project that was fun to be a part of, but it was not mine to sculpt or do that way. I’m not so invested in it.

One thing you’re clearly invested in is your new book, It’s Only Temporary. Why return to a memoir for the second time? I didn’t write for a while after the first book, Time on Fire, was published. Then, when I decided to write again, I started writing on a related subject -- not about illness, but about a guy who was many years past an illness. Yet his life was still informed by the same issues: Is he making the most of his life? And how haunted is he still by those experiences? That got me writing again, so I decided to stop passing judgment on whether I found something new to write about and accept that some artists draw the same patch of land over and over again. Picasso painted a lot of pictures of guitars.

Did you find as you were writing, or by the end, that it was cathartic or revelatory? This book has been more cathartic than the first because it’s been about sorting through my own issues, as opposed to sorting through my issues with other people. This is a book about a guy, who after years and years of muddling through and not being able to increase the velocity of growing up, finds his way to genuine real contentment and joy and gratitude. This one is more of a journey, even though it’s a bit unconventional in how it’s written.

You mean in how it bounces back and forth in time? Yeah. I became really interested in seeing whether you could successfully write a book that reveals somebody in the same way that you get to know someone, which is through the individual stories they tell you, even though you get the details out of order. When you’ve heard 20 of their stories, you realize, “Oh, I kind of know that person; I know their life story,” even though they didn’t tell you, “This is where I grew up, this is where I went to high school, and this is where I went to college.”


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I know that you’re also an advocate for leukemia awareness. How do you give back to that community? When I was sick, I was looking for examples of people who had gone through what I’d gone through and gotten well, and I really didn’t find any. Now that I’m many years past it, with a wife and a baby and a good life, I think it’s good to exist as an example. It’s an easy thing to be open about my history and let people take whatever inspiration they can in that way. I don’t tend to write the traditionally Hallmark-card inspiration stuff. My stuff is about someone who wrestles openly and honestly with issues and finds his way to a good, happy place. I think that’s a really hard-earned happiness. So I’m happy for the amount that that can inspire people.


Four Friends, Six Seasons, Countless Shoes

We raise our cosmos to these, our picks for the best episodes of Sex and the City.

The Episode: “Ex and the City,” Season Two
Plotlines: Carrie and the other girls explore the question, “Can you ever be friends with an ex?” and Big announces that he’s engaged to Natasha.
Empowerment Moment: The foursome relives the final scene from The Way We Were.
Best Lines: Big, to Carrie: “I don’t get it.” Carrie, to Big: “And you never did.”

The Episode: “Running with Scissors,” Season Three
Plotlines: Carrie and Big continue their doomed affair, and Natasha takes a spill down the stairs.
Empowerment Moments: Samantha discloses her, ah, history without apology while taking an HIV test, and Miranda tells off a sexually harassing talking sandwich.
Best Line: Carrie: “We’re so over, we need a new word for over.”

The Episode: “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little,”Season Six
Plotlines: Carrie upsets her then-boyfriend Berger when she tells him New York women do not wear scrunchies in their hair.
Empowerment Moment: Miranda passes on her life-changing knowledge during her lunch break, hoping to save other women from future heartache.
Best Line: Berger, to Miranda, about what it means when a guy doesn’t call back: “There are no mixed messages with men. He’s just not that into you.”

The Episode: “An American Girl in Paris (Part Deux),” Season Six
Plotlines: In the series finale, Carrie gets her man, Miranda nurtures Steve’s mother, Samantha lets Smith in, and Charlotte finally gets the baby she’s been dreaming of.
Empowerment Moment: Carrie finds her “Carrie” necklace hiding in the lining of her purse -- and in doing so, she finds her true self.
Best Line: Carrie: “The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”