Unlucky in love, but gaga for hanky-panky, Table Talk communed with Gail Parent, whose 1972 classic Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York (just reissued by Overlook) is still the wryest book-length suicide note ever written by a single girl who’d rather be buried than unmarried.
You’ve been married three times, first at 21—to your drama professor at NYU! How much of Sheila Levine’s story is yours? I was 30 when I wrote it, married, with two children. It does come into the category of fiction, but a lot of the feelings and the angst of finding someone were mine. My mother told me to hurry up and find someone in college because it was going to get harder after graduating, and that’s what I did.
What would Sheila Levine’s e-mail handle be if she posted her own personal ad? SingleSheil because “Sheil” is so much schleppier than “Sheila.”
You created Sheila 31 years ago. Does she have anything in common with Carrie Bradshaw & co., aside from living in Manhattan and wanting more sex in the city? I love that they’re having fun while they wait for exactly the right person. When Sheila Levine first came out, it was very topical. Then came the ’80s; marriage wasn’t in favor. Now I have a young reading audience who wants to get married again. It’s swung back.