As to the “wife bonus,” described by Ms. Martin, a yearly sum bestowed by husbands for domestic services rendered, “it doesn’t exist,” scoffed Lisa Birnbach, an uptown native and the editor of “The Official Preppy Handbook.”
Ms. Martin believes she was skewered “not because I missed a fact or two but because I dared to follow through on my particular interests,” she said over herbal tea, hummus and celery sticks in her book-lined, blush and platinum tawny co-op on the Upper West Side. “My goal is and always has been to pursue my interest in topics that inflame people.”
After receiving a Ph.D. from Yale in comparative literature and cultural studies, she began her career as a popular author two decades ago with a biography of Marlene Dietrich. “I was fascinated by just how ballsy she was about her open marriage, her affairs with women and men,” Ms. Martin said. “She never denied them. She bent Hollywood to her Weimar attitudes.”
A stepmother to two daughters from her husband’s previous marriage (they also now have two sons of their own, 17 and 10), Ms. Martin in 1995 published “Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do.”
“I want to uncover the motivations behind the hostility and resentment, the resistance really, against certain women who are cultural signifiers: the adulteress, the stepmother, the indolent, hollow wealthy housewife,” she said. “Which is not, by the way how I saw the women in ‘Primates.’”
Ms. Martin makes no secret of her own abiding devotion to fashion, dedicating an entire chapter in that book to her pursuit of a Birkin bag, bought for her by her husband, Joel Moser, a banker.