Everything about author Jesse Kornbluth’s new novel, Married Sex, from the title to the end of the book is provocative. The story follows two well-to-do, long-married Manhattanites as they attempt to navigate what happens when an attractive outsider comes between them—figuratively and literally.
Here, Kornbluth explains what makes the topic perennially fascinating, why it took him nearly two decades to pen his story and who he can see in the forthcoming film adaptation’s already sought-after leading role.
Your book is about a married couple navigating the choppy waters of fidelity, honesty and trust. It’s at once modern and also the oldest story in the world. How did you start writing it?
Here’s how it happened: In 1995, Dustin Hoffman optioned a novel about a New York divorce lawyer. Every A-list New York screenwriter was offered this book. They all passed. Somewhere near the bottom of the B-list or possibly the top of the C-list they found me. I read the book and it was dreadful, but I was interested in the character of the divorce lawyer and specifically what would be the last thing in the world a divorce lawyer would want—to be divorced. I told the story to Dustin and he smiled—he was amused—but I knew that he wasn’t going to do it. So, I went home and started writing it as a book. And I stopped. I started. I stopped. I started. I finished it last year…19 years later.
Well, your timing is spot on. The idea of infidelity has been in the news quite a bit recently.
I wish I could say I had the ability to see deep into the future. I actually think this moment is sort of like Sharknado. It’s a media moment. A number of people have tried to make me the poster boy for polyamory, but I feel more and more like a Jewish boy from the suburbs who just got a smart idea. I have no idea what people actually do as I have written.
Fair enough. You’re married. You’ve got a kid. How do you prepare to be the guy writing about this sort of thing?
It requires, in order to write a decent book, absolute disregard for anybody’s opinion. Here are some facts: The book is dedicated to my wife to initials that are not hers. She has not read the book, nor does she intend to read the book. My 13-year-old daughter is in no danger of reading the book or really almost any book, unless someone texted it to her, which isn’t going to happen. In the end, you just have to write the book you are supposed to write. And I did.
Are you ready to be pulled aside at dinners and queried about peoples’ marital lows?
I would be delighted to be the guy! And those poor people will be so disappointed. Look, here’s the thing about Ashley Madison: What it shows is you can’t do it that way, you can’t do it online with any expectation of privacy. The only way you can make arrangements like this is face-to-face and that’s what the people in my book do. They have complete discretion. The problem is unintended consequences. They thought everything out except what happens between them and the other person.
Another big deal for you is the book-to-film situation—Griffin Dunne will be directing a movie version—that is happening.
The film sold before the book. And the film made the book sale so much easier. It rarely happens this way. I’m happy it did because Griffin Dunne and I have been friends for 40 years. I got to write the script and be the executive producer of the movie, for what that’s worth, and with luck, talent will say yes and we will be shooting as soon as possible.
Do you have any dream players for these roles?
I found myself on a conference call a few weeks ago saying I don’t think Charlize Theron is right for this and I was so appalled to hear those words out of my mouth. I decided to refrain from participating in these conversations.