THE AMAZING, UNEXPECTED REVIEW IN THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
It begins: “Kornbluth’s debut novel, about a happy marriage interrupted by a ménage à trois, could easily have coasted on its promise of titillation. Instead it is a skillfully written, lighthearted and clever story that manages to be steamy but never salacious… Kornbluth has a screenwriter’s ear for witty banter, and the novel hinges on the charming voice of its narrator.” For all of it, click here.
Dustin Hoffman optioned a novel about a divorce lawyer. It was wretched. No screenwriter wanted to write it, and eventually the offer came to me. I agreed with the other screenwriters: The novel sucked.
But there was something about the main character that interested me.
I thought: What does a divorce lawyer want least? To be divorced.
I thought: Why do couples get divorced? They cite all manner of reasons, but in the end, I believe it most often comes down to sex; interest withers, or someone cheats.
I thought: How might a couple prevent a divorce? Well, what if the lawyer and his wife made an agreement — if you’re tempted to cheat, bring that person home.
I pitched that story to Dustin.
“It sounds like it should have subtitles,” he said. “I can see it made in France.”
I took that as a compliment. But he passed.
That was in 1995. I started writing “Married Sex” as a novel that year. The first chapter is essentially the same chapter you’ll find in the published novel, which is finally available — 20 years later. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here. And for those who prefer audio books, here it is, from Audible, read by the radiantly gifted Tavia Gilbert and the author.]
So I had to make a book video — it’s required now.
If you’ve seen book videos, you know they’re usually very basic. In an office — often the publisher’s office — we see a brightly lit writer. She says, “Hi, I’m Jane Jones, and I wrote ‘That Summer Weekend in Maine.’ It’s about a family that has a reunion in the old manse. And…secrets are revealed.”
My friend Gretl Claggett and I went in another direction. Without showing the characters or the author, we wanted to give you a sense of the environment of the book — a peek into the lives of Blair Watkins, a Barnard dean, and her husband, David Greenfield, a divorce lawyer. They live in New York, so let’s call the environment “sophisticated.” The music, too — it’s by Hang Massive, a HeadButler.com favorite. Well, a favorite of mine, at least. Like this:
But…20 years. Why the delay?
From 1996 to 2002, I had 24/7 jobs, first as co-founder and editor of bookreporter.com and then as editorial director of America Online. There was a divorce, an apartment sale, an apartment purchase, a move, a remarriage, a child. Mostly, there was stark terror.
I could say: I’d never written a novel before, and that terrified me. But the truth is that I was terrified of writing a novel in the first person — a novel so detailed about the narrator’s sex life and his ideas about sex that readers might think it’s a memoir. So I’d write a chapter, freeze and flee. And again. Until I finally decided that it didn’t matter if readers thought I wasn’t just writing a story but endorsing it.
You’ll think what you want. But let me suggest that the book is fiction, with a few disguised anecdotes about other people. And let me suggest the book’s theme: unintended consequences. In a few hours on a Saturday night, David and Blair think they’re doing something harmless and private. And, as often happens when other people are involved, life’s just not that simple.
Does it read like a movie? Yes. Because I wanted readers to visualize the story as they read it. Because I believe this is a smart way to write novels. And because I wanted the novel to grow up to be a movie.
As it turned out, the book was optioned for a film before it sold to a publisher. Griffin Dunne will direct. I wrote the screenplay. It’s currently making its way toward production. You may be sure I’ll share news about that seconds after I hear it.
For now… the book. Seven thousand words shorter than “The Great Gatsby” — you can read it on a cross-country plane or in a single evening. First, though, you need to get a copy. so….