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Married Sex: A Love Story

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Aug 25, 2015
Category: Fiction

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.

Inspiration: a line from “Because the Night,” by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith: “Love is an angel disguised as lust.”

The plot: A husband and wife, married for 20 years, have devised a novel way to protect their marriage — if you’re tempted to cheat, bring that person home. Or as the line on the movie poster might say: “It’s not cheating if your wife’s there.” A delicious dirty book? Only on one level.

Go deeper: “Married Sex” is a love letter to marriage. And its challenges. And how unspoken grievances become issues and issues become indictments and indictments become verdicts. Ultimately, the book is about intimate relationships and how they go wrong and how, if we’re smart and lucky, they get right again. And how sex often is at the center of those misunderstandings. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. To buy 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.]

You may have questions. I know I did. So I interviewed myself. Better believe I asked the tough questions.

JK: A novel about a threesome. Told in the first-person by the husband. Written by a married male writer. The question is obvious.

JK: Yes, I have been in a threesome, for several years, often for ten hours a day — in my head. Or, more plainly: “Married Sex” is fiction. The sex? I made it up, all of it. But if readers think this is a disguised memoir, I’ll be flattered. I like fiction that reads as if it’s truth. It delights me when friends read the book and say, “I can’t look you in the face.”

JK: You’re hoping to capitalize on ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.”

JK: Sorry. This is so not “Fifty Shades of Jesse.” I know the eye goes to the second word of the title. And I know the oxymoron lends itself to easy jokes: “’Married Sex’ — a short book, right?” But it’s the first word that drives the book. “Married Sex” is a love story that focuses on the power that sex has to deepen or destroy love. That’s why the line from “Because the Night” is the book in brief. In an enduring romance — at least in this one — a man and woman come for the sex and stay for the love.

JK: Noble thoughts. The cynic in me would counter that you’re rationalizing a desire to experience a threesome.

JK: Blame Dustin Hoffman, who once had the film rights to a novel about a divorce lawyer. No screenwriter jumped to write it, and eventually the offer came to me. The novel was beyond stupid, but the character of the divorce lawyer interested me. I thought: What does a divorce lawyer want least? To be divorced. And why do couples get divorced? They cite all manner of reasons, but in the end, I believe it comes down to sex; interest withers, or someone cheats. How might a couple prevent a divorce? I thought: What if they 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. And passed.

JK: You’ve sold many screenplays and taught screenwriting. Why didn’t you write this story as a movie?

JK: A threesome is the most common male fantasy. Porn videos regularly and crudely exploit this fantasy. But I’ve never found a novel about a threesome — how it happens, what happens, what happens after — with characters who are like people we know, people like us. I was terrified that someone would publish a novel with this plot before I could. No one did. And now I not only have the book, but I’ve written the screenplay for a movie to be directed by actor/director/producer Griffin Dunne (“Practical Magic,” “After Hours”) and produced by Nick Wechsler (“Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “The Road,” “Magic Mike”).

JK: Writing sex for several years, and then getting paid for it — you call that work?

JK: Like climbing Everest in sneakers. To recreate, without cliché, an experience that’s physical, emotional, even spiritual — yes, I call that work. One of the joys of finishing the book was no longer having to think about sex for most of the day.

JK: What has writing this book taught you about sex and marriage?

JK: Sex: It must be very important, because no one I know ever talks about it. Marriage: Every marriage is unique, but as a general rule, the more you like one another the better it works.

JK: You’re the father of a teenage daughter. What have you told her about the book?

JK: That it’s a love story. And that, if it does well, she’s going to college.
THE MOVIE: Hollywood optioned the novel before I had a publisher. (This almost never happens.) Griffin Dunne directs. I wrote the script. Now we’re assembling a cast.

“MARRIED SEX” ON THE RADIO: Sheila Hamilton, 5-time Emmy winner, grilled me.

READING GROUP GUIDE: Some people — me, for one — think my book would make for splendid conversation in reading groups. So I created a 10-question cheat sheet.