News & Articles

The Public Lives of the Published

by Kelly Kerwin & Kendra Miller

Sex with Strangers examines the fiery relationship of two people who have one thing in common: their love of writing, be it a blog or a novel. Ethan and Olivia’s lust for the written word begins to fortify their passion for one another. Today, best-selling novelists often fall into tabloid dramas of passion, ambition, infatuation and competition that could prove quite the page turner. The glitz and glamour of literary fame spins its own twisted tales of real-life hookups and breakups. Fresh off the presses, here are the top four most intriguing literary love stories of today: I’M NOT OBSESSED, I’M DEVOTED The Players: Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, his first wife Lollie Groth, his current wife Ayelet Walman, one very pleased anonymous New York Times editor. The Scoop: A fiction writer marries a poet. His career as a writer takes off while her career does not. Michael Chabon and Lollie Groth soon divorce as Michael reveals in a Rolling Stone interview, “I was married at the time to someone else who was also a struggling writer, and the success created a gross imbalance in our careers, which was problematic.” Michael meets and remarries with Ayelet Waldman, another writer, in 1993. Michael’s work gains more critical and commercial praise. He wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000 for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Rather than giving into jealousy over Michael’s accolades, Ayelet remains his devoted wife and mother of his children. She stands her ground and lets the world know exactly how she feels about her husband in a revelatory and controversial 2005 New York Times editorial where she writes “I love my husband more than I love my children.” Together with Michael—and their four children—Ayelet continues to publish work. The Score:Borderline Sensational HAPPILY EVER AFTER? The Players: Best Young American Novelist Jonathan Safron Foer, Best Young American Novelist Nicole Krauss, one delighted real estate broker, two genetically blessed progeny. The Scoop: Jonathan Safran Foer struggles as a writer for hardly any time at all before publishing his first novel Everything is Illuminated at the age of 25; thus establishing himself as a wunderkind and the envy of his peers. In the same year, Nicole Krauss, another rising star in the literary world, publishes Man Walks Into a Room and ends up on many “Best of 2002” lists, alongside Jonathan. Both writers have the attention of the literati and accept hefty advances to write their second novels. These two would-be rivals marry in 2004 and publish their second novels in 2005. His was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close while she wrote The History of Love. The husband and wife continue to write, garner awards and receive offers from Hollywood for their work. They both appear on Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists (2007) as well as on The New Yorker’s “20 under 40” list of fiction authors (2010). They live in a multi-million dollar brownstone in Brooklyn with their two kids. They also have a pile of money that resides under their pile of awards. The Score:Real-life Romance GREEN WITH ENVY The Players: Jonathan Franzen, Kathryn Chekovitch, Valerie Cornell, the uproarious adoration of millions, The New York Times Best Sellers List. The Scoop: “THIS IS A STORY about two writers. A story, in other words, of envy,” writes Kathryn Chekovitch in a telling article for The Observer on her relationship with dashing American literary wunderkind, Jonathan Franzen. After witnessing Franzen’s first commercial success with his 2001 novel, The Corrections and then his exploding popularity after the publishing of Freedom in 2010, Chekovitch’s own identity as a writer quickly falls away and she becomes more well known as Franzen’s girlfriend. Franzen is no stranger to the romantic perils and inequality of the limelight. His first wife, the mysterious Valerie Cornell, was Franzen’s constant companion during his starving artist days and also witness to his first successes, a stress that proved too much for their marriage and eventually caused Cornell, also an aspiring writer, to give up her craft. Chekovitch’s article, appropriately titled Envy, is a fascinating and raw look at the power dynamics that the fickle fountain of fame fosters in creative relationships. It remains to be seen if Chekovitch’s talent for honest and personal revelation will extend beyond this provocative glimpse into a taboo subject. The Score: Potentially Problematic DIVORCE, TRAVEL, PUBLISH The Players: Best-selling memoirist Elizabeth Lee Gilbert, the ex-husband muse Michael Cooper, new husband “Felipe”, various countries around the world, pasta. The Scoop: Elizabeth Lee Gilbert’s best-selling 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love inspired millions of people around the world to eat, meditate and romance their way to enlightenment. Soon after, it was made into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Julia Roberts. Inspired by Gilbert’s search for meaning after her real-life split from Michael Cooper, the novel hardly depicts their six-year marriage and subsequent torturous divorce in a positive light. Cooper’s plans to write his own exposing narrative, first tentatively titled Displaced before being renamed The Husband: One Man’s Story of Moving In, Moving Out, and Moving On, are now on hold after publisher Hyperion apparently requested a more “racy” version of the events that transpired between the once happy couple. Cooper refused to pander to the dramatic tastes of those hungry for the gritty details on the “he said” side of a marriage gone down in flames. Gilbert’s recent marriage to "Felipe,” the prominently featured leading man in her novel, and her subsequent novel Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage has only added fuel to the fire. Will Cooper’s broken-hearted tell-all ever find its way into the hearts of the public? The Score: Winner Takes All