Although Married Sex (Open Road) is Jesse Kornbluth’s debut novel, he’s hardly a stranger to writing—as the smart, confident opening page of this wild and witty erotic romp shows.
Kornbluth is the founder of a cultural concierge website, headbutler.com, which describes itself as an advocacy site “for new stuff that’s actually exciting and great stuff that’s been overlooked.” Kornbluth summers in Southampton and Sag Harbor. He once served as editorial director of AOL, is the co-founder of bookreporter.com and he has written for Vanity Fair and New York Magazine. Kornbluth has also worked as a screenwriter for Robert De Niro, Paul Newman and PBS.
Married Sex is already on its way to being made into a film—Kornbluth has written the screenplay—though casting will be tricky since ambivalence is at the heart of this unusual plot. Some scenes are set in the Hamptons, others in New York; full of smart-mouth insider quips such as that about the Standard—“Isn’t that the hotel where couples leave the curtains open so people on the High Line can watch them?”
Protagonist David Greenfield, 46, is a highly successful New York born and bred divorce lawyer whose main clients are women with millionaire husbands. “In a city where diversity is our greatest asset, [these people] had turned their backs on it and formed a village, separated from the rest of us by a thick wall of money.” David adores his beautiful, sexy wife Blair. She is from the Midwest and is now a dean at Barnard College. David loves to see her reading; he loves to see her nude (“when it comes to breasts, I’m a first responder”). His first-person narrative guides the story as it also chronicles his admission of failure in fully understanding Blair and himself.
Their daughter has just gone off to college. Remarkably, after 20 years of marriage, David still enjoys hot sex with his wife but, well, he meets Jean Coin, a cool, attractive, smart photographic artist with edge, in a gallery. What’s a happily married man to do? The answer is: a threesome. Because, as David reveals, he and Blair have had an understanding that rather than stray, one should bring the other person home: “It’s not cheating if your spouse is there,” is it? Blair is at first shocked, skeptical, uninterested but she yields and the three meet for an introductory session.
Enter: confusion, surprise, desire of the kind that both David and Blair did not anticipate. What follows is some steamy stuff, gay and straight, missionary position and otherwise. It may be a bit much but Kornbluth enjoys writing about sex. Besides, both David and Blair would like to interpret their threesome in the larger and longer-running context of their love and marriage. The conclusion may disappoint but the theme abides.
In a publicity Q & A, Kornbluth says he was once in a threesome for several years, often for 10 hours a day—in his head. It’s the most common male fantasy. But if readers think that the book is a disguised memoir, he’d be flattered.
No “Fifty Shades of Jesse,” Married Sex is a love story. That’s the way he sees it and the way his real-life wife and daughter see it, he adds. The theme is an exploration of the power of sex to deepen or destroy love. “In an enduring marriage, you come for the sex and stay for the love.” He says he believes what his character David says—that the main reason couples get divorced is sex, that “interest withers or someone cheats.”