Tiger, Jesse and the best adultery literature of all time
Public fascination with the antics of Tiger Wood, Jesse James and other recent marital scoundrels astounds me. Infidelity has been a favorite theme of literature going back to King David and Bathsheba. By comparison, Tiger and Jesse are dull boys, indeed.
In fact, apart from a flash of drama here and there, there’s little in the current crop of scandals that will be long remembered. The best image — Wood’s wife Elin attacking the golf great with a club from his own bag — may not even be true.
The proclivity of Wood and James for porn stars is downright depressing. I mean, how unimaginative can you get? Tiger Wood pursuing adult actresses is like Jeremy Wade fishing a pay pond, or those Ghost Hunter guys investigating a Jaycees Halloween haunted house.
Plus, Jesse — you’re married to Sandra Bullock. What’s wrong with you?
Compared to James and Wood, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford looks like a tower of rectitude. At least he cheated for love, describing his Argentinian lover as his “soul mate.” I did it for love is no excuse, but it’s miles better than I’m a childish buffoon with no self-control.
And Sanford is most likely, among the current malefactors, to bequeath us a lasting addition to the language: “Hiking the Appalachian Trial” will forever have an additional meaning.
Enough of these pipsqueaks. Here’s a list of ten great cheaters from literature. Pick a favorite, or add your own:
1. Helen and Paris, The Iliad. That whole Trojan War thing got started because Helen, wife of King Menelaus, ran away to Ilium with Paris.
2. Lancelot and Guinevere. From Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur to every subsequent iteration, the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is dominated by the affair between Guinevere, his queen, and Lancelot, his greatest knight.
3. “The Miller’s Tale” is just one of the bawdy cheating stories in Chaucer’s classic, The Canterbury Tales.
4. Much of Shakespeare devolves upon adultery, but perhaps most fascinating is Othello, a story of jealousy and murder regarding a false charge of infidelity.
5. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. After all, Mr. Rochester is still married to the Mad Woman in the attic the first time Jane tries to marry him. Do you have to have sex to commit adultery, or is emotional intimacy sufficient?
6. Madame Bovary, by Gustav Flaubert — a personal favorite. The wife of a country doctor seeks fulfillment in the arms of a succession of men not her husband. Poor Emma comes to a bad end.
7. “The Lady with the Little Dog,” by Anton Chekhov. The first time I read this story it seemed to me that no one need ever write about adultery again.
8. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin — a prescient feminist classic, published in 1899. A young wife, Edna Pontellier, realizes her stultifying marriage will never make her happy and falls in love with another man. Like Emma Bovary, Edna can find no place in the world.
9. The Great Gatbsy, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It always amazes me how much there is in this slim book besides Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy.
10. Without adultery, what would John Updike have written about? Among the best: Rabbit, Run, his first novel; Couples, wife-swapping written in the ’60s, as it happened; Too Far to Go, a collection of stories about the Maples and their doomed union (said to be based on Updike’s own first marriage).
This is but a smattering of the great literature inspired by infidelity. Please add some favorites of your own.