Is It OK To Have Affairs If You Need Them For Your Art?

Are writers accountable to a different moral code? As their art is so necessary, their perceptions so keen, perhaps they have to live up to a different Torah?

Fred emails:

I can see the dialog now:

Dear, I have a confession to make.  I cheated on you, but it was necessary for my art.

Oh, OK.  As long as it was just for art’s sake.

I knew you’d understand.

Luke, do you really think that an affair is ever necessary for art?  If so, under what circumstances?

JOE EMAILS: "I know I’d feel a lot happier and creative if I got to have sex with many beautiful women while simultaneously keeping up my one main relationship."

From the New York Times, a review of the first authorized biography of V.S. Naipaul:

The sensual release with Margaret opened up Naipaul’s most creative period, in the 1970s. “And thereafter I thought if that thing hadn’t occurred in my life I probably would have shriveled and died as a writer,” Naipaul told French. “All the later books in a way to some extent depend on her. They stopped being dry.” Compare Naipaul’s two Africa novels — the taut, austere “In a Free State,” published in 1971, and his full-bodied masterpiece “A Bend in the River,” published in 1979 — and it’s impossible to deny that having sex with Margaret (they did little else) was good for his writing. But so was living with Pat — for Naipaul didn’t leave her, nor she him. Instead, he split his life in two — the cerebral and the sexual, “Mama at home, a whore in South America,” in French’s harsh summation — and went back and forth between them with the knowledge, if not exactly the consent, of both.

Pat acceded to the arrangement because she had no idea of any possible life without Naipaul, and because her only sense of pleasure or worth came in his continued dependence on her steadying presence and judgment. Margaret became the new traveling companion (though Naipaul usually sent her away out of pique before the trip was done), while Pat, drugging herself with Quaaludes and Valium, waited at home in Wiltshire to provide literary advice. Rough sex with Margaret would be directly rendered in key passages of “Guerrillas” and “A Bend in the River”; then Pat would listen to the write-up, flinch, leave the room, return, express admiration, make suggestions — without ever daring to “ask herself to what extent Vidia’s writing is drawn from life, and specifically from his life with Margaret.”

I’m curious what the definitive biography says about the superb previous efforts by Paul Theroux and Jeffrey Meyers.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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