10 Real-Life Literary Power Couples


Artists love other artists. Perhaps there is an electric connection between two people whose minds are always whirring, or literary snobs can’t bear to date laymen, or perhaps for some writers, the only way they know their partner will understand them is if that person is also a writer. No matter what it is, there’s something powerful about a couple on the same team in the same industry. Plus, everybody loves a celebrity couple, and we particularly love literary celebrity couples. We like to imagine their arguments as poetic and their children as geniuses, and their lives spent sitting around in oaken rooms drinking brandy and scribbling between loving looks. Well, maybe that’s not realistic. But to each their own celebrity fantasy, right? Click through for our list of ten of our favorite real-life literary power couples — and let us know which ones we’ve missed in the comments!

Nicole Krauss & Jonathan Safran Foer

Brooklyn’s cutest literary couple got married in 2004 (that is, post-Everything Is Illuminated and Man Walks Into a Room and pre-Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and The History of Love, not to mention their most recent books) and have two children together. They’re young! They’re Jewish! They’re vegetarians! They’re both great writers and total nerds! So Brooklyn, right now, world. Also apparently they also have a strange metal tree in the front yard of their Park Slope brownstone, with signing hands instead of leaves. Well, what can you do.

Paul Auster & Siri Hustvedt

After meeting in 1981 at (what else?) a poetry reading, Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt married, and like so many other literary couples, they make their home in Brooklyn. By all accounts, they live an idyllic, normal life in a lovely, spare apartment, letting their complementary sensibilities — the dark transcendentalist postmodern American and the light, artistic Scandinavian — play off one another. Auster was also once married (from 1974 to 1978) to Lydia Davis, the master inventress and queen of contemporary postmodernism. Clearly somebody likes his ladies literary.

Allen Ginsberg & Peter Orlovsky

Ginsberg and Orlovsky’s relationship is one for the ages. The two poets met in 1954 in San Francisco and started a romance that would become life-long, remaining partners and lovers until Ginsberg’s death in 1997. Though in historical view, Orlovsky was a lesser poet than his partner, the two of them, with Kerouac and Burroughs, were in many ways the core of the Beat Generation.

David Foster Wallace & Mary Karr

Even though their relationship ended in a fit of arguments and at least one broken table, this was one serious power couple. Wallace is one of the most important fiction writers and essayists of recent history, and Karr is one of the most talented memoirists and poets we have still living. Both writers informed the other’s work, the most surface of examples being that Karr appears as a character in Wallace’s masterpiece Infinite Jest and Wallace makes a discreet entrance simply as David in Karr’s newest memoir Lit . Not many suitors could have matched either of these figures’ wit, so brief romance or not, we’re sure this flame burned bright.

Mary Shelley & Percy Shelley

Percy Shelley, who is regarded as one of the major English lyric poets, abandoned his pregnant wife to run away with Mary Godwin, the future author of Frankenstein , then 16. Two years later, Shelley’s estranged wife drowned herself, and the two were married.

Keith Gessen & Emily Gould

Due to their dramatic, insidery union, obvious attractiveness, Gawker-ties and multiple tattoos, Gessen and Gould were the poster children for the new generation of hipster literary coupledom back in 2008. Then everyone forgot about them and their whole sordid is-it-okay-for-an-author-to-date-a-book-blogger thing. They both came out with a book recently.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre

Fitzgerald and Sayre enjoyed their celebrity as a literary couple in the 1920s, hanging out with Hemingway and causing scandal wherever they went. Though he was the more famous writer, Fitzgerald would steal passages from Sayre’s journal to use in his novels, and eventually Sayre wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz , about her relationship with Fitzgerald. He was furious that she had revealed details of their personal life in literary form, but not so furious that he didn’t go on to do the same two years later, with Tender is the Night . Read both in tandem for a real 360 degree relationship experience.

Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller

Though Nin was married when she met Miller, they began a passionate love affair in Paris. There is even a published collection of the eloquent letters they sent to one another, documenting their love over a period of twenty-odd years.

Zadie Smith & Nick Laird

Yeah, they’re the most attractive literary couple ever. They met and Cambridge and they’re both incredibly brilliant. She, a famous fiction writer, he a prize-winning poet. Sigh.

Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes

Probably the most talked about literary couple, poets Plath and Hughes certainly had their share of problems, and both of them have written about their relationship with the other in poetic form. Hughes’ philandering spurred Plath’s depression, and he is generally roundly vilified in the story of their lives together. However, that didn’t stop him from becoming the UK Poet Laureate for 14 years, however, or her from becoming arguably the most read and most famous female poet of all time.