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08.14.10

8 Great Literary Love Affairs

As the new book Furious Love burns up the bestseller list, we pick the literary couples that had the most over-the-top, passionate relationships in history.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the lives of celebrities fascinate us. Some are merely a welcome distraction with their ridiculous dramas and eccentricities—other notable people, especially artists we admire, provoke us to learn more about ourselves through reading about their lives. Artists live life on the edge, and they live it with great ego—a faith in themselves and in their work that gets them out of bed every morning. And we all know great ego, but most especially two great egos, makes for the most entertaining stories of narcissism and passion best played out behind closed doors, often in the bedroom.

View our Gallery of the Greatest Literary Affairs

No recent book better captures the crazy, irrepressible passions of great artists than Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger's book, Furious Love, on the marriage of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Theirs was a passionate connection that spanned 30 years—they married, divorced, remarried, and divorced again. Burton once wrote to Taylor, "I am forever punished by the gods for being given the fire and trying to put it out. The fire, of course, is you." He also classified Liz’s breasts as “apocalyptic,” a perplexing and delightful bit of information. Intrigued by Furious Love, I was prompted to gather a list of the most infamous literary pairings and their biographies—histories I have returned to again and again, both for entertainment and inspiration.

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Jessica Ferri is a writer at work on her first book. She lives in Brooklyn.