The Virginity of Famous Men
Christine Sneed
“The First Wife”

“The First Wife” is from Christine Sneed’s new collection, THE VIRGINITY OF FAMOUS MEN (Bloomsbury, 2016), her fourth book.


Writing in a New York Times Review, Lauren Christensen said of the book: “The individuals she [Sneed] selects to populate her stories are a disparate crew….We encounter these and other characters in vividly drawn scenes that Sneed bluntly cuts short, forcing us to abruptly shift perspective and adapt to the next story’s new discontinuities.”


Sneed said this about the origin of her story: Despite the sober tone of “The First Wife,” this short story was a lot of fun to write. I liked the formal challenge of writing a story that began at its chronological end and progressed backward. As I wrote it, I was thinking of a particular famous couple and the first wife who was left behind (and against her will, was featured on tabloids the world over, often with an unflattering expression on her face). I felt compassion for this woman and for my title character, but not pity, because she’s smart and knows that she took an enormous risk by marrying a movie star, even if she is also somewhat famous. Like so many of us, she loves fairy tales and wanted to believe in them too.


Hollywood and its glamorous products and purveyors are important to so many people, and some of us, whether we admit to it or not, have personal and often irrational attachments to movie stars and to other celebrities whom we’ve fallen a little in love with because we admire the way they sing or look or act. The famous also have attributes or opportunities that most of us don’t have but wish we did – whether it be extreme wealth or beauty or the most attractive lovers on the planet.


Adding fuel to this bonfire is the rise of the reality TV show, which allows some participants, whether or not they have talent, to become famous overnight. One result of this phenomenon is that more people than ever before hope to become famous but don’t really have any idea what it’s like to be a celebrity. I have a few friends who work in Hollywood and what I’ve learned from them is something that we’ve been told before, but it rarely ever seems to stick: all that glitters definitely isn’t gold

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