The Life and Loves Love of Gay Talese

The acclaimed author is writing a memoir about his not-so-open marriage.

Aug. 10, 2007 — -- "Did I have lust in my heart? Is that what you want to know," asks acclaimed journalist Gay Talese.

"Of course I had lust in my heart. Did I ever fall in love with another person? No."

Talese, considered a founding father of new journalism and the author of 12 books, did more than lust. He also, at times, acted on that lust. "But that," he says, "is old news."

Following a recent report in the New York Daily News that Talese, 75, was reportedly working on a tell-all memoir about his nearly five-decade "open marriage" to book editor Nan Talese, he wanted to set the record straight.

"It's just not true," he tells ABC "I'm sorry it's not true, because it would be a better story. I don't have an open marriage. If I had an open marriage, I would have written about it long ago."

Talese had an affair in the late 1970s. It featured in "Thy Neighbor's Wife," a groundbreaking work of creative nonfiction published in 1981 that examined American attitudes about morality in the last days of the sexual revolution.

In an effort to understand American sexual mores, Talese operated massage parlors in New York City, attended a nude beach near his hometown of Ocean City, N.J., and visited a nudist camp called Sandstone in Southern California, where "nudists gathered and there was also consensual adultery."

Talese confirmed that he is working on a memoir, and it is about his marriage to wife Nan. The book is the third in a series to be published by Knopf. The first, "Unto the Sons," was about his parents' immigration from Italy at the turn of the 20th century. Last year, he published "A Writer's Life," an autobiography about his prolific career as a journalist.

Part of the as yet untitled and unfinished memoir is about the tumultuous times in his marriage when he was working on "Thy Neighbor's Wife."

"When I started 'Thy Neighbor's Wife' in the early '70s, there was an awful lot of stress in this marriage. There was a time it looked like it wouldn't last. I was researching the book and running massage parlors a block away from Random House," he says.

Talese says the upcoming memoir would be "a writer writing about a 50-year experience with a person. Into that relationship there are a number of other characters -- friends, writers, people we knew. It's about two people under the same roof from the period of the late 1950s through the 21st century."

He said the memoir would be told through the vantage points of them both. Talese has hired a former New York Times colleague to interview Nan independently and get her take on the same events Talese will discuss in the book.

The couple lived in New York City and kept a summer home in Talese's boyhood town of Ocean City. They raised two daughters together.

Earlier this year, Nan Talese had a heated exchange with talk show host Oprah Winfrey over the publication of James Frey's book, "A Million Little Pieces." Nan edited the memoir, which made Oprah's Book Club, but the story was later discovered to be a hoax.

Gay Talese also told ABC that he was working a new version of "Thy Neighbor's Wife" that would take a new look at sex in America at the turn of the 21st century.