05/17/2015 09:07 pm ET Updated May 17, 2016

The Marriage Book Is 560 Pages of Wisdom, Wit, Stories and Even Some Good Advice

The subject of Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler's book is marriage, which may be why it fills 560 pages and weighs 3.7 pounds. "You won't able to put down," someone said. That was one buffed reader. Me, I could barely pick it up.

Lisa Grunwald was a close friend in my lost youth. In recent decades, as happens in my city, she morphed into a friend of friends, married with children. Our paths didn't cross again until a school smart enough to put Lisa on its board was dumb enough to reject my child --- in truth, given how my city works, to reject me. Fortunately, I could tell the difference between Lisa and an Admissions Director; Lisa remained on a pedestal.

She's on a higher one now. Until I looked into The Marriage Book: Centuries of Advice, Inspiration, and Cautionary Tales from Adam and Eve to Zoloft, I didn't know that Lisa has had colon surgery and a double mastectomy, topped off with Multiple Sclerosis. And yet here she is, with the third book she's co-authored with her husband of 27 years, the president and editor-in-chief of Reuters.

Who you gonna trust?

On this topic: these two.

The book spans millennia. Smartly, it's arranged in alphabetical order, by topic (Adam and Eve, Bed, Coveting, Devotion, Expectations, Fidelity, etc). Everyone you can think of is quoted, plus hundreds unknown to you. A definitive survey? I can't think of writers with more energy and dedication. A gift for about-to-be-marrieds? Duh.

Some samples:

"I swear if you existed I'd divorce you"
- Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

"I send this token, but how little can it express my gratitude to you for making my life and any work I have done possible, and for giving me so much happiness in a world of accident and storm."
- Winston Churchill

"To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you're wrong, admit it; Whenever you're right, shut up."
- Ogden Nash

"Love seems the swiftest, but is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century."
- Mark Twain, who had then been married for 25 years

"My mother once told me that if a married couple puts a penny in a pot for every time they make love in the first year, and takes a penny out every time after that, they'll never get all the pennies out of the pot."
- Armistead Maupin

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, for there are plenty of others."
- Otto Rank

"When you were sick, you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn't have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true -- you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else -- but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive."
- from the letter Richard Feynman wrote to his wife a year after she died.

"Marriage is so tough, Nelson Mandela got a divorce! Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in a South African prison--got beaten and tortured every day for 27 years and did it with no fucking problem. Made to do hard labor in hundred degree South African heat for 27 years and did it with no problem. He got out of jail after 27 years of torture, spent six months with his wife and said, 'I can't take this shit no more!"
- Chris Rock

A patient says: "Doctor, last night I made a Freudian slip, I was having dinner with my mother-in-law and wanted to say: 'Could you please pass the butter.' But instead I said: 'You silly cow, you have completely ruined my life."
- old joke

"I think a man can have two, maybe three affairs, while he is married. But three is the absolute maximum. After that, you're cheating."
- Yves Montand

John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier? A photo taken on their wedding day. Because to say more might be to lie.

Cross-posted from