Publisher pulls Philip Roth biography and cuts ties with author Bailey

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5:50am, Wed 28 Apr 2021
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The publisher of a highly anticipated and widely discussed biography of writer Philip Roth is pulling the book and cutting ties with author Blake Bailey who faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

WW Norton and Company previously released Mr Bailey’s memoir The Splendid Things We Planned.

“Norton is permanently putting out of print our editions of ‘Philip Roth: The Biography’ and ‘The Splendid Things We Planned,’ Blake Bailey’s 2014 memoir,” the publisher announced on Tuesday.

Mr Bailey will be free to seek publication elsewhere if he chooses

“Mr Bailey will be free to seek publication elsewhere if he chooses. In addition, Norton will make a donation in the amount of the book advance for ‘Philip Roth: The Biography’ to organisations that fight against sexual assault or harassment and work to protect survivors.”

The stunning decision follows reports last week from The New York Times, The New Orleans Times-Picayune and The Associated Press among others that Mr Bailey, who in the 1990s taught eighth grade English in New Orleans, had behaved inappropriately with students and later sought sexual relationships.

Two former students and a publishing executive have alleged he assaulted them. Mr Bailey was quickly dropped by his literary agency, the Story Factory, and Norton announced last week it would pause publication and publicity as it reviewed allegations.

Norton has acknowledged being contacted, anonymously, by a woman in 2018 who alleged Mr Bailey had assaulted her three years earlier. The publisher never responded directly to the email, sent by Bloomsbury sales and marketing vice president Valentina Rice, and instead forwarded it to Mr Bailey. Ms Rice first went public with her allegations last week in The New York Times and confirmed her account with the AP

Mr Bailey, whose Roth book came out in early April, has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer, Billy Gibbens, condemned the announcement, while noting Philip Roth was still being sold overseas.

Mr Bailey’s European publishers wisely have not taken such a rash course of action, and Norton’s knee-jerk reaction is troubling and unwarranted

“Norton made the drastic, unilateral decision to take Mr Bailey’s books out of print, based on the false and unsubstantiated allegations against him, without undertaking any investigation or offering Mr Bailey the opportunity to refute the allegations,” he said in a statement.

“Mr Bailey’s European publishers wisely have not taken such a rash course of action, and Norton’s knee-jerk reaction is troubling and unwarranted.”

The Roth biography may also remain available in the US as an audiobook, which was released by a separate company, Recorded Books Inc. The audio publisher did not immediately respond to a request from the AP about the book’s status.

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