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Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

Should Norton have unpublished the Philip Roth bio?

Could there be a better topic for debate? Meat for discussion:
•  Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey. Note the many glowing reviews quoted on the book's Amazon page.
Norton Takes Philip Roth Biography Out of Print (Alexandra Alter and Jennifer Schuessler, NY Times, 4-27-21) The publisher also said it would make a donation to sexual abuse organizations equal to the advance it paid Blake Bailey, the author accused of sexual assault.
• Author Guild Statement about W.W. Norton's Removing Blake Bailey's Books from Circulation (AG, 4-29-21) W.W. Norton issued a memo on April 27 that it will permanently take Blake Bailey's biography of Philip Roth out of print in response to credible allegations that Mr. Bailey sexually assaulted multiple women and behaved inappropriately toward his students when teaching eighth grade English. The Authors Guild condemns sexual assault and sexual harassment. Nevertheless, we are deeply troubled by W.W. Norton's decision to take Blake Bailey's books, including the recently published Roth biography, out of print.
Blake Bailey's Life as a Man (Katha Pollitt, The Nation, 4-28-21) "The disgraced writer's Philip Roth biography is a document of a misogynist literary world. But I had to read the book to get the whole story."

I Was 12 When We Met (Eve Crawford Peyton, Slate, 4-29-21) "Blake Bailey was my favorite teacher. Years later, he forced himself on me. Why did I seek his approval for so long...One by one, women from many different years of his class started sharing our stories. There were so many of us.

Rebecca Traister on the Connection Between Power and Abuse (Amanpour & Company, PBS, 4-28-21) Bailey faces accusations of his own: that he sexually assaulted multiple women and "groomed" underage students prior to making advances once they came of age.
Why stopping the distribution of the Philip Roth biography was a bad idea (Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post, 4-22-21) Better to publish than to squelch.
What We Lose When Only Men Write About Men (Ruth Franklin, NY Times, 4-30-21) The recent uproar surrounding Philip Roth's authorized biographer, Blake Bailey — whose book has now been taken out of print in the wake of accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior — has refocused attention on literary biography's man problem and the question of who is allowed to read and quote from a writer's materials, and under what terms.
Philip Roth and His Defensive Fans Are Their Own Worst Enemies (Jeet Heer, The Nation, 4-30-21) Why did it take a sexual assault scandal to raise red flags about a deeply flawed biography?
The Philip Roth biography is canceled, Mike Pence’s book could be next — and publishing may never be the same (Ron Charles, Book World, Washington Post, 4-27-21) Even by the standards of the #MeToo movement, Bailey’s descent has been precipitous...."Critics will claim that Bailey, Pence and others are being silenced, but that ignores the reality of our marketplace. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) had no trouble finding another publisher when Simon & Schuster dropped him for promoting falsehoods about the presidential election. Even Woody Allen found another publisher!"
If the Author Is a Bad Person, Does That Change Anything? (Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic, 4-27-21) "Bailey’s comeback to his former students’ complaints—that his behavior was deplorable but not illegal—indicates a Humbert Humbert level of narcissistic detachment. As it happens, Bailey taught Lolita at the New Orleans middle school where he is said to have groomed his students."
The Blake Bailey Fiasco Implicates Everyone (Jo Livingstone, New Republic, 4-23-21) Philip Roth hand-picked Blake Bailey for the job of writing his biography. He was jealous of his legacy, and had fired a previous biographer who had a “mean, insatiably vilifying spirit,” according to the great writer. What effect will accusations of sexual assault have on the acclaimed biographer’s champions?
Philip Roth’s Revenge Fantasy (Laura Marsh, New Republic, 3-22-21) The novelist wanted his biography to settle scores. It has badly backfired.



I intended to give links to stories that provide a broad overview of the Roth-Bailey biography and the issues that arise because of it. Let me know if I've missed something important.


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