> Zed Book Club / Publisher Halts New Philip Roth Biography as Its Author, Blake Bailey, Faces Allegations of Rape and Sexual Misconduct

Celebrated literary biographer Blake Bailey, pictured in 2013. Photograph: Allen J Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

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Publisher Halts New Philip Roth Biography as Its Author, Blake Bailey, Faces Allegations of Rape and Sexual Misconduct

/ BY Cynthia Ross Cravit / April 23rd, 2021


N.W. Norton, publisher of a 900-page authorized biography of literary giant Philip Roth, has said it will temporarily halt the book’s shipping and promotion after its author, Blake Bailey, was accused of multiple instances of sexual harassment and assault, dating back twenty years.

Before Bailey achieved acclaim as a literary biographer — he wrote books about John Cheever, Richard Yates and Charles Jackson — he was a teacher at Lusher Middle School in New Orleans in the ’90s. Recently, four former students have come forward, accusing him of inappropriate and manipulative behaviour while he was their teacher, claiming that he “groomed” them for sexual relationships after they graduated.

In an interview with the Times Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, one of his former students, Eve Crawford Peyton, also alleges he raped her when she was 22. Peyton wrote in a letter quoted by the LA Times: “These stories have been whispered about for decades or shared over a glass of wine by former students, who all thought they were the only ones. His behavior was something of an open secret, and it absolutely followed a pattern and was textbook grooming, but no one ever said anything … To be fair, he never did anything then, not in eighth grade. But he laid the groundwork. With dirty jokes, sly comments, hugs that went on slightly too long, encouraging us to share our personal lives once we moved on to high school (‘Write to me about your latest slap-and-tickle’).”

“These allegations are serious. In light of them, we have decided to pause the shipping and promotion of Philip Roth: The Biography pending any further information that may emerge,” W.W. Norton & Company said in a statement to NBC News on Thursday.

For his part, Bailey has denied the allegations. His lawyer told the Times Picayune/New Orleans Advocate: “Mr Bailey has never acted inappropriately with any student and has never received any complaints about his time at Lusher more than 20 years ago … It is absurd to suggest that he was grooming students for anticipated encounters as adults many years later.”

The statement went on to say, “Mr Bailey has never treated a woman inappropriately and has never forced himself on a woman.”

The writer faced further backlash when he was dropped by his literary agency, the Story Factory, the Los AngelesTimes reported.

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Published earlier this month, the much-anticipated Philip Roth biography received glowing reviews and quickly became a New York Times bestseller.

Bailey who won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography in 2009 for his book on Cheever, began working on the Roth book in 2012, according to The Associated Press.

Roth died of congestive heart failure in 2018 at the age of 85. He first gained attention with his 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus and went on to become one of the most awarded American writers of his generation, including with a Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 novel American Pastoral.

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