An avalanche of accusations against Philip Roth biographer Blake Bailey today in the New Orleans press spread quickly to publisher WW Norton. They immediately said they were putting the brakes on the 900 page tome, not promoting it or thinking about it anymore.
But you can buy it on Amazon in all forms, so that didn’t work.
Bailey is accused of serious stuff, like rape, by former students, all female, who say in interviews they were “groomed” by Bailey, their teacher, from the 8th grade. When they got above 18, they say he pursued them. One says she was raped.
Bailey denies all accusations.
Bailey’s emails with one woman are reprinted. In one he admits his behavior toward the woman was “deplorable” but he didn’t have sex with minors. Well, that’s a relief!
The women in Philip Roth’s novels always came off as objects. Then we learned how badly he treated actress Claire Bloom. Now it turns his biographer is no better or maybe worse. Could anyone have predicted this?
Peyton claims she was raped by Bailey after she became of legal age. In an email, Bailey– thinking this is a defense– wrote to her: “For what it’s worth, you weren’t in 8th grade when the night in question occurred; you were in your 20s and I was in my 30s (just), and for the record I wasn’t attracted to you when you were in 8th grade and have never laid a glove on any student, while she was my student, including college and grad school students.”
Norton is still selling “Philip Roth: A Biography” and look, it’s probably an important book about a great writer. But the guy sounds like a pig. At least his literary agent, The Story Factory, has fired him. And he’s unlikely to be nominated for Book awards next fall.
I’ve emailed two marketing people at Norton for a response, but they’re not responding. I’m not surprised.
I’m using a photo of Philip Roth because he was a literary giant and an actual celebrity. Bailey’s picture maybe we can look for in post offices.