W.W. Norton has stopped shipping and promoting Blake Bailey's biography of Philip Roth following allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against the author by a number of women. On Monday, Bailey’s literary agency, the Story Factory, dropped the author when those allegations first surfaced. Bailey has denied all allegations.
In a statement Norton said the allegations are serious ones, adding: “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.”
The allegations come in multiple forms. First, former students of Bailey's charged that when Bailey was their eighth grade English teacher at the Lusher Middle School in New Orleans in the 1990s, he engaged in inappropriate conduct, including what one woman called “grooming” students. Second, publishing marketing executive Valentina Rice alleges that Bailey raped her in 2015, according to the New York Times. (According to the Times story, Garner reported that he was “horrified” when he learned of the accusation, adding that he and Bailey do not have a relationship.) Rice said that the attack occurred when she and Bailey were houseguests of current Times book critic Dwight Garner. The Times story also includes a report from a former graduate student of Bailey who charges that the author raped her in 2003.
The Times report goes on to say that as the #MeToo movement took hold, Rice, using an email account under a different name, wrote to Norton president Julia Reidhead accusing Bailey of nonconsensual sex. Though Rice did not hear back from Norton, she did hear from Bailey, who said that his publisher had forwarded her note to him. “I can assure you I have never had non-consensual sex of any kind with anybody, ever and if it comes to a point I shall vigorously defend my reputation and livelihood,” he wrote in an email the Times said it has viewed. Norton told the Times it took the allegations seriously, and that Bailey denied the charges when confronted by the publisher.
The biography was released by Norton on April 6 in a 50,000-copy first printing, and has sold just over 7,500 print copies to date at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. Philip Roth: The Biography has received generally positive reviews, including one from PW.