NEW YORK — The publisher of a highly anticipated and widely debated biography of Philip Roth is pulling the book and cutting ties with author Blake Bailey, who faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault. W.W. Norton and Company previously released 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 Tuesday. “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 organizations 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 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 that he assaulted them.
Bailey, whose Roth book came out in early April, has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney, Billy Gibbens, condemned the announcement, while noting that “Philip Roth” is still being sold overseas.
“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 emailed to The Associated Press. “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.”
Known previously for his acclaimed biographies of authors John Cheever and Richard Yates, Bailey had worked on the Roth book since 2012, and had met extensively with the author, who died in 2018. “Philip Roth” reached the New York Times bestseller list and reviews have been mostly positive, though some critics found him too indulgent of Roth and how he treated women, in his work and in his personal life.
Hillel Italie, The Associated Press