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Norton pulls Philip Roth biography from print after author accused of sexual assault

The publisher W.W. Norton has pulled its recently-released biography of Philip Roth from print after multiple women accused its author, Blake Bailey, of sexual assault.

The Associated Press reported that Norton would stop printing of “Philip Roth: The Biography,” a much hyped, 912-page treatise on the author’s life, as well as Bailey’s 2014 memoir “The Splendid Things We Planned.” 50,000 copies of the book have already been printed, and some appear to be on sale at online retailers like Amazon.

Norton also said that it would make a donation to organizations fighting sexual assault that matches Bailey’s six-figure advance for the biography.

The accusations against Bailey are varied and span decades. The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reported that when the author was an English teacher at a New Orleans middle school in the 1990s, he acted inappropriately toward female students, asking them to discuss their love lives and assigning books like “Lolita” — behavior potentially intended to “groom” them for future sexual encounters. One former student, Eve Peyton, 40, said that Bailey raped her when she was a graduate student, writing in a letter to The New York Times that he “used our trust in him against us in the cruelest and most intimate way possible.”

Another accusation is more recent. Valentina Rice, 47, a publishing executive, said that Bailey sexually assaulted her while they were both guests at the house of Dwight Garner, a New York Times book critic, in 2015. In an interview with The New York Times, Rice said that Bailey entered her room in the night and raped her while she said “no” and “stop.”

Norton halted its second printing of the book on April 21, shortly after these allegations gained public traction. But it wasn’t the first time the publishing company heard about accusations against Bailey. In 2018, Rice wrote a letter to Norton president Julia Reidhead under a pseudonym, reporting the assault and requesting anonymity. About a week later, Rice received an email from Bailey, who said the publisher had passed on her letter to him; he denied that he had raped her.

Bailey also denied the allegations in an email to The New York Times, describing them as “categorically false and libelous.”

A Norton spokesperson initially insisted that the publishing company took Rice’s allegation “very seriously.” But when announcing the company’s decision to pull the biography, Reidhead admitted that executives could have handled the situation differently. “We recognize that there may be situations, such as allegations of potentially criminal conduct, where we should actively consider bringing in outside assistance,” she wrote.

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