Editor interrupts launch of new Philip Roth biography on allegations of sexual misconduct

The editor of a new bestselling biography of Philip Roth has temporarily stopped delivering and promoting the book, as its author, Blake Bailey, faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abuse.

“These allegations are serious. In light of these, we have decided to discontinue the delivery and promotion of ‘Philip Roth: Biography’ pending any additional information that may arise,” according to a statement issued Wednesday by The Associated Press of WW Norton & Company.

Existing copies remain widely available, including on Amazon.com, where the 800-page book ranks 812th in the list of bestsellers printed starting Wednesday at noon.

Bailey, who denied any wrongdoing, has already been abandoned by his literary agency, The Story Factory. Bailey was an eighth-grade English teacher at Lusher Middle School in New Orleans in the 1990s, and many former students have spoken out recently, accusing him of inappropriate and manipulative behavior at the time and saying he later had sex. .


Bailey’s book, released in early April, has been one of the most anticipated and heavily promoted literary biographies in recent years and has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and other outlets. But since last weekend, on the Twitter feed and website of blogger Reluctant Habits Ed Champion, and continuing on social media and in the media, the former students shared stories, some saying that his behavior still haunts them.

Jessie Wightkin-Gelini, who took Bailey’s course in the late 1990s, told The Associated Press that she is a charismatic teacher with a gift for making students – especially females – feel special and understanding. But he also remembered the disturbing behavior – either he hugged her “too much” or touched the little one on the back. A class assignment could be an essay about the student’s first kiss.

The editor of a new bestselling biography of Philip Roth has temporarily stopped delivering and promoting the book, as its author, Blake Bailey (right), faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. (AP / Getty)

“He’s still one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, which is so disgusting to me,” says Wightkin-Gelini, who now teaches high school students at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. “I realize now, as an adult and as a teacher, that the way he spoke to us was part of the care.”

Another former student, Amelia Ward, remembers that Bailey went out of her way to compliment her and pay attention to her, even asking her to stay after school when there was no apparent reason. Shortly after spending time in his class, he pursued a personal relationship, taking her out for coffee and asking her questions about her romantic interests. Ward became uncomfortable and cut off communication.

“It’s affected my whole life,” says Ward, who now lives in Philadelphia. “I trusted him and he totally betrayed my trust.”

A spokesman for the Lusher School told the AP that the school, where Kathy Reidlinger was principal in the 1990s, was not aware of any concerns about him. Some former students, including Sarah Stickney Murphy, have challenged this.


“I can’t believe Kathy Reidlinger actually said that no one ever complained about Blake Bailey’s behavior when he taught @LusherMiddle. What an amazing lie,” she wrote on Twitter.

Bailey, 57, is the author of acclaimed biographies of authors John Cheever and Richard Yates and has been working on the book Roth since 2012. Bailey had unlimited access to Roth’s work and spent much time with the author, who died in 2018. He has given numerous promotional interviews for the book, including with The Associated Press, and recently spoke with author Mary Karr, a friend of Roth, who gave a speech calling Bailey “our most notable literary biographer.” .

On Wednesday, she wrote on Twitter: “I just had an event with Blake Bailey to discuss the biography of my old friend Roth, I wake up to find Bailey accused by three of her former 8th graders of caring their sex, when they turned eighteen. I support any brave young woman who speaks. “

The charges against Bailey come as his book renews questions about how Roth described women in his fiction, from “Portnoy’s Complaint” to “My Life as a Man” and treated them in his private life. Bailey documented in detail Roth’s two unhappy marriages, including with actor Claire Bloom; his adultery and chronic progress made him a friend of Bloom’s daughter. Roth also taught the occasional college course and would have looked back fondly at a time when “you weren’t transported in chains to the feminist prison if you had a tender friendship with the smartest and most beautiful girl in the class. you.”.

Most critics praised Bailey for a thorough and accurate narrative, although some criticized him as too sympathetic.

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“At Bailey, Roth found a biographer who is extremely suited to his grievances and rarely challenges his moral accountability. However, the result is not a final win in the argument, as Roth might have hoped,” Laura Marsh wrote. from The New Republic