Who is Blake Bailey?
Blake Bailey (born July 1, 1963) is an American writer. Bailey is widely known for his literary biographies of Richard Yates, John Cheever, Charles Jackson, and Philip Roth. He is the editor of the Library of America omnibus editions of Cheever's stories and novels. wikipedia.orgBlake Bailey
The book critic, Dwight Garner told Vanity Fair via email that he and his wife were honoring Rice’s wishes by not disclosing the details of Rice’s sexual assault, even as the publication he works for heaped praise on Bailey’s book and eventually was one of the publications that broke the news of the allegations against Bailey:
“She didn’t want us to take any actions, share what had happened publicly, or confront Bailey,” Garner wrote. “The ethical and appropriate thing to do, we felt, was to honor the wishes of our friend, who was the victim.”
“I do want it made absolutely clear that Dwight Garner and his wife have honored my wishes at all times. Their friendship and support have been invaluable to me,” Rice told Vanity Fair in an email.
According to a statement from Norton: “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. Mr. Bailey will be free to seek publication elsewhere if he chooses.”
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29 April, 2021 - 12:00am
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When I spoke last month with Blake Bailey, the disgraced author of Philip Roth’s biography, I asked one question that seemed to shock him.
Courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company
It wasn’t the one about what he had to say to critics who suggested his biography of Roth was marred by deep misogyny. Bailey — whose book has been permanently pulled from print by his publisher, W.W. Norton, after multiple women came forward with allegations of rape and sexual assault against him — might reasonably have been wary about that topic.
It was about, instead, whether he had taken anything from Philip Roth’s house.
It was an innocent question. You can learn a lot about someone through the kind of relics they’re drawn to, and I was curious about which of Roth’s belongings Bailey might have felt most tenderly toward.
His voice rose and quickened; it was as if I’d accused him of something unspeakable. The suggestion that he might have kept anything belonging to his subject, he said — beyond the Eames chair the author left him in his will — impugned his objectivity as a biographer. He was angry; I moved on.
There’s something there: An obsession with image, one similar to that which plagued Roth, who was notoriously laser-focused on the question of what history would make of him.
And there’s a forest-for-the-trees absurdity. With skeletons this big in his closet — emails Bailey sent several of his accusers confirm he knew he’d acted awfully, and was terrified of those acts becoming public — he was worried I might imply he’d nabbed a teapot?
The extremity of Bailey’s reaction is, in its own way, fitting. For all Roth’s merits, there’s no denying that he had a tendency to treat women, in life as in art, as objects. The fact that his biographer was apparently more concerned about his ethics when it came to literal objects than to women is, in its own painful way, apt.
But despite its odd, karmically tragi-comic quality, the scandal over Bailey provokes a miserable calculus.
On the one hand, it’s something of a balm to see W.W. Norton take accusations of sexual assault seriously, even if they did so far, far too late. One of Bailey’s accusers first reached out to Norton with her allegations in 2018; they forwarded her note to Bailey and let him respond, which he aggressively did.
On the other hand, there’s an undeniable loss. Bailey was given singular access to Roth. The material he accrued, especially in his conversations with the author and those close to him, is not replicable. What lives in Bailey’s book, his notes and his memory is a record of a great American author — a morally compromised one — that cannot be accessed without him.
There would be value, to the public, in having access to the stuff of Roth’s mind, and life, that never made it into his own books. It is tragic to know that material was bestowed on someone so uniquely ill-suited to challenge it. And it is tragic to see it go to waste.
Roth was famed for saying, as Bailey often quoted in interviews — including with me — that his goal was to “let the repellent in.” He found a freedom in the unpalatable. To many, myself among them, that freedom was often moving, and sometimes beautiful. Roth was right that there is more to learn from dealing with humanity, unmasked, than with humanity, nicely dressed and socially polite.
But it also had costs. The repellent is not neutral. By default, it has an object: it is an attitude toward. For Roth, it was often an attitude toward women. And while many of the women in his life loved and stood by him, others, in his life and the lives of those who his art touched, suffered.
So perhaps it’s time, now, to let the repellent out. Not to ignore it; not to obscure it; but rather to recognize it fully, and then to change. Bailey’s behavior was repellent. Acknowledging that odiousness isn’t enough. Apologies and amends, however late, have to be made, too.
It’s a mistake to see Norton’s decision as a strictly ethical one. It’s a business choice. The losses incurred by continuing to publish a man like Bailey, it says, are now judged to be higher than the losses of cancelling an expensive, prestigious title, with all the fallout that choice can entail. This is not a story in which the publisher emerges chastened but heroic. It’s a story in which motives rationally and necessarily change.
Roth is dead. With the ignominious downfall of his hand-selected biographer comes a different kind of death: His legacy will never be separate from the man he chose to convey it.
It’s a sad truth, but it may not be an unfortunate one. There’s been time to mourn Roth, and time to herald him. Now, it’s time to build past what he gave us. To stay frozen in the eyes of history, an artifact in amber, is no kind of afterlife. To be part of a shift in things — part of the surge toward a more complete understanding of what it is to be human — there’s beauty in that.
What Blake Bailey stole from Philip Roth
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29 April, 2021 - 12:00am
Last week The New York Times advanced upon allegations of sexual harassment and assault in The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate and the Los Angeles Times against Philip Roth biographer Blake Bailey with an account from Valentina Rice, a 47-year-old publishing executive who alleges Bailey raped her in 2015 while they were both staying at the home of Times book critic Dwight Garner. The story raised eyebrows, and not just because W.W. Norton, Bailey’s publisher, had halted the shipping of the long-awaited book in response to the allegations leveled against the author by Rice and several former students (Bailey denies any wrongdoing).
It was particularly striking that one of the alleged sexual assaults took place at the home of one of the most prominent book critics in America, one employed by the very paper disclosing the previously unreported accusation. All of which came after weeks of its copious—and often, though not always, glowing—coverage leading up to Bailey’s release. The Times’ level of promotion wasn’t unusual for a book positioned as a serious literary biography—and especially one about the late Roth, who represents a kind of fantasy of what it meant to belong to a certain generation of American male novelists—but the paper’s own scoop inevitably raised questions of who knew what and when.
“Valentina confided in my wife and me in 2015. She didn’t want us to take any actions, share what had happened publicly, or confront Bailey,” Garner said in an email Tuesday evening. “The ethical and appropriate thing to do, we felt, was to honor the wishes of our friend, who was the victim.”
A source with knowledge of the situation told me that after The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reported some allegations against Bailey by his former students on April 20, Garner contacted the Books desk. Garner said he believed those allegations were credible because of something he knew. Book Review editor Pamela Paul said the Times was already working on a story about earlier allegations against Bailey based on letters it had received from his former students—including Eve Peyton, who has accused Bailey of raping her years later, when she was a graduate student—that had been sent to a general Times inbox. The source with knowledge of the situation said Garner did not reveal the name of his friend, Valentina Rice, until she agreed to speak with a Times reporter; that reporter ultimately got her to go on the record. Paul told me this was the first time they heard the allegation with Rice’s name attached.
“I do want it made absolutely clear that Dwight Garner and his wife have honored my wishes at all times. Their friendship and support have been invaluable to me,” Rice said in an email Tuesday, noting that she did not intend to comment further on the matter.
The allegations in the Times story, which sent shockwaves through the publishing industry, inevitably led to questions about the Times’ own handling of them. The paper previously reported that in 2018, around the same time Rice pseudonymously alerted Norton president Julia Reidhead of her rape accusation against Bailey, Rice also contacted a reporter at the Times. Paul clarified that, like the email sent to Norton, Rice’s email to the Times described the rape accusation against Bailey and was sent under a pseudonym. This email was initially sent to a reporter on another desk at the Times, who then forwarded it to a Books reporter, Paul said. The Books reporter attempted to get in touch with the pseudonymous woman, but she did not respond, as the paper previously reported.
Rice’s allegation came as multiple former students accused Bailey of acting inappropriately toward them and grooming them for subsequent sexual encounters when he was an eighth-grade English teacher in New Orleans in the 1990s. Peyton is one of two former students going public with assault claims against Bailey: Caryn Blair has accused her former teacher of trying to rape her years later, when she was in her 20s. In the wake of the accusations, Bailey has been dropped by his literary agency, the Story Factory, and Norton has announced that it will permanently take the biography out of print. Bailey denied the allegations to the Times as “categorically false and libelous.”
29 April, 2021 - 12:00am
The publishers of a new biography of the novelist Philip Roth are to take it out of print over allegations against its author less than a month after release.
WW Norton said it would halt shipments of the book by Blake Bailey, 57, after the biographer was accused of sexually assaulting a number of women and behaving inappropriately towards 13 and 14-year-olds when he was an English teacher. A 2014 book will also be pulped by the publisher.
The decision by WW Norton comes amid a bitter row in the US over so-called “cancel culture”, where those with views that do not sit comfortably with the mainstream say they are being prevented from speaking at events or having articles and books published.
28 April, 2021 - 06:43pm