Blake Bailey, biographer accused of harassment and rape, to publish memoir | Books
The author of a Philip Roth biography that was taken out of print by its original publisher last year after allegations that he raped multiple women and groomed his former middle school students for sexual encounters when they were older is gearing up to publish a book billing itself as a warning tale of so-called cancel culture.
Blake Bailey’s latest work is scheduled to be printed by the controversial Skyhorse Publishing, which picked up his Roth book and an earlier memoir after WW Norton took it out of print and pledged to donate money to sexual abuse organizations equaling the advance it had paid to the biographer.
The publishing giant Simon & Schuster has an agreement to distribute Skyhorse’s titles, which include memoirs from the film director Woody Allen as well as Roger Stone, the Donald Trump ally who received a pardon from the former president after being charged by federal officials investigating Russian interference during the 2016 election.
Eve Crawford Peyton, who publicly accused Bailey of raping her as an adult after being a student of his at New Orleans’ Lusher middle school in the 1990s, said Wednesday it was “disappointing but not surprising” that her ex-teacher was writing a book in which he portrayed himself as the victim of cancel culture.
“I told my story, I told the truth, and I have no further comment,” Peyton said in a statement.
Bailey, in statements made through an attorney, has previously conceded exhibiting “deplorable” behavior but has denied ever breaking the law.
Bailey’s 900-page volume on Roth landed on the New York Times bestseller list in the spring of 2021 and drew praise from some reviewers, though others criticized the biographer for coming off as overly sympathetic to his subject’s ill treatment of women during his storied literary career.
Among those who found Bailey, 59, too forgiving of Roth’s misogyny were several of his former students at Lusher, who spoke out about encounters they had with him because they found it traumatic to see his profile soar after his earlier biographies on literary stars John Cheever and Richard Yates were published.
A number of former students whom Bailey taught as eighth-graders in the 1990s said he maintained contact with them for years, presenting himself as a life and career mentor. They gave public interviews to local and national media outlets about sexual encounters with him early in their adulthood, with Peyton describing how he had raped her.
Their accounts prompted a publishing executive named Valentina Rice to go public with her accusation that Bailey had raped her in 2015 while they were both overnight guests at the home of a New York Times book critic.
WW Norton subsequently took the Roth biography and a 2014 memoir by Bailey out of print permanently while also promising a six-figure donation to organizations battling sexual abuse. Within weeks, Skyhorse announced plans to republish Bailey’s Roth book, following through even after Bailey faced additional accusations of abuse and harassment at Virginia’s Old Dominion University, where he taught as a visiting professor more recently.
A law firm hired by Old Dominion investigated those allegations and issued a 92-page report which concluded that Bailey sexually assaulted and harassed at least two women at the university. Administration officials knew the incidents but failed to hold him accountable for them, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
If Skyhorse’s publicity is to be believed, Bailey’s upcoming memoir – an ebook titled Repellent – portrays him as falling prey to “ominous forces” seeking to cancel him and Roth over their being “fallible human beings”.
The book promises a self-reflection from Bailey on his “wayward behavior” while also purporting to muse “on the extent to which writers’ personal lives should affect the perception of their work”.
The website lithub.com on Tuesday was first to report on Repellent, whose scheduled release date is in April 2023.
“While we do not, under any circumstances, have to hand it to Skyhorse … their brand is extremely consistent,” the website wrote in its piece on Repellent.