Friday, December 3

The biography of Philip Roth, temporarily withdrawn from circulation due to accusations of sexual harassment against its author


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Roth agreed to discuss with Bayley the thorniest issues in his life, including his two catastrophic marriages, his long list of lovers, his Jewish identity, and the accusations of misogyny he faced, in addition to his rivalry with other greats. lyrics like John Updike, Saul Below, or Normal Mailer

Biography cover
Cover of the biography of Philip Roth, by Blake Livey.

“Don’t try to rehabilitate me; just make me interesting.” The phrase of the writing Phillip Roth -one of the greatest writers of the second half of the 20th century- to his biographer, Blake Bailey, could now be adopted by it. Because the publishing house WW Norton, one of the largest and most prestigious in the United States, has decided to suspend the distribution of the biography of Roth, which had received praise from the critics, for a series of accusations against the author for alleged acts of sexual harassment occurred more than two decades ago. WW Norton has stated that the decision is temporary, but that it could be permanent “depending on any new information that may emerge.” The literary agency that represents Bailey, The Story Factory, has not spun so finely that it has chosen directly to stop having Bayley among its clients. Paradoxically, however, the electronic version of ‘Philip Roth’, which is the name of the book, still for sale on Amazon and other websites.

Thus, it is possible that the admirers remain without reading the most complete biography of one of the giants of English-language literature of the past five decades for the Bayley indictments. The relationship between the prohibition of reading a book – or, what is even more effective, its withdrawal from the market – and the acts – potentially including criminal offenses – of the author, regardless of whether these are proven or not even investigated by the authorities, it is as solid as steel in this 21st century in which we live.

Another great figure of American culture, Woody Allen, had trouble finding a publisher to publish her autobiography, ‘A Propsito de Nada’ because of allegations that she had sexually abused her adopted daughter, Dylan, in the early 1990s. The fact that the police carried out two investigations against Allen and in neither of them found a reason for not even asking the judge for his indictment is irrelevant. As is also the case that one of the publishing houses that refused to publish the film director’s book, the French Hachette, has in its catalog, without major inconvenience, the memoirs of Rudolf Hss, the commander-in-chief of the Nazi death camp at Auchswitz, in which, as explained in the Amazon online store, the author “reports (…) the technical obstacles that often prevented him from achieving his goal of killing with the highest possible efficiency. “

The controversy stems from an article published on Mars in the New York Times Picayune / The Advocate, which tells of how, when Bayley was a teacher at the Lusher School of Literature in the eighth grade – suggesting that his students were around 14 years old – He established friendships with his students, with whom he later tried to have sex when they were of legal age. The newspaper mentions three students from that New Orleans center who say they had sex with him, although one characterizes it as “rape.” A fourth claims that she hastily left a bar after the writer, to put it mildly, reached for her without her consent. Bayley, who resides in Virginia, not far from the city of Washington, has denied the facts. His lawyer, Billy Gibbens, has stated that “it is absurd that [el escritor] I would have been ‘raising’ the students to have sex with them years later. “For his part, the writer has denied having had sex with any minor or female students. Another thing is, of course, the former students. But that, at least for now, it is not a crime.

According to the complaints to the ‘Picayune’, Bayley was interested in the love life of adolescents and gave them the novel ‘Lolita’, by Vladimir Nabokov, which tells the story of a literature teacher obsessed with a twelve-year-old girl. Bayley never had a problem with the management of the school. When he left the educational center, he did so of his own free will to carry out his project of being a writer.

With this controversy, Bayley runs, at 57, the certain danger that his career as a biographer will end forever. The author of Roth’s biography is one of the most prominent figures in the United States in that literary genre, thanks to his works on novelists John Cheever, Richard Yates y Charles R. Jackson. With it may also go the biography of Roth, a monumental 900-page text that had earned critical acclaim. Roth made Bayley his official biographer, and gave him access to his documents, many of which were destroyed on his orders after his death, or will remain on file until 2050. Roth agreed to discuss with Bayley the thorniest issues of his life, including his two catastrophic marriages, his long list of lovers, his Jewish identity, and the accusations of misogyny he faced, in addition to his rivalry with other greats of letters such as John Updike, Saul Below, o Normal Mailer.

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